Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Postmaster, Please Deliver!

Dear Postmaster,

I know you have a way of getting letters to people even though the address might be incomplete. Take for example all the letters you have to deliverer to Santa and the only information on the envelope is his name and the North Pole. I’m sure you find him because every year he manages to delight boys and girls all over the world on Christmas day with the toys they asked him for, so I’m hoping you’ll do me a big favor and find someone special for me.

Her name is Sierra (sorry I don’t know her last name). She is six years old and she lives on Hammond Boulevard in Clovis, New Mexico, Oh, and she likes the color, pink. That’s about all I have for you to go on but It would mean a lot if you could find her. You see, she is a very special little girl and I need to tell her that.

For six days in June of 2009, in a hospital in Las Vegas she was my friend. She gave me hugs and held my hand and made me smile when all I wanted to do was cry. She colored me pictures and asked a lot of questions and told me all about herself, except for how to find her.

We met in the Intensive Care Waiting Room. She was there because her grandmother was in the ICU and she and her older sister would hang out there while her mother stayed by her grandmother’s side. I’m sure she was sad and scared. It was a sad, scary room. People cried a lot. Some got news that changed their lives forever and a few left that room after saying good bye to someone they loved. I hated that room until I met Sierra.

After Dave received the diagnosis of cancer from the doctors, I immediately declared his room a “No Cry Zone”. I didn’t want him to think we were scared or without hope. For several days, the doctors would only allow me in his room and this declaration on my part proved tough to follow. When I felt the tears creeping to the surface, I would quietly leave his room and find my way to the waiting room where family and friends had gathered. Together we would cry on each other’s shoulders until I could get a grip, wipe my nose and return to his room.

On one of these occasions, as the tears were flowing freely, I felt someone grab my hand. I looked into the big brown eyes of a small girl and heard her ask, “Why are you so sad?” I tried to explain that someone I loved was very sick and that made me sad and that’s when she told me about her grandma having an operation on her heart but that she knew she was going to get better.

From that time on, Sierra and I bonded. Every time I entered that room I was greeted by a big hug from her and she would proceed to plant herself next to me. This sometimes bothered family members who were anxious to hear news about Dave’s conditions, but Sierra was not deterred. She would rub my hands and I would tell her how nice that felt and she would tell me that she wanted to be a hand massager one day. She would show me the pictures she had made or tell me about the game she and her sister had played or sometimes she would tell me that her sister was mean to her because she didn’t want to play anymore. But Sierra always made me smile, even when I couldn’t imagine ever smiling again. This six-year old child with a heart as big as all of Las Vegas made my heart happy for those few moments in that awful room.

Then everything got crazy. The doctors made the decision to transport Dave to Salt Lake and it all happened so fast. When Sierra’s mother learned that we were leaving she asked if she could take a picture of the two of us. There we were, frozen in time, friends for life. In my rush to make arrangements and gather my things I didn’t get her address. I never saw the picture. I didn’t get to tell her how much her simple acts of kindness and love got me through those terrible days. I never got to hear about her Grandmother and if her heart got better and I never got to tell her that the person I love is doing great.

So you see Mr. Postmaster, that’s why I have to find her. Friends like that don’t come along very often and I need to send her a letter to tell her all those things and to ask her if her sister is being nice to her and if she is happy and if pink is still her favorite color.

Thanks in advance for your help,

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Be the Stranger

Be the Stranger

We just returned from a fundraising event for Coaches vs Cancer in Spokane where Dave and I were able to tell our story regarding his cancer. Although I wish that cancer had never entered our lives, the lessons we've learned along the way have changed our lives for the better, and for that, we are grateful. This is what I shared with them.

A year ago last June, I talked Dave into taking a much needed vacation with our entire family. We took our two married children and their spouses, our 14 year-old daughter and our three grandchildren to Disneyland.  The trip went so perfectly that it truly was the “Happiest Place on Earth”. In fact I remember getting on the Dumbo ride and looking at all my family sitting in elephants and thinking, “I am the luckiest woman in the whole world.” As we wrapped up California we were going to make a stop in Las Vegas for a few days to attend my family reunion.

On the plane, Dave began feeling dizzy to the point that he couldn’t sit up. The flight attendants moved passengers around so that he could lie on the seats, administered oxygen and called for medical help. And that is when our journey with cancer first began and that is when I learned my first lesson.

I knew that our family and friends loved us but what was so amazing was the kindness and compassion that was shown us by total strangers. While on the plane, there were no pillows to put under Dave’s head so a woman across the isle volunteered her jacket. After the medical personnel came on board they allowed the passengers to disembark and when they moved Dave to the stretcher, there was the woman’s jacket. The flight attendants hurried to catch her but she was gone. I didn’t even know her name. I didn’t know how to thank her.

Upon arriving at the hospital it was determined that Dave was bleeding internally and he would require emergency surgery and 10 units of blood. I will never know the names of those 10 people whose gift saved my husbands life.  I didn’t know how to thank them.

