On Sunday evening, a couple of days before my 58th birthday, Bryan, Corey and Kelly surprised me with a beautiful birthday party. Mark and I were supposed to meet everyone at Kelly’s condo for dinner, but when we opened her door all we could see were balloons and flowers and streamers. In fact, there were so many balloons that my wheelchair couldn’t get through without popping some.
Bryan, Corey and Kelly were waiting for us inside with Chad joining on FaceTime. Cole, Peyton, Harrison and Tucker were also there, and so were Patti and Luz, who helped the kids decorate and took pictures. Instead of a real dinner we drank champagne and ate ice cream sundaes and ended the evening with a relaxing sunset boat ride.
I loved this birthday celebration.
In 2012 I was given the gift of a lifetime. I traveled to Europe with Kelly, Corey and Chris. Kelly and I flew to Germany and met up with Chris who was in Switzerland for work. Then we all took a train to Venice where Corey met up with us one night while we were drinking Prosecco in Piazza San Marco. After Venice we went to Florence, then to Rome and finally to Capri.
While we were in Rome we visited many beautiful religious sites, including the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. One evening we took a taxi to the Colosseum where we got into an argument about religion while we were admiring and learning about the history of the moonlit structure. To make a long story short, the conversation revealed some differences in opinion and ended with some hurt feelings. The next day things were still a little sensitive and Corey and Kelly weren’t happy with one another which made me upset because here we were on this beautiful vacation and my kids were fighting.
The trip ended well with a few days spent swimming and shopping in Capri and we all went back home, Kelly and Chris to Chicago, Corey to San Francisco and me to Muskegon, but Kelly and Corey were still sore at each other.
I have thought a lot about that night at the Colosseum. Differing opinions are a natural part of life and fortunately Kelly and Corey have been able to resolve their differences and forgive each other. I wish everyone could.
Minutes after Mike Anderson, one of Corey’s best friends, read my wedding ring blog post he was on the phone with his boss and the owner of Terryberry, Mike Byam. Terryberry specializes in employee appreciation products, gifts and awards. Mike Anderson asked Mike Byam if their company could fix my broken ring. Mike Byam said, “Absolutely!” Before we knew it Mike Anderson had my ring and was heading to Terryberry’s factory in Grand Rapids.
Only a few days went by and Mike Anderson called and said my ring was finished and he was heading over to our condo. Before Mike arrived I thought of how incredibly kind people are. When Mike presented my ring to me I couldn’t believe how shiny and new it looked. It was prettier than ever. My ring needed to be cleaned and the diamond was loose so they fixed the prongs. My broken ring was put perfectly back together and I was thrilled. The box the ring came in contained a delicate gold chain so I can wear it around my neck. Mike explained to us how intriguing it is to watch the talented and dedicated craftsmen while they work on delicate jewelry. He said they take so much pride in their artwork.
Thank you Mike Anderson, Mike Byam and the talented craftsmen at Terryberry. I’m so happy to have my wedding ring back and more beautiful than ever.
This past Sunday I invited my brother and five sisters over for a family meeting to talk about the sadness we’re all experiencing due to my illness. We all love each other so deeply and I didn’t want to let anymore time go by without trying to do something. Since my speech has gotten so bad I decided to start our meeting by having my brother Jim read the following letter to everyone.
Dear Judy, Jim, Joan, Deb, Vikke and Mary,
This past year I’ve had a lot of time to think about my life and about all of you. I sincerely feel like I am the luckiest sister alive. We are all so different which is a good thing. I remember Mom saying, “If I could shake Jim and Mick up in a bottle and blend them together I would have two perfect sons.” Maybe Mom thought Jim was too conservative and Mick was too wild. I’m not sure what Mom was thinking but if given the chance to change any of our personalities she wouldn’t have changed a thing. I feel our different personalities made up our determined, colorful and compassionate family dynamics.
As I look back on how we were able to help Dad when Mom’s Alzheimer’s progressed, we formed a plan and worked as a family to implement it. When Jean was suffering with leukemia at U of M we formed another plan to help. With the help of many friends, our family was able to support Jean and her husband Don financially by organizing a successful lasagna dinner fundraiser. During Jean’s three-month stay in Ann Arbor we were able to schedule someone to stay with her at all times so she never had to be alone. As we helped Jean we were all forced outside of our comfort zones both medically and emotionally but we dug deep within ourselves to find the courage to help our sister. Now we are faced with a new and different challenge with me having a terminal illness. My disease may not require anyone to make a schedule or physically take care of me because I have Mark, but it will require some time, patience and a lot of love. I’m talking about the grieving process. Right now we are all so stinking sad but if we help each other we will get through this with grace. I am already witnessing some amazing relationships forming. Mary and Vikke are getting closer than ever, Joan and Vikke are meeting up to exercise every week, Jim and Janet and Judy and Gordy are helping Deb and Steve with their new house, which is bringing them very close together. It seems as though everyone has already started to readjust their lives for the future and I am thrilled to witness it.
Somehow if we can grow together through all of our grief and get more comfortable with the grieving process then maybe through our tears we can see beauty and comfort during my illness.
I love you all so much.
As we talked through each of our struggles we started to get a better understanding. My sister Vikke mentioned that she sometimes feels guilty if she catches herself having fun and then thinks about me and what I am going through. I stopped Vikke immediately and said, “Please don’t ever feel guilty about me because that makes me really sad. I hope that you can think of me when you are having fun because that would really make me happy.”
Our meeting ended well and I think everyone went home feeling a little closer and maybe a little stronger.
“We are only as happy as our saddest child.”
I have found this to be true.