Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween...

The Day of the Dead (El Dia de los Muertos or All Souls' day) is a holiday celebrated in Mexico and by Latin Americans living in the United States and Canada. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. November 1st honors children and infants and is referred as "Dia de los Inocentes" (Day of the Innocents) but also as "Dia de los Angelitos" (Day of the Little Angels). November 2nd is known as "Dia de los Muertos" (Day of the Dead). Plans for the day are made throughout the year. Families usually clean and decorate the graves where their loved ones are buried. Flowers, mostly marigolds, candles, incense, mementos and photos are used to decorate the graves in rememberence.

I thought you might like to know a little more about the original way to celebrate Halloween. It is really a day set aside to remember all those that have died. We have Memorial Day but that seems to be a day to remember the military that have fallen instead of ALL those who have died. At least that is the way I think about Memorial Day. It just made me stop and think about a different way to remember loved ones that have died. We do not have a grave to visit and decorate but maybe I will begin to celebrate November 1st, "Dia de los Angelitos", in honor of my angel, Heather.Heather loved Halloween. Mostly because she could not go. Well, the candy too. When the girls were little we did not celebrate Halloween. When we lived in Minnesota usually it was way too cold to do any trick or treating. It was 1996 before the girls were allowed to dress up and go trick or treating. I wanted to make sure the girls were old enough to understand that Halloween is nothing but dressing up and begging for candy..haha! I made sure that they never dressed as hags or goblins, nothing creepy.In 2004, on the spur of the moment, the girls decided to go trick or treating. I had a great idea to dress them as Christmas packages. They forever give me grief about going as presents. Everyone thought they were really cute. I thought it was a great idea. That Halloween would be very special for the fact that my Daddy called me for the first time ever as I was preparing costumes. I was busy working and getting a call from him was the last thing on my mind. It was a great surprise. It was the beginning of a daddy/daughter relationship that I deeply cherish.Tami and Kerry came over on the spur of the moment in 2007 and wanted Heather to go trick or treating with them. Heather was thrilled. She put on a formal dress from her last piano recital, her tiara from Disneyland and went as a princess. Go figure that one. Heather had a swollen lymph node under her chin but we had no idea what was heading our way. She was not feeling sick in any way.Last year, Heather, went to 2 parties. She went as her favorite nurse to Tiffini's. She had saline flushes, a thermometer and a stethoscope. She had a great time for her first offical party since being finished with chemo. Then Heather went with Jenn to her church group Halloween/birthday party for Sussy. She dressed as a Target employee and wore a "Jennifer" name badge. Imagine the confusion as she announced that her real name is Heather and she is Jennifer's sister. This was Heather's first introduction to the group. It was very hard for me to "let her out" and be around people who may be sick. It was a huge worry, but I also knew that Heather needed to feel "normal". I tried to allow her to do all the things that she could.Halloween is so different this year. Just one more holiday that we have without Heather here. Halloween is strange because it focuses on death and horror. I have enough death and horror in my life. I really do not need a day set aside to remember that fact.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Missing One...

"And yet, I found I could survive. I was alert, I felt the pain-
the aching loss that radiated out from my chest, sending
wracking waves of hurt through my limbs and head-

but it was manageable.

I could live through it.

