Fall has always been one of my favorite times of year. (I say that about every season!) The crisp cool air and the vibrant yellows, oranges and reds of the season are so beautiful. The days are beginning to get colder now and the leaves are almost gone. This picture is to remind you of the glory of fall in full bloom.
A we were driving through Custer State Park, there were several donkeys standing around in the road and many people out taking pictures.
This little cutie brought a smile to my face! He or she, just seemed too tired to carry on or to even care that people were out taking pictures.
This guy was a bit shy, don’t you think?
No words for this fellow, except he seemed mellow.
Find joy in the simple things! (even my goofy rhymes!)
Today, I am reminded of the journey home from Portland, Oregon where my sister passed away back to Stillwater, Oklahoma where I lived until two years ago. When I went to Portland to help care for my sister as she was dying, my husband and I decided he would come get me and we would drive home taking our time and visit places we have never been. It was also very helpful to me in the grieving process. My sister loved to travel and go places she had never been before and it seemed to help me to do the same. The difference is that my sister loved to travel around the world and I have not had the opportunity to do that. My travels have been limited to the United States, the Bahamas, and Mexico. It really doesn’t matter . . . . traveling anywhere, soaking in the culture of the places you visit, and seeing new things is basically the desire of those filled with wanderlust. We took many detours along the way home. Two places we stopped were the Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore. Both places were incredibly amazing. Here a few of pictures from those places.
I like this photo because it shows what the Crazy Horse Memorial will look like when it is completely finished. It is not expected to be finished during my life time because it is a work in progress. Work stops periodically when they run out of funds.
Most everyday I drive by this stone wall which at one time had a barn attached. The barn is long gone. There is something peaceful and soothing about his wall to me. It may be the contrast of the browns and greens or it may be the beauty of the mountains in the distance. It causes me to wonder about who built it and the life that they led. In some ways it is haunting because it represents an end of era. Mostly, it is peaceful and serene. How does this picture make you feel?
The Rely for Life event is over. The campus goal was exceeded by around $4,000. TEAM 209 was $298 short of its goal, but it was still a huge success! This is the first time we have done relay and we started late. We have already discussed plans to do it again next year! Woohoo! The evening was a lot of fun. I enjoyed seeing my students outside the classroom and I’m pretty sure they felt the same way about seeing me. I played some volleyball, danced to a few songs (which better not show up on Facebook or YouTube!), and walked a lot, probably not as much as I should have, but a lot. My husband and I stayed up all night long. Our strategy was to get up and walk when felt the urge to leave and go home to our nice warm beds! (Plus a few cups of coffee!)We left with smiles on our extremely tired faces. It was good, mostly.
When I signed up I knew it would be difficult however, I didn’t really think about how difficult. I held it together pretty well for the majority of the evening with just a few tears. The opening ceremony was nice and I only shed a few tears. I totally lost it when they asked for the caregivers to make a bridge for survivors to walk under. I couldn’t do it. I sat in the food room with my husband and sobbed. I just couldn’t go and be a part of it. I am not one hundred percent sure why I couldn’t do it. I think because it made me so sad – missing my sister, my father and all the other people in my life who have died of cancer. Maybe I just didn’t want my students and fellow teammates to see me so vulnerable? Maybe pride? Maybe it was a combination of both? All I know is I couldn’t do it and I just wanted to cry. My husband, being the wonderful person he is, sat with me, hugged me, and patted me on the back. I needed that.
Being a caregiver to a person with cancer was probably the most difficult thing I have ever done in my entire life. Not only was it tiring physically, it was tiring emotionally as well, even when there were others around helping. You spend a lot of time doing things to help with pain, to help that person feel a little better, fix meals, to do whatever is needed or asked of you, and a lot of time smiling, talking, laughing, and more talking; talking about death and fear and life and love, but mostly death. You spend a quite a bit of time watching TV and movies sitting in silence. This is when you think quite a bit about what life will be like without that person and it causes you to feel extremely sad, but you try to hide that as much as possible so the person who is dying won’t feel bad for leaving you behind. You don’t spend a lot of time taking care of yourself, just a quick shower and throw on some clothes. It is not about you, it is about the other person. I’m not sure how you make it through it, but you do. Afterwards, when they are gone, you are tired, depressed and sad. There is also a sense of relief which causes you to feel guilty because since you feel relief, you must not have truly loved that person. This isn’t really true, but it doesn’t matter, you still feel this way. It is a vicious circle of emotions. All of those emotions came back to me the night of relay. All those things I thought were forgotten were simply lurking in the back of my mind waiting to jump out and strangle me once again. The tears helped.
