Thursday, August 21, 2008

What are Blessings?

I meant this to be a celebration of Jake's starting 7th grade and making it through each school day with at least some energy. Also, the fact that he has only 7 weeks left of treatment, and two of those weeks he'll have off. So 3 more overnight stays and 2 more clinic visits--that's it!

But then life happens. And so does death.

This morning, the 4-year-old son of our stake Young Women's president was hit and killed by an unlicensed teenage driver. The mother was there--she and her baby had walked down to the bus stop to send an older brother to school. The bus pulled away, Cooper started to cross the street on his bike, and a car turned and ran him over in front of his mother. He was life-flighted to Primary Children's where he died.

I was in the midst of an online discussion about the nature of blessings when my husband called with the news. I've spent a lot of time this year thinking about blessings and trials. Here's some of what I wrote:

I've pondered this thread all month and come to only one conclusion--that I alone can decide what's a blessing for me. Troubles and trials might well be blessings--but I really don't want someone else telling me so. And how does it help to tell, say, Meadowbee, "I believe Jordan's death is a blessing"?

That's what has been on my mind while thinking of this thread. Me and Meadowbee. Jacob and Jordan.

Jacob and Jordan were diagnosed with the same cancer 1 week apart. Almost 8 months later and Jacob has clean scans, 7 weeks left of treatment, and he started 7th grade this week.

Jordan is gone.

Maybe there's something wrong with me, but I never seem to ponder "Why me?" or "Why us?" when bad things happen--I certainly didn't spend any time on that when Jake was diagnosed. But I invariably ask "Why me?" and "Why us?" when good things happen. Why is Jacob doing so well when Jordan is gone? Why has Jacob been given the blessing (and I do think it's a blessing) of enduring treatment so well with so few side effects? I know it's not due to my greater faith or obedience--I've met Meadowbee, and she beats me in both categories by a mile.

Here's what I've decided, the lesson of blessings according to Bluestocking: Good or bad, things happen. What matters is what I do next.

I have a very wise neighbor, Aaron, who lost his mother to cancer when he was young. He told me the following: "In my experience, those who pass through these things come out wiser and better. But that doesn't mean it hurts any less while you're doing it."

I would not want to give up what I have learned and who I have become this year. But if I could make it so Jake never had cancer, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Mothers are funny like that.

It seems to me that those who pass through wrenching trials can go one of two ways. It can isolate you. I've seen this with some of the parents on the rhabdo list--they shut out their friends who lead "luckier" lives and insist that only those going through the same thing can understand them and they have no patience for anything less.

Or it can open you up, leaving your heart and spirit so open that you feel all manner of suffering and pain with compassion. It hurts. But I wouldn't trade it for isolation. "Mourning with those who mourn"--I have a new understanding of that phrase now.

And so tonight I mourn for the Mardesich family--for Cooper's parents and his three older brothers whose lives changed in an instant. If you have a minute, pray for them and for all who mourn in one way or another tonight.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Finally Photos

School has begun . . . and so has the celebrating.

I pause momentarily in my joy to bring you photographic proof of our recent vacation.

Matt with Miami in the background

Matt, Laura, Jake, and Emma in Nassau, Bahamas
Jake and Matt with the ship in the background

Jake doing his favorite thing--sitting still and eating

Emma, Spencer, and Jake in front of the water slide

Matt and Jake at dinner enjoying the entertainment

Almost all of us with St. Thomas in the background

Spencer and Emma at Camp Carnival

Laura in Marigot, the capitol of French St. Martin

Why get dressed to eat? Or use a table?

Yes, you can mini-golf

Emma and Spencer and their towel animal
(No, I don't know what sort of animal it's supposed to be)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


The good news--we're all safely home.

The bad news--the ground is still swaying.

Since I'm out of here again tomorrow (I'm using the word "here" in the sense of the state of Utah, not "here" as in Jake's hospital room, which I'll be out of tonight once Chris comes up to take the night shift) I thought I'd better post at least a little about our trip.

Oh, and no need to worry about the hospital. It's his normal inpatient stay. He's starting on the last third of his treatment protocol, scheduled to end in mid-October. He had a CT and MRI yesterday and everything looks good. Still no sign of the tumor, just a little thickening in the sinus area which is an effect of the radiation. So all is well and good.

Back to our vacation. In no particular order, here's what comes to mind.

1. Lines: Lots and lots of lines. Especially the first day when 3600 people are all trying to get on a ship the size of a village through one small gangway door. That night at dinner, Chris asked, "What time exactly did we board?" Jake's answer: "Define board."

2. Humor: The only way to cope with 3600 people all wanting to be roughly the same place at the same time. Also a nice benefit of being together for any length of time. I think it always surprises Matt and Jake how funny their parents can be. Or maybe they were laughing at us.

3. Nassau, Bahamas: Hot. Sticky. And the hair braiders charge by the braid.

4. St. Thomas: Good snorkeling (or so Chris, Matt, and Emma report.) Jake and I stayed on board, put Spencer in Camp Carnival, and enjoyed the relatively empty ship. A pool almost to ourselves, going down the waterslide without waiting in line, not so much noise while reading . . . a nice day for everyone.

5. St. Maarten/St. Martin: Chris and I left the kids on board (Emma and Spencer safely squared away at Camp Carnival) and went on an island tour. It's split between the Netherlands and France and I particularly enjoyed the hour we spent wandering around the French capitol, Marigot. A wonderful old cemetery with above-ground crypts and lots of conch shells marking the graves of the less wealthy. Some of the dates went back to the days of sugar cane plantations in the 1800s. Also, you just know that a French town, no matter where it's located, will have wonderful pastry.

6. Dining: Summed up in two words--good and lots. My children are now wandering around the house wondering where there 24 hour soft serve ice cream and pizza are. We had our own table in the dining room for dinner and I could have lived off the warm chocolate melting cake alone. The true measure of success? Jake gained 7 pounds.

7. Overheard onboard: Matt and Jake each found themselves the target of some unsolicited comments. As Jake walked through the corridor one night, he saw an irate woman banging on a stubbornly-shut cabin door. As Jake walked past, she turned to him and said, "Don't ever get married when you're older."

As for Matt, he wore his My Chemical Romance t-shirt (with the band members as skeletons on a black background) and caught the eye of some teenage girls who felt compelled to give him a hug . . . oh, wait. That's a different story. Same shirt, though. A small boy came up to him shyly and said, "I like your shirt" and then scurried back to his dad, to whom he said, "When I grow up I want to be like him--kind of cool and kind of creepy."

And now, of course, the fun ends. Laundry, Chris travelling, school starting in less than two weeks . . . oh, wait! School starting is the beginning of MY fun.

Aaahhh, I can hardly wait :)