One night as I fell asleep in the chair next to his hospital bed, someone had come in and covered me with a blanket. That simple act meant everything to me.  I don’t know their name, I didn’t know how to thank them and it bothered me. I wanted these people to know how grateful I was for their acts of service and love and then it hit me. The only way I could repay them was to be the stranger for someone else. Dave and I made a commitment to each other and to Heavenly Father that we would try and do this.

Upon his release from the hospital 12 days later, the first thing he wanted to do was meet with his players. He doesn’t often let me address the team but in his weakened state he did. I told them about the strangers who had lightened our burden and asked the players if they would help us repay them. They accepted the challenge and it was an amazing experience to watch them throughout the season as they would look for ways to be the stranger for someone. From something as simple as helping a young mother with her children and bags off the plane to becoming personally involved in the lives of the children with cancer in our area. They truly stepped forward in a big way and in the process, it changed their lives as well.

Winston Churchill said, “A man makes a living by what he gets, but a man makes a life but what he gives.” I hope I never forget these people who helped us in our time of need. I hope I will always remember to keep my heart open and watch for ways that I can repay them. I hope I always remember to be the stranger.

Monday, August 16, 2010

I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane

I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane!

Growing up, our family was definitely not wealthy. My father drove a Greyhound Bus from Las Vegas to Cedar City and back. When the bus drivers went on strike, my mother got a job at the lunch counter at Woolworth’s. She doesn’t remember how much she made but said that when she got a quarter for a tip, it was something special. I loved to count and stack all the coins that made up her validation of a hard days work. To top all this off, my two oldest brothers were serving missions at the same time. To pay for this, the entire family would clean the health department after closing hours. I don’t remember this, although my siblings (minus the two missionaries) don’t have fond memories of those days.

I do remember getting one pair of shoes for the school year. Towards March or April I would wear through the bottoms and holes would appear. To remedy the situation, my mom would cut cardboard that would fit in the bottom of my shoes to extend their life. Although I was young, I recall feeling embarrassed and tried to always keep my feet on the ground, which limited many activities like swinging and playing on the monkey bars.

Needless to say, there wasn’t much money for entertainment. We did enjoy visiting my Aunt Illetta and Uncle Frank. They lived out past the airport and quite often when we turned on Eastern Street my parents would pull the car over, spread out a blanket and we would lie on the hood of the car. This was the street at the end of the runway and we would watch planes take off and land. I can still hear the roar of the engine, as they would ascend in the sky until they were tiny dots and the screech of the tires as they touched the pavement.

I remember wondering where those people were going and where they had been and mostly I wondered if I would ever have the chance to experience the thrill of an airplane ride. Would I hand someone my boarding pass and find my seat on a plane that would take me to wonderful places and new adventures. My father never did. In his forty-eight years of life his feet never left the ground. He never knew the feeling of soaring above the earth and seeing the world from a whole different view.

Although my parents couldn’t afford to buy me a ticket to some far off destination, what they did allow me to do, was dream. By taking the time to stop the car and watch those planes, they allowed a little girl the time to let her imagination soar. I have been so blessed to climb aboard many airplanes in my lifetime and sometimes I even get to sit up front (thanks Dave). On a few occasions I’ve had the chance to fly on some pretty amazing planes (thanks generous, rich friends), but I will always be grateful for parents who took the time to let me dream.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Big "C"

You will probably hear me talk a lot about cancer, or the big "C", as it is called in our house. When our friends from St. George came to visit Dave in the hospital shortly after learning he had cancer, Dave said to them, "Well, it looks like I have the big "C", and that's what's its been called ever since. Sometimes we refer to "B.C." (before cancer) or "A.C." (after cancer) but we do refer to it often.

It was one of those pivotal moments in our lives when everything changed. When the world was bathed in a different color and life came in to focus. Not all of our family experienced the same emotions or reactions, but one thing we do share is that we all love a little deeper, hold on a little tighter and are grateful for each day we have together.

Most pictures of me and Dave "B.C." are standing by each other. I've noticed "A.C." photos all seem to be the same pose. We are holding on to each other. I know I can't hold on to those I love forever, but right now it feels good.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Enjoying the Journey!

Enjoying the Journey!

I've always lived my life on the cautious side. Most decisions I've made were based on fear, fear of what could go wrong, fear of failure, fear of the unknown and sometimes even fear of success and then what would that bring. I don't know where this unhealthy emotion comes from and I don't really care, it's just who I am, or was.
Last June when Dave was diagnosed with cancer and we came face to face with our mortality, I did some serious soul searching and didn't like some of what I found. I made many vows in those sleepless nights. One of them was that I would try to enjoy life. Live my life, not ruled by fear, but by joy and happiness and new experiences. This blog is a record of my journey. I'm sure at times it will be scary and challenging and funny and it might actually hurt but living in fear is no fun.
I like this picture because it shows me embarking on this new path. I've always wanted to surf but was too afraid to try. Last November while in Hawaii, I did it. I along with some supportive friends grabbed our boards and hung ten. You can tell a couple of things from the picture. The most obvious is that the waves aren't very big, but I had to start somewhere. The second is that my posture still shows some signs of fear but, the reason I love this picture is that my arms are wide open and my heart is open with them, ready to conquer this challenge and begin to enjoy all that is to come.