Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thirty #6

Question six asks this:

6.  What is the hardest experience you've ever gone through?

     I've been sitting here thinking about how to answer this question for almost a week now.  I know that most of you would think that losing my dad last year to cancer was the hardest experience.  Some others may think that finding out that Joshua was autistic was the hardest.  But I've thought about it, and I've come up with this.  Losing my only sibling unexpectedly was the hardest experience I've ever gone through.  Let me tell you why.

     My dad's death was expected.  From October 2008 until September of 2011, we all knew we were on borrowed time.  I have said before that I spent all the time with him that I could, and I have peace with that.  When I saw him that night on September 14th, I didn't want to accept the fact that that was the last time I'd see my daddy alive, but when I got the phone call from my mom early that morning I was prepared.  I was okay because I had had time to digest what was going on and I had time to mentally prepare his illness and death.  Even though I didn't like it, I accepted it.  I know that there was nothing left unsaid, no moments wasted.  Don't get me wrong, it ripped my heart out.  And it still hurts--a lot.  But I had closure with my daddy.

     When Josh was diagnosed with autism, that was hard too--no doubt.  Knowing that your child will always be "different" was extremely difficult.  And accepting it and dealing with it has been a part of our daily routine so long that I can't remember life without autism.  We have definitely had our bumps in the road, and will probably experience obstacles in the future.  But it has gotten easier with time.  So even though going through that was hard, it was manageable.  And goodness knows I've learned immensely from it.  And he's doing great now and that's all that matters.

     This takes me to what the hardest experience I've gone through.  I feel sometimes I get redundant on this blog, but that's okay.  One day I'll look back on this and recall what all was happening in my life.  I will need to read this again in the future.  I hope that my heart will be healed more then.

     A little background on my sister.  Sandi was 10 1/2 years older than me.  Always the "big sis".  I had a hard time getting close to her when I was younger because of our age difference.  She was graduating high school when I was barely in elementary school.  But as time passed, we got closer.  I won't sugar coat anything here--Sandi and I at times were like oil and vinegar.  I can't tell you how many times we'd bicker and fight about things, but ultimately we were siblings and well....that's just how siblings act.  I'd go running to mom and she'd go running to her too and mom would say, "nope--not getting in the middle of two figure it out and be nice to one another.  You're sisters."  And this didn't just happen when we were younger, either.  It actually happened a lot when we were grown ups and should have known better.  But we had a lot of good times too, like going to the Elton John concert together, riding my first loop roller coaster together, and being together when Josh was born.  Thank goodness I have lots of happy memories of her.  Happy memories are what get me through the hard days.

     My sister was an avid lover of nature, singing and music, crafts, photography, biking and basically just life in general.  She was a great mom to my nephew, Andrew.  She loved her family fiercely.  And she had such a strong faith.  I can remember talking to her a couple days before she died.  I never knew when I hung the phone up that I would never speak to her again.  So here's the hardest part for me.  When someone dies unexpectedly, it completely shatters your world.  There is no time for parting words, no closure whatsoever.  When my mom couldn't get my sister to pick up the phone on that Monday morning, the hairs on my arms stood up.  I knew something wasn't right.  I had worked the night before, and I remember going to bed and saying my prayers and I had just the worst feeling come over me.  I couldn't pinpoint it, but I felt horrible.  Fast forward to that morning...when mom called, I suddenly couldn't get to my mom and dad's house fast enough.  I pulled in the driveway, had the kids stay with my dad, and mom and I went to Sandi's apartment.  We couldn't get her to answer the door.  At that moment, I knew.  I knew she was gone.  I was trying to console my mom, my nephew had just pulled up, and the fire department was trying to get in the door.  It was like a bad dream.  It was something that honestly, I never want to go through again.

     I found out later that my sister passed away at the same time the night before when I had that bad feeling come over me.  Maybe that was her way of telling me goodbye.  No idea....but I've never felt that way before.  The days after that were a blur.  God instills in us some sort of barrier or bubble wrap to shield us from truly feeling the bad stuff in the beginning.  I think that's the only way I got through it.  My faith was so shaky back then.  I honestly don't know how I got through it.  No goodbyes, no working through the dying process, she was simply here one minute and gone the next.  I was mad.  I was mad at her, I was mad at God, I was mad at everyone.  Grief is a weird thing, folks.  I can remember riding back from a friend's house one night after I learned about dad getting sicker, and I was having a one-sided shouting match with God in the car while going down the road.  I kept saying, "it's not fair, God!  You took Sandi away from us and she should be here for dad!!"  I was so pissed.  Here I am screaming and shouting and really getting my feelings out (and looking like a raving lunatic, I'm sure) and all of a sudden her favorite song came on the radio.  Seriously?  I shut up then.  I had to apologize and calm down.  I can imagine that Sandi was probably laughing at my shenanigans.  Because that's what we did around one another--we laughed.  We shared a twisted humor and when all else failed, we just laughed.  It was weird, though.  After I heard that song, I felt peace in my heart.  Peace that hadn't been there before.  The song that I heard was the same one that I played for her during her memorial service.  And hearing that in my car that night helped to heal me.  Call it coincidence if you'd like.  But I feel like God had his hand all in that.  And it really helped me to cope with her being gone.

