A friend recently said “death changed you”. How could it not? Why would it not? Death of a soul mate, of a loved one, of a family member or friend will forever change you – and it should.

What I realize however, it wasn’t my husband’s death that changed me into the person I am today. It was the process of that death. It was in finding every means possible to keep him with me here on earth. It was the thoughts that went through my mind for 4 years. It was in the knowledge that he was going to die and still try to live in the moment for 3-1/2 years. It was in the love exchanged between us and watching the determination of one incredible human being get up every single day with a smile. Death changed me? Reality shows that death gave me a gift. My husband’s death gave me purpose like I’ve never known.

My husband strengthened me for twenty years in his every action. God only knew what the future held and what mattered to Keith was what he could do for others and especially, for me. He did what any kind, loving, adoring man would do. He built me up so that today I could emerge a stronger, changed woman with purpose. He never for a minute thought I was anything but strong and capable and would often tell me that. When I sometimes feel sorry for myself, I draw on the strength that I really do have.

I realize I don’t have time for drama. People who create these neat little spaces in their minds where nothing is good in life have never lived. I see it every single day and social media is the perfect platform.  We can give light to the world or we can keep it dim with ignorance. Death made me less tolerant of ignorance. I don’t mean ignorance of being unskilled either. Ignorance is when people are so self-absorbed that they can’t look at anything in a positive light. I don’t have patience for this. Death changed me. I miss Keith more and more each day but if I dwell there, I wouldn’t be true to myself – death changed me.  There are so many wonderful avenues to explore in this life if we just open our eyes to them.  Nature, animals and especially other human beings.

I have no patience for people who complain about silly things – be grateful for those things that annoy you – you are alive. Quit complaining about your job – be grateful you have one. Do something to change your circumstances; only you can do that.

I have all the empathy in the world for suffering and loss – when that suffering and loss is out of our control. I don’t have it in me anymore to feel the angst of so many that just are unhappy people. I don’t follow the tabloid media like I used to – it’s all nonsense.

Death changed me and it changed others around me. I’ve seen profound changes in two of my children. Changes to show just how strong they are – there’s no room for drama. We have all learned a valuable lesson. Life is short. Learn from it. Create your own happiness. Be kind. Love yourself first. Give back. Give of yourself. Grow yourself.

Tears of sadness are like rain to the flowers of life.

tulipsLet the tears help you grow. – tms

Death changed me? Maybe a little, but I am able to speak more openly and honestly. I don’t have a problem voicing my opinion on something I truly believe in. I believe in hope. I believe in love. I believe in God my Father, I believe in helping others and I believe in paying it forward.

I’ve always had purpose, but death changed that purpose. I will forever advocate for those living with and dying from the very disease that took Keith away from me. My focus is with the PMP Research Foundation and with his surgeon, locally. It is with the online support groups of which I am a member. My purpose is to align myself with those of the same principles and same goals.Not just in cancer advocacy but in every facet of my life.  I owe it to myself and to all of my children and grandchildren to always be the best person I know I am capable of being.

Death changed me? Death made me hopeful. God will bring me home someday too. It’s what I do with the time that I have left that is important. Life is beautiful and precious and yes, sometimes rotten things happen. Is it in your control? If it’s not, let it go.

My heartfelt prayers go out to my family fighting appendix cancer, living with appendix cancer/PMP and living with the results that appendix cancer left them with.

Still Blessed

There are a hundred other things I should be doing at the moment, but I’m feeling inspired by life and its offerings.

Yesterday Keith was the honorary Grand Marshal in an annual parade for the Village that was his second home for 38 years – where he was employed, loved and respected.  The news of his nomination came to me late, as my daughter was first contacted.  It was supposed to be a surprise – and it was.  The day and weeks leading up to the event were full of emotion both proud of the man I married and frustrated that this happened after his death.  The Village and the Parade Committee and our friend who nominated him have gone above and beyond to make Keith’s legacy an amazing one.  They have, and I thank them profusely — from an amazing retirement party, to the naming of a maintenance/salt dome facility, to honoring his retirement in the parade 3 years ago, and now, this honorary Grand Marshal, my heart is full.