It didn't feel like the pain had weakened over time,

rather that I'd grown strong enough to bear it"
spoken by Bella Swan-New Moon
by Stephenie Meyer
As I stood in David's Bridal and looked at all the wedding gowns, my eyes began to water and my heart was pounding. Turn around and keep it together for Wendy. Being in the bridal shop reminded me that I will never plan a wedding or shop for the wedding dress with Heather. The closest I get to this event was planning the ball for Heather last year. We did go to a bridal shoppe for her ball gown. She tried on many dresses before the blue one was brought out. Heather's eyes lit up. She looked perfect. This was "The One". She was concerned about price. She felt so beautiful, like a princess in the dress that I told her it was not a problem. I had no idea that this would be the last dress I ever bought her.Then the thought that ALL of us should be dress shopping with Wendy. Heather should be excited and bringing Wendy dress after dress. Standing with Jenn and I as we give our opinion of how the dresses look. As Wendy tries on each dress, we all 3 know that this event is not the same. It is forever changed. Forever Heather is missing from everything we plan and do.The day of the wedding was mixed with happiness and extreme sadness. Heather should have be here to rush around with all the activity. She and Wendy doing hair and make-up. Heather would have been the Maid of Honor. Jenn and Wendy both were planning to make her their Maid of Honor. In usual Heather fashion she would have hunted for the best and perfect dress for Wendy's wedding. She would have spent time looking at makeup and hair styles. Not sure if she would have had to wear a wig or if she would have been happy with the length of her hair. Her hair would have been probably to her jaw line at least by now. Heather would have stood proudly beside her sister on this very special day.Heather loved John and thought he was the best thing since sliced bread for Wendy. The 3 of them spent many late nights together. They shared a LOVE of Starbucks Coffee as well. Heather would be thrilled to have John as her brother. She would have enjoyed giving him a hard time and possibly playing some jokes on him before the wedding as well.L to R: Best man-Clancy Stockton his wife Missy Stockton, Ben Wolfe boyfriend of Kelli Wiltberger, Mother of the Groom-Dorrie Wiltberger, Father of the Groom-Dave Wiltberger, The New Mr. & Mrs. John Wiltberger, with Princess Pea, Father of the Bride-Bill Coombe, Maid of Honor-Jenny Coombe, Mother of the Bride-Sherry Coombe, very close personal friend and Pea's Nana-Rose Akers

I was reminded by someone that I still have 2 daughter's here and that I should focus on them. I do remember that fact very well. But the fact is that I had 3 daughter's and now I have 2. Unless you have lost a child, you will not understand. No matter how close you are or were to your parents or siblings, it is not the same as the loss of a child. I honestly believe that the reason that God gave His Son, was He knew this was the worst loss and pain anyone could endure. God gave His Son so He could say, Yes, I understand. I have been in your place. God did not give his parent, his sibling or a friend. He sacrificed His only Son. Maybe God will correct me when I get to heaven, but I believe this to be true.At every family event, every holiday, every birthday, every trip and all the other every other thing that we will ever do as a family, there will be a missing one. The empty seat will belong to Heather now and forever. No one may understand why I brought out a photo of Heather that i held while Bill took a photo of us 4 girls. It means that she was not forgotten to me.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Up To The Sky And Back...

"When a child loves you for a long, long
time, not just to play with but REALLY
loves you, then you become Real." "Does it
hurt?" asked the Rabbit. "Sometimes," said
the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.
"When you are Real you don't
mind being hurt."
The Velveteen Rabbit~by Margery Williams
The Velveteen Rabbit and Guess How Much I Love You were two of Heather's favorite bunny stories. She especially loved Nutt Brown Hare in Guess How Much I Love You. She often signed her cards to me "Love you to the sky and back, Love Nutt." I would not trade one moment with my Nutt for all the money in the world. Even if I had known that she was not going to be here very long, I would not have missed having her in my life for the short 21 yrs, 4 months and 10 days that I had her. My life is richly blessed for having her as my daughter.
The worst time for me is night time. Heather was a night owl by nature. When you add high doses of steroids there was no sleeping for a couple of days. After the house goes to bed our cat decides to howl in the hallway. Every night, I would hear the cat howl followed by a sweet meow and I knew that Heather was up getting the cat. She would do one of 2 things; either take the cat to bed with her or put the cat in bed with me. Mostly she put the cat in bed with me. Then she would crawl in bed with me. We would talk and she would wrap my arm around her. Most nights I would fall asleep on her and she would wake me up to leave. There are many nights when I expect her to come crawl in bed with me...but it does not happen.During Heather's treatments we spent every night together. Either at the hospital or here at home. Some people thought I was crazy for allowing her to sleep with me. I had to keep an eye on her. I had to have her close to make sure she was ok. I never realized that she really did not want to move back to her room. Heather wrote in a facebook message that she felt safe and that everything would be okay when she slept with me. Many nights when Pea was little and getting up many times a night, Heather would come down and check in on us. The last two weeks that she was home she begged to sleep with me. I felt she needed her sleep and Pea would keep her up. I had no idea how scared she was. She never told me. She did not want me to worry about her. She thought that she had worried me too much. The many nights in ICU will haunt me forever. They are very clear in my photographic memory. For now, I take my sleeping pill, have night lights on, and fall asleep listening to either the Harry Potter series or Twilight series. I am trying to head to bed I can get up earlier..but for now I will get up at the crack of 11am.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Yes...It Really is Fall...