Since she's been dead almost two years, it has gotten a bit easier to deal with on a day to day basis.  I decided that even though I technically never told her goodbye, it was more like "see you later"anyway.  I have a renewed faith today.  I am a firm believer in Heaven and I think that Sandi is there, along with all the others who have passed on, and she's waiting for me.  I'm glad that dad is up there keeping her company.  In my selfish thinking, I want both of them back.  But I know that can't happen, so I have to accept their deaths and move on with my own life.  Sandi would be aggravated at me if I acted sad all the time.  She loved life so much, so today I live life like she would have wanted.  When I get up in the morning, I thank God for another day.  There are so many people who fight to live each day, that I never want to take living for granted.  Losing my sister was the hardest thing I've ever experienced, but I'm determined to continue my life in a way that she would have wanted.  I would want her to be proud of me.  And I hope that most of the time, she's smiling down....only as a big sis would.

This is Sandi.  It's one of my favorite pictures of her.  She looks so peaceful and happy.  I miss you so much.  Save a place for me..

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Thirty #5.

Here is today's topic.

5. What are the 5 things that make you most happy right now?

I'm a happy person.  And it really doesn't take a lot to make me happy.  It's not the material things that make me the happiest!!  Keep reading...

1.  I can honestly say that right now my relationship with my family and friends make me happy.  I have two wonderful children, a supportive mom, and plenty of extended family members who I love unconditionally.  I also have a great church family, and quite a few close friends who I know would be there for me no matter what. 

2.  My job makes me happy!  I am so blessed to work where I do.  It is so rewarding to be able to help clients turn a negative situation into something more positive after 28 short days.  I have a supportive and caring boss and co-workers.  For the past three years, I have felt like I've worked for one big family.  It also makes me happy to have flexible hours.  And the fact that I work 2 minutes from home definitely puts a smile on my face!

3.  Mentoring at-risk youth definitely makes me happy.  I am SO glad that I became involved with our church's camp called Seeds of Hope.  Working with children in different life circumstances makes me see just how easy my own life is.  I always count my blessings more after working with these children.  It is a very rewarding way to spend my time.  I can't wait until camp next month.  I'll be working as our youth director.  Even though I'll have a lot more responsibility, I can't wait to rise to the challenge.  At the end of the week, I know I'll be happy with my accomplishment.

4. I'm happy for the basic things in life that are so easily taken for granted.  For example, air water for a shower in the morning, electricity, a home phone that works--all of these things make me happy.  I would be quite miserable without them.  I'm also happy that I can afford a nice mobile phone, that I drive a decent car, and I live in a safe neighborhood.  Some people aren't as fortunate as I am.  I'm able to provide for myself and my two children.  We have everything we need and most of what we want.  I'm not bragging, but I know that there are so many people all around the world who don't have what we have.  So even though I'm not a materialistic person, I do enjoy the things that make my life easier.  Easy=happy.

5.  I'm happy because despite all of my many shortcomings, I know that I have a God in my life who loves me no matter what.  Unconditional love.  That is the coolest thing ever, and it's what gives me peace.  I'm happy that I have a strong faith.  He is there each and every step of the way.  God is good!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Thirty #4.

Today's blog topic is this.

4.  List ten things you would tell your sixteen year old self if you could.

Every now and again, you hear someone say, "if I had only known then what I know now", or "hindsight is 20/20".  Today's topic made me wonder....if I could go back and fill my own 16 year old head with wisdom, would I do it?  Actually, probably not.  Sure, I've made mistakes in life.  Every lesson I've learned I've learned the hard way.  I think that it's the mistakes that I've made in the past that have shaped me into the person I am today.  Each twist and turn on this road called Life has left bumps and bruises, but I wouldn't change much.  But for the sake of the blog, and this topic, here are some things I would tell any sixteen year old.