I also lost it during the luminaire lap. As we were walking, I looked at each bag and read the names on them. Most of them were in memory of someone or several some ones, only a few were in honor of a survivor. It caused my eyes to begin slowly leaking. What caused me to lose it completely was when one of my students was stopped by a bag sobbing. She was all alone. She had shared her story with me earlier in the evening. Her aunt, one she was very close to, had just passed away in November. I stopped and hugged her while the rest of my group kept on going. We stood there for quite some time just hugging and crying, and then she said she needed to hug her sister who was a few feet away. I walked with her to where her sister was and hugged them both and walked on . . . as I continued walking there were people stopped along the way crying. I have said this before, but I’m a group crier so of course . . . you know the rest. I was having trouble seeing through my tears so I had to just stop for a bit. Once I composed myself, I kept on going. I stopped by the bag with my sister’s name on it (also, my father, grandfather, husband’s mother, and two good friends). I stood there crying like a baby for about five minutes before I finally was able to regroup. The lights slowly came on and I just stood there and gazed out across the gym at all the students who were there for whatever reasons and a sense of pride and hope came over me. We hear so much negative about young people, but here was a group of several hundred students making a difference in the world with a hope for a cure for cancer. It made me happy to see them there with hope in their hearts; it turned my tears to a smile.
Cancer sucks. A cure would be awesome. I will continue to walk for a cure.
By the way, the theme for our relay was Dr. Seuss. We chose a book which most people have probably never heard of . . . “I Am Not Going To Get Up Today.” We thought we’d say “we won’t get up until there is a cure.” We never made that sign because we got sidetracked with our “Pinkman” campaign. Here are a couple of pictures.
A student asked me in the fall if I would be interested in helping with Relay for Life. My initial gut reaction was no. I had no desire to think about cancer however, I told her I’d think about it. When she asked, it was shortly after breast cancer awareness month and I’ll just be honest here, I was sick and tired of hearing and thinking about cancer. In fact, each time an infomercial regarding breast cancer was shown; the channel was very quickly changed. At first, it made me sad because I miss my sister so very much. Later, it just made me cry. After a while it just made me mad. Didn’t “those people” realize how difficult it was for me to listen to those stupid commercials? Not only that, when at work, every time I left my building I was bombarded by students asking me to purchase a pink breast cancer ribbon or a t-shirt telling others to get their “mammies grammed” from tables covered with bras that had clever little breast cancer awareness sayings written on them. Enough already! Soon, I started making bad (by bad I mean dumb) jokes about the commercials. That’s when I realized maybe it was time for an attitude adjustment. “Those people” had no idea what I was feeling, they were just trying to get the message across to people that there are things one can do to help catch breast cancer early and hopefully do something about it. Of course, that in turn caused me to get mad all over again because Carol chose not to do anything when she was diagnosed. I had to work through those feelings all over again. Ultimately, she made a choice and I in turn have to respect the choice she made. I’m not sure it is the choice I would have made, but it wasn’t up to me to decide for her. All of this to say, after thinking about it more, I decided to form a team for Relay for Life this year, more on this later.
When I first decided to do the Relay, I went through the motions; getting it organized, talking to people, etc. without really thinking of the purpose of the event. A couple of weeks into it the reality of the event and its purpose hit me right in the face. I received a packet of information about many of the things that happen during a Relay for Life event. I already knew this information, but had chosen to ignore it which I suppose was a defensive measure on my part. I started reading about the different laps and recognitions that would happen throughout the evening. Walking for someone you have lost to cancer; walking for someone you know who has survived cancer; walking for someone who was a caregiver, etc. I began making a list of those people I knew who have died, survived or have been a caregiver. It was fairly lengthy. As I was reading through the list of all these different people, I became very sad thinking about those people who have died and as per usual, my emotions began leaking from my eyes yet again. We always hear time heals all wounds. I do not believe it. Those wounds are always there, lurking in the corners of our minds waiting for a chance to sneak out again. Yes, it becomes easier with time simply because we do not spend every waking moment thinking of the ones that are gone, but it never completely goes away. I suppose if we spent all our time thinking of those that are gone, we ourselves would cease to really live.
Here I am a team leader at a Relay for Life event. In my wildest imagination I never would have expected me to be doing this. It is definitely out of my comfort zone – not the planning and fundraising, but the participating in an event about cancer. You know, that disease everyone hates which has touched pretty much everyone I know in some way? That’s the one. I’m doing it for all those who like me, have cared for someone who was dying from cancer. I am doing it for those people I loved that are gone: Babo (my grandfather), my daddy, my sister, and several close friends. I’m doing it for my husband’s mother whom I never met. I’m doing it for all those people in my life who have survived. It isn’t easy for me. Sometimes it makes me cry, but I’m doing it and I’m hoping and praying that in my lifetime, there will be a cure. So, if you are looking for me from 6:00PM April 12 until 6:00AM April 13, you will find me at Relay for Life walking for a cure.