Yes, everyone it really is fall in Arizona even though today's record breaking 102 does not show it. That made it very hot for tonight's Light The Night walk. It did not stop the nearly 30 people who came out to support our family and participate in tonight's events. Our team raised over $2600.00 to help fight leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. Imagine what we could have done if we had longer than 3 weeks to get it together. Thank you everyone!!Pea dressed in her finest shirt that read Forever My Hero, Forever My Aunt. She also sported her Miss Priss baby hat in the house under the air conditioning. It was way to hot to wear it on the walk. She did ok, but got tired and hot by the end of the walk. She was already in bed by the time Mimi and Papa returned home.During the course of these 3 weeks I have had the opportunity to contact the local chapter of the LL Society. I had a couple of conversations with Pam on the phone and then met her in person when I went to pick up the banner. I told her a little bit about my organizational, computer, event planning and brain storming skills. She was very excited that I would like to volunteer to help the society. Bill and I will be going to the west valley on Nov 17th to photograph the walk over there. It will be our first official volunteer event. There were a few glitches with the walk tonight due to the fact that the coordinator left 2 weeks before the event. There were miscommunications and things were not as good as last year. I hope that I might have a hand in planning or organizing the event for next year. I feel that I have a burning passion and I need to be part of this. It was part of Heather. It helps me in a way that I cannot explain.I have to say that the best part of the entire evening was listening to my husband talk about spending time visiting with his best friend from high school and a best man at our wedding. Derek and his wife Lara drove from St. Johns, Az to come support Bill on what would be a tough evening. Derek just said he needed to be down here to support Bill. We have not seen Derek in over 20 years. When I realized who it was and hugs were given I walked away and cried. Bill so needs the support. I write to all of you to vent my feelings, Bill really does not talk to anyone. He knows it was a God thing that Derek came tonight. it was just like old times...20 years were gone in a second. To Derek and Lara, your love and support tonight means more to us than you will ever know...It was great to catch up with Heather's peeps; Kaitlyn, Joanne, Scott, Kerry, Tiffini, Stephanie, Evan, Dietmar, Justin and Linda, Stephanie's mom. Jenn had several supporters from her church; Amy, Jason, Sussy, Jen, Jessie, Christian, Bonnie, Lance and David. It was very good to see Irene, Nathan's mom. Reading her caring bridge is ok, but to see her and talk to her face to face is much better. (Please keep Nathan in your prayers... this chemo is really working hard on the cancer, but on Nathan as well.) My dynamic duo-Diane and Debbie-came to support me. I call then my dynamic duo because they are there for me before I even know I need them. Debbie, thank you for pushing out of your comfort zone to meet my needs. I know I can always, always lean on you. Debbie, I love you more than you will ever know. 11 years ago I thought I helped Diane through the loss of her Beka. Looking back, I had no clue how to help and I realize that she is helping me much more than I helped her. Diane sacrificed her feelings and time to be with me during the 33 days when Heather died. Diane, I love you more than you could possibly know. If I could ever choose my sisters, I would choose Diane and Debbie...And Princess Pea had her Mommy, Daddy, Mimi, Papa and Auntie Jenn at her beck and call.L to R: Jason, Amy, Evan, Dietmar, Tiffini, Justin, Stephanie, team sign, Kerry, Lara, Derek, Debbie, Diane, hiding behind Sussy, Jessie, David and Jen. Front Row L to R: Bill, Sherry, Jenn, Scott, Irene, John, Wendy and Pea-aka Violet. (not pictured Christian-he took the picture, Linda, Bonnie, Lance, Kaitlyn and Joanne)

Last year as Heather crossed the finish line she felt triumphant. She had beat cancer and she had managed to walk 3.1 miles 4 weeks after finishing chemo. It was an evening spent with her alone. Jenn and Wendy were doing other things last year. It was sort of like crossing the finish line was meaning we were done. It was over. In truth for the cancer part, it was over. The finish line was a lot sweeter last year..