Keith was the kind, generous, committed, serious, play hard/work hard person that most knew, but I saw things that others didn’t and maybe because he wouldn’t let them see that side of him.  Keith loved so deeply and honestly.  There is nothing that could stand in the way of that love.  It wasn’t just in the words he spoke in the end to me over several months, it wasn’t in the embraces that we shared.  It was in his every day actions and the thoughts that went into every decision he made.  Keith always put others before himself.  If I was having a particularly bad day, there was nothing that he wouldn’t do to try and make it better.  Sometimes it was just a hug, sometimes it was “let’s get out of here” for a change of scenery, sometimes it was just a touch on my shoulder to let me know he was there. Sometimes it was just a wink.  Oh that wink, how I miss it.

How blessed I was to love him and be loved by him. How blessed each person is that knew Keith, whether for a short time or a lifetime, he was a man to emulate.

When I think of love, I know I had the very best there was to have.

When I think of hope, I know I have every reason to believe in it.

When I think of patience, I realize I lived through the most impatient of times.

When I think of the future, I have only certain thoughts: to love, to live and to honor the memories of that love.


May 9th – Forward 5 Months

Sadness, it’s creeping, crawling, and slithering.
Traction often comes to a slippery stop.
Growth is stunted under the darkness.
Heart is aching and tears flowing.
Purpose is disguised as motion.
Relentless sighs in desperation.
Yearning, wanting, need.
There are racing thoughts and palpitations.
My mind is bending, stretching, overlooking and over-thinking.
I am empty, emotionless, extinguished.
I have fumbled, fallen and been weakened.

These are thoughts, fears and emotion traveling through my heart and brain over the past five months. Five months! I visit him often where his body lies but I visit with him 24 hours a day in my heart. What does one do with these feelings? I have held them; I have put them in an imaginary box neatly nestled among my other treasures. I pull them out one by one on gloomy days. On other days I may only take out one. I have been diligent in putting them back into the box before I rest. For the sleep is what brings me one day closer to him.

So this is what life looks like for me now. A dear friend sent me a daily devotional that hangs on my refrigerator.

“When your mind spins with a multitude of thoughts, you cannot hear My voice. ~God

My faith has often faltered because my brain is noisy. I am learning as I go that I have to take time to breathe. It is as important to my soul as it is to the daily life I live. What makes me stronger? What makes me get through another day? And what will get me through the rest of my life? What brings me peace and understanding of the loss that I often feel like is an on-going nightmare? It is my faith that I always turn to. I am taking time each day not only for prayer because that is essential to my life and the promise that I keep to my friends and family, but time to shut out the thoughts. These are the times that I feel at peace with the plan of my life going forward. When I don’t panic about life and just let it happen, the good, the bad and the often-times ugly, I do best. It’s a learning process. It is not something that is going to make my life perfect by any means. But it’s a life I can live with hope for the future. My belief to see life after this death as beautiful as the life that I lived for over 20 years with my beloved is alive and well!

A young friend of mine is running her first marathon in the fall of this year. Victoria is running in honor of her mom and step-dad. Her mom, a friend of Keith and me, died a short 5 days before Keith did of the very same disease – appendix cancer. The cold hard truth is that we both have the same feelings of loss, she for her mom that she cared for throughout her illness and me for Keith. Our losses are completely different, but they are exactly the same.

So Vicky asked me what number she should associate with Keith. My daughter came up with 23, Keith’s birthday – perfect I said. So miles 23 of the marathon will be dedicated to Keith and she wants to know “the most valuable lesson he taught you, funniest memory, or anything that I can remember about him on one of the last miles of the marathon”.

I have a lot of funny memories so it’s hard to pick out just one that’s for sure.But let me give Vicky something to remember. Keith was the sort of man that liked to take care of people. I want you to think very clearly about the visit that you had with us. Your mom and I shared life moments on that day. You went to the basement with Keith. While you shared it was a great conversation, I know that he somehow, gave you “something” to carry forward with you. I want you to think about that day and what it meant to you, to your mom, to Keith and to me. I want you to run at an even pace because that is the only way to keep one foot in front of the other. I want you to remember that Keith grew to love you as another daughter and he was as concerned for you and your well-being going forward. He knew what you were going through with your mom as our children were experiencing the same feelings. He shared with you things that day openly and honestly. On mile 23 remember the man that always tried to comfort others. He loved your mom and they shared everything during their conversations. I am grateful that they had each other!  On mile 23 remember that you and he shared a beautiful embrace on August 23, 2014 at the Pub Crawl. Push yourself but let our angels help your cross that finish line.

Keith and Victoria

Happy 5 months in heaven, my love. Keep shining your beam of light as only you can do!  I love you and miss you in ways that words do not convey.