Here I am looking once more at what I wrote six months ago and again I am wondering why I haven’t been posting as much as I did in the beginning. No reasons really. It appears to be easier to not write when you forget to do it for a day or two. In the beginning, my goal was to post every day except Sunday. I did really well for a while then, it waned. I have decided to start the New Year with the hope of posting at least once a week.
When I posted yesterday and the day before, the reality of not blogging in over a month hit me square in the face! I knew that I had been extremely busy but I didn’t realize that it had been so long. I could offer excuses but what good would that do? So, here I am one year later, still trying to finish sharing my journals about the journey of death and dying. As I think about this I feel rather torn. Do I finish what I started or do I move on? After much debate with myself, (quietly, not out loud, so I really can’t be crazy, right?) I have come to the conclusion that it must be finished. The emotions and struggles of dealing with the death of my sister need to be shared if for no other reason than to bring closure for me. The reason I started this blog in the first place was to be able to help me with this journey of death and dying that was forced upon me. By forced, I mean that I really did not have a choice in the matter. Well, I suppose I could have just stayed home rather than going to be with my sister in the end, but for me that was NOT an option. One year later, I still have the same questions. Why do we not discuss death? Why is it something that is typically considered to be hush-hush? Why we are afraid to talk about the end of life and what happens to a person as they reach the end? Is it the fear of the unknown? Are we ashamed of the emotions we might feel and the tears we might shed? There are probably as many answers to these questions as there are people who read them. If I were to guess I would say that maybe it is related to our own life stories. What we have experienced in life influences how we perceive life and life circumstances. With all of this being said I shall forge ahead and continue sharing my journal pages of the last year. Maybe it will help someone else in their journey.
Tomorrow we will be back on the road again. Hope you decide to join me.
July 8 &9, 2011
Yellowstone! Today we left Bozeman and headed to Yellowstone National Park. I didn’t think there could be more OH MY GOSH DAY’s but OH MY GOSH! Daily I am amazed at the splendor and beauty of the world that God has given us to enjoy. Today the “oh my goshes” were in relation to the beauty of the view and not the scariness of the roads! (refer to the 7/07/11 post)
One of my favorite things about Yellowstone was the random animal sightings. When we first entered the stone gates and drove to the lodge there were elk everywhere, in the parking lots, on the roads, lying on the grass, everywhere! They were so cocky! As we drove along through the parking lot they would stare at us and then walk right in front of the car looking as if they were saying “ha! Can’t touch me!”
They are interesting looking creatures.
The other animal which totally amazed me were the bison. Being from Oklahoma, I have seen many of these creatures in my life time. I have never been close enough to one that I could reach out and touch it if I so desired. (Well, once . . . when my sister was in college. The school mascot was a bison and on the campus there was a bison in a cage. I was young, in first grade, and since it was behind a fence, decided I could pet it. I did. It just stood there. I do not recommend doing this to a bison in the wild that is not caged!) We pulled up to a four way stop and I did a double take. What I thought was a big rock was a bison chillin’ by the stop sign watching the cars go by. Bison are incredible animals. They are huge and in some ways rather ugly, but, they have such kind faces and eyes. Although they look fairly gentle, they are wild animals therefore it is important to keep your distance.
She followed us all over the park. As strange as it may seem the crow has become my symbol of peace.
There are the beautiful snowcapped mountains,
the roaring rivers,
the hot springs and of course,
Old Faithful. We sat on the boardwalk for at least thirty minutes before Old Faithful blew making snide comments about how the wait better be worth it. IT WAS! What an amazing sight! Who would have thought watching steaming hot water blow up into the air would be so breathtakingly beautiful? More than anything, knowing how consistently it blows is amazing. Nature is so incredible!
The last day as we were driving out of the park, we enjoyed the beauty of a huge lake with mountains in the distance. The wind was so strong it made very large waves which blew over the roadway. The two days spent at Yellowstone were such wonderful “OH MY GOSH!” days. This was our first visit to Yellowstone but hopefully it will not be our last. On another note, if you are ever in the area I highly recommend checking out Big Sky Lodge. It is about an hour away from the park and is a very nice, reasonably priced place to stay. We saw this moose as we were driving to the Big Sky Lodge.