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Check List...

The check list for the Light the Night walk is complete and we are ready physically to head to Tempe Town Lake. Not sure about emotionally. As this day has gotten closer it has become very emotional for Bill and I. What a difference one year, a mere 365 days can make.
Check list:
Paperwork for 19 team members all filled out and ready...CHECK
Raised nearly $2500.00 to fight leukemia & lymphoma...CHECK
Sent email to team members about time and parking...CHECK
Finished the team banner for Heather's Lymphomanics...CHECK
Received memory t shirt for our family...CHECK

(Walk begins at 7 pm at Tempe Town Lake. You do not need to make a donation if you just want to come walk with us. Text or call and let us know you are coming...480-518-0928. What an amazing group to walk for the love of a very special little girl.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Few of Her Favorite Things....

"Nothing is worse than having
your child take their last breath in your arms..."

This was one of Heather's Senior pictures with 2 different looks. We took things that represented what she loved. She is wearing the Grand Ole Opry shirt that we bought when we saw Vince Gill and Patty Loveless at the State Fair. Heather was a true country girl at heart. She also had fun playing with the pink sunglasses.Sitting in her lap are some of her favorite stuffed friends. First is "Shawnee bunny". This was from Shawnee for her 2nd birthday. Heather use to put little doll dresses on the bunny. Next is "Edison" the first. Edison was originally my bear. Heather loved him so,... that I gave him to her. She searched to find me another one. Heather found one online, bought him to replace mine but "Ed" stayed with her. "Ed" now sleeps with me but I am not the same as his beloved Heather. They had a very special relationship. (The Edison that she bought to replace mine was cremated with her so she would have her bear) Finally "Snugglet" the bunny was Heather's 1st Easter bunny when she was 3 months old. It has patched from where she threw him on the stove and he got burned.Some of the other special things are the sparkling Minnie Heather received for her 4th birthday. She was so thrilled to have her light-up Minnie Mouse. She had a Minnie Mouse room at the time and was wearing a Minnie Mouse outfit for her party. The china Belle doll was for her 16th Birthday. Heather loved Belle. The pink bear was actually the first bear she ever received. I bought it for her when she was 3 days old. Of course a Bach piano book with her Arizona Study Program Superior Honors ribbon. The piano box is actually a stained glass box that she made. Barbie note cards that have never been written in. The final treasures are her Citation award. This is 10 years of hard work including memorizing Bible verses, various service projects, attending conferences and reading the entire Bible. The precious moments doll in the stocking was the first dolly her Dady bought for her when she was less than a day old. Heather's signed Josh Turner CD. Finally, the silver eagle coin that her Grandpa Blackburn gave her the first time we met.

Now most all the things are in boxes. They sit with the memory attached to them. It is not fair that her things are here and she is not. It still is not real. I am not sure when it will become real. I have read that losing a child is the worst loss there is. I honestly believe that is why God sent His Son to die. He knows the most gut wrenching lose your child. God did not send His brother, a friend or another angel. He sent His Son so that when we lose our children, God knows the hurt and pain of that lose. Just my thought...

Friday, October 9, 2009

School Volunteer....

"You have a child,
You love that child.

Memories are made-

Then that child is suddenly gone.

What do you do?

Where do you go?"

-Maria Carneiro-

I have plenty of things that I could be doing at home. I have to be in the mood to do them. Most days I am on the computer farming my FaceBook FarmVille. I seem to have lots of "free time". So, I decided to put my creative, restless mind to some good use, and volunteer at Falcon Hill Elementary School. This is the school that all the girls attended prior to home schooling. During the time that the girls were there, I helped about 6 teachers on a daily basis. I loved to create the bulletin boards and work in the copy room. I would have a contest with myself to see how much I could get accomplished in the time I was there. Many days I would have both copy machines running my pages for me. I really do love to multi-task.I had to go through a background check and be fingerprinted to be allowed to come to school during school hours. I was fine with that. I feel anyone who works with children should have some accountability. So, after a 3 week wait, I am officially a Falcon Hill volunteer. I had been creating bulletin boards at home during this time.Mrs. Berglund's surprise class baby shower-May 1996. Heather is behind Mrs. Berglund with her arms hugging her. Wendy is the short one to the left- next to the blanket

