Friday, March 9, 2018

Life Ain't Always Beautiful, But It's A Beautiful Ride

"No, life ain't always beautiful, tears will fall sometimes. Life ain't always beautiful, but its a beautiful ride..."  

Those of you who use Facebook are familiar with the On This Day (memories) feature. They will bring up pictures that you previously posted. Today, Facebook brought up a picture of an event that took place 365 days ago.

 On 3/21/16, Ryan’s life was turned completely upside down when he asked me “Is Mom going to die”. With those five words, and my one word answer of “Yes”, things got complicated really fast. I had already known this was happening some 6 months prior, but we decided to keep that from Ryan until it was getting closer. As I was driving to work after that reminder, I thought of the five words that I finally prayed in October 2015, “If It Be Your Will”.

 There are those who have written that the number 5 in the Bible symbolizes God’s Grace. There is no doubt in my mind that the 5 words chanted by me in 2015 and the 5 words asked by Ryan one year ago unleashed a flood of grace on our lives.

It has been 365 days of crazy, exhaustion, sometimes emotional chaos, a total reordering of priorities and healing. For two years my life was chaotic. My mom was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer in 2014. I was running her around town to various appointments, surgeries and treatments. On top of that, I was working full-time, applying to the Diaconate program, parenting an Asperger child and keeping everything moving forward.

In 2015, Theresa was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, mom’s ovarian cancer returned and the chaos intensified. There weren’t enough hours in the day to get things done and I let myself go.   In the chaos that was my life from 2014-2016, I shot up from 185 to 220 pounds and had let my fitness level get to an abysmal level. I remember my FBI physical that listed my BMI at 31.6, labeling me as obese. My blood sugar was elevated, my cholesterol was off the charts high. I was an absolute mess.

 In the month leading up to the death of Theresa, I managed to drop 5 pound due to the chaos that was my life. Shortly after Theresa died, Ryan told me that he was worried about losing me too and that was the moment I knew I had to make some changes. I had already decided to swear off alcohol as I didn’t want that to become the crutch to lean on which could spiral out of control. I started an exercise program called Insanity and looked forward to the ass-kicking that it gave me every night. Exercise for me was cathartic. When I was in the zone, nothing else mattered or concerned me.

 The results were quick and energized me. I wanted to be healthy; to be around for Ryan for another 50 years. It felt great to focus on me. When things got confusing, when things started to pile up, I would lace up my shoes and run. Exercise was the single greatest thing for me in dealing with the giant mess that had been made of our lives.

Strength in Mending

Ryan and I had a long talk a few weeks ago about mending. He told me he was feeling anxious about the upcoming anniversary of Theresa’s being born into eternity. We talked a while about all of the hard things we’ve been through and how much stronger those things made us.

 As I’ve written about before, dates mean something to me and we wrote those dates down: Our anniversary (4/28, +10 days); Mothers Day (5/8, +20 days); Fathers Day(6/19, +62 days); First day of school (8/8, + 112 days); My birthday (10/1, +166 days); Nana moving to Kansas (10/8, +173 days Nana’s birthday (10/23, +188 days); Thanksgiving (11/24, +220 days); St. Nicholas Day (12/6, +232 days); Christmas (12/25, +251 days); Ryan’s Birthday (1/24, +281 days); Valentines day (2/14, +302 days). There is something very visceral, something very therapeutic about looking back on the road you’ve traveled.

 I shared with him an article on a blog entitled “Don’t Get On The Anniversary Train”. This article was forwarded to me by Jennie, who had read it and thought it was a great article. I asked him to read it and talk through what it meant to him. The crux of the article is that we do not honor our loved one by getting sucked into sadness and focusing on the end. Life is difficult regardless of your road, but you won’t ever make it better if you become bitter or angry. Instead, we remember all the good times we had, all the good memories that we made, enjoy telling people about Theresa and what a wonderful person she was. We agreed to focus on the memories, the celebration and the journey.

 As it turns out, Pascha falls very late this year, April 16th. Jennie and I talked about what we were going to do and the idea came to spend Easter weekend in Phoenix. We are going to celebrate the hope of the Resurrection: Jennie, Patrick, Ryan and Irene, spending time with Kathleen, Art, Briana, Gabe and Emmy. We will attend the Divine Liturgy at St. Stephens Cathedral, celebrating the Resurrection of Christ and remembering this gift by visiting the St. Nicholas Columbarium to celebrate Theresa’s being born into eternity. We can honor our past, remember our good times, all the while making new memories on our journey forward. 

 We have been blessed abundantly in the last 365 days. Out of the pain of sitting on the cold tile floor with my sobbing 10 year old, one year ago, has come a wonderful vision and path that we are walking. Into our life came a beautiful soul, Jennie, along with 3 wonderful kids who have captured my heart and soul.
All the kids met for the first time on February 25 and it was such a wonderful time. Watching them interact, talk, play; was like they were biological siblings, not strangers who just met for the first time. Two families, each who have walked very different, painful paths, intersected and started walking forward together. When I look at our journey forward, I know the depths of the love that God has for Ryan and I.      


δόξα στον Ιησού Χριστό
Glory to Jesus Christ!

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