Some of the teachers are still there. Two teachers specifically are very close personal friends and kept many of the staff aware of what was happening with Heather. Carla Berglund, who was Heather's 2nd grade and Wendy's 3rd grade teacher, is a very dear friend. She was faithful to come visit Heather during treatment and in the ICU. She also provided Bill with some yummy cookies and made Wendy a birthday cake this year. Then, Dave Martin, was Heather's 3rd grade teacher. Honestly, she was not thrilled to have a man teacher that year. But all that changed when she learned that Mr. Martin took "man vitamins". "Man vitamins" are M&M's. We still call them that to this day in our house. We attended church and worked with Dave and his family in AWANA. Dave came to visit many times as well. It was very touching how many staff saw me, knew who I was and extended their condolenses for my loss. It is just nice to know that people still remember.Wendy, Mr. Martin and Heather May 1996

My goal was to attend to the needs of Carla and Dave. However, I can never do that. So, I am helping in the front office when they need someone extra. I will also be helping with the bookfair, creating bulletin boards for the reading classroom and possibly be doing some bulletin boards for the library as well. It is something that for a few minutes I am just me, not the mother who lost her daughter. A little like painting the rooms last year. For a few moments, I am one with the paper and my mind is shutting out the reality that I live every minute of every day. The thoughts never leave me completely, they are still lerking in the back of my mind. As soon as I am finished, they come flooding back.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Nice and Light...

"When I get to heaven, I shall see three wonders there--the first wonder will be to see any people there whom I did not expect to see; the second wonder will be to miss many people whom I did expect to see; and the third and greatest wonder of all will be to find myself there"-John Newton

I figured out that people like nice and light conversation. People that do engage me in conversation do not really want to hear about the past year and half of my life. They don't want to hear my pain and suffering. They want me to tell them I am okay and the world is okay. We can laugh and talk about anything other than Heather.

All I want to talk about right now is Heather. I am hurt, sad, mad, disappointed, angry and I have some moments of happiness and joy. I hate the fact that she is not here. I hate the fact that she had cancer. I hate the fact of all she had to go through. It is just not fair. I hate the fact that she developed pneumonia. I hate the fact that I will not grow old with Heather. I hate the fact that I will not plan her wedding or share in her babies. I hate the fact that the "Heather" chapter in my life is over. I am not ready for it to be over. I still have over half a book left to go with her.How many of you knew that the month of September was Leukemia and Lymphoma awareness month???Anyone???I did not till it was over. I am thankful for October and breast cancer awareness month. There have been huge medical advancements for breast cancer treatments. It is everywhere. From the 1st day till the last we will be covered with pink on TV, newspaper and stores. How do we get Leukemia, Lymphoma, Testicular and many other cancers to the media and world attention. Leukemia and Lymphoma are still rising at an alarming rate while other cancers are on the decline. I am angry that Tina Fey is the spokesperson for the LL society and no one knows that either. Some lymphomas still have no treatment available. But most people do not want to hear my ramblings about this subject either. It is stated that you become passionate about things that effect your life. Leukemia and lymphoma changed the course of my life forever. How can I not be passionate about this terrible cancer.

I follow several CaringBridge sites now that seem to be all dealing with children and teens with leukemia. I just can't walk away. It makes me feel better to know that I am not alone. Other parents are going through the same things that I did. They wonder why as well. Some of these precious children and teens will not be here by the end of the year. To me, that is horrible. But no one want to hear me talk about these kids either.So to keep this nice and light I thought you might like to see cute and cuddly photos of bunnies. Something that is not very controversial unless you are a PETA activist. Then there is probably a problem with me having 3 very spoiled bunnies living in my house. The 2 brothers Ernie and Bert snuggled together. Then Heather's sweet Mr. B under the Christmas tree last year.

Don't forget about Light The Night coming soon. We now have 11 team members and nearly $1200.00. This will be quite the group all carrying gold balloons in memory of Heather. What a show that will make for the love of one special little girl. Click the Light the Night button on my blog and it will take you to the site.