1.  Slow down.
Don't be in such a hurry to grow up and become an adult.  Think about it--you've got it made. You have a responsible parent or parents who keep a roof over your head, food in the fridge, all of what you need and most of the things that you want.  Your responsibilities include making good grades, helping out around the house, and possibly working at a part-time job.  Why in the world are you so determined to jump out in the "real world" when you have it so good?  Sure, I know you're itching to reach the typical rites of passage, but enjoy the journey along the way.  Don't rush the rest of your adolescence.  Enjoy each second of it.  When you get my age, it will feel like a blip of time.  And you'll never get this time of your life back.

2.  Respect your parent(s).
I realize that you think everything is about you.  Being self-centered is part of adolescence.  But please show some respect to the people who have raised you.  Arguing and belittling them will only add to your stress.  And you'll look back at your behavior one day and be ashamed that you ever acted the way you did.

3.  Remember that even if you don't agree with your parents, they have your best interest in mind.
I know this is hard to understand.  Until you're a parent yourself, you will never realize that sometimes we as parents have to make some really hard decisions about you.  We do it because we love you more than anything in the world.  It might not make sense to you now, but it will as you get older.  You have to trust us!

4.  Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.
So what if not "everyone" is doing something new that you want to try?  Try it anyway!  Explore.  Take a risk.  (None that will hurt you, though--please!)  Being adventurous now will help to shape your life later.  Realize that there's more to life than a typical routine.  Volunteer.  Help out a neighbor.  Do something that you wouldn't typically do, like signing up for a summer class in a subject you'd not normally take.  You might just find that you actually really like some new things.

5.  Start learning how to save money, even if you're not making any yet.
So many people approach adulthood with no knowledge of saving money.  They've never had to worry about money because their parents always provided.  Once they reach a certain age, they're forced to go through the stress of trying to learn how to budget and live independently.  Don't be afraid to ask your parents for some good tips and remember them!  It will really help you once you get older.

6.  Don't take boyfriend/girlfriend relationships too seriously.
Being in different relationships help build the foundation for ones you will have when you get older.  There's no use to feel tied down to just one person.  Get out and safely explore a variety of people.  Learn as much as you can about them, good and bad.  And please, please.....respect your body and others too.  No need to rush into anything.  You'll have plenty of time when you get older.  Refer to suggestion #1.

7.  Take time to learn about your family.
When you're young, you don't think about death a lot.  Unfortunately, it happens to all of us....since there's a 10 in 10 chance we'll all die eventually.  With that said, sit down and talk to the older members of your family.  Chances are that aunt, uncle, or grandparent did some pretty amazing stuff when they were younger, and I bet they'd love to share their stories with you.  These are stories that one day you will pass to your own children.  It's a very cool concept!

8.  Be a positive role model.
Whether it's mentoring a youth member in church, talking to a younger person in school, or volunteering your time as a big brother/big sister, know that you can be someone that a younger kid can look up to.  Even if it's setting a good example for younger family members.  Showing someone how to "keep their nose clean" can help you too.  Seeing someone's life and attitude change because you had an impact will help increase your self-esteem and make you feel great, and you help someone else out in the process.

9.  Know that you are not alone.
Being a teenager is so hard.  There are so many emotions, hormones, life situations involved....sometimes life is overwhelming.  And sometimes there are situations that can make you feel lonely, angry, tired, depressed or anxious.  Please don't be afraid to reach out and talk to someone about how you feel.  There are so many adults at school, people in church or in the community who are more than willing to sit and listen.  And if you're a teenager and you're reading this, talk to ME!  I'll be more than happy to lend an ear.  Might even give you a hug if you want one.

10.  Being a teenager is one of the hardest times of your life.
Seriously.  I look back at all the challenges in my life, and I can tell you for sure that being a teenager was TOUGH!  Just remember, though, that life in this turbulent time isn't permanent.  Even though it may seem that you'll always be a teenager, remember what I said earlier: it's over in a blink of an eye.  If you can get through this, it gets easier.  Sure, life always has its challenges.  But the teenage years aren't for the faint of heart.
So in closing, keep your head up.  Keep smiling.  And know that you're gonna go far, kid!!!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thirty #3.

This is today's blog topic.

3.  Describe your relationship with your parents.

Okay, this one will be emotional.  Today is June 3rd, and it would have been my mom and daddy's 51st wedding anniversary.  I can remember last year at this time like it was yesterday.  Daddy had been out of the hospital from a COPD exacerbation flare-up for a few weeks.  His left leg was bothering him, and at the time he suspected that he had pulled a muscle in his thigh when they had transferred him from stretcher to bed when he was in intermediate care.  At first, I was planning to throw them a nice 50th wedding anniversary party, but after dad got home from the hospital, it was evident that he didn't have the strength to go through something like that.  So they decided to just have a nice lunch out at their favorite restaurant, and they invited me along.  I felt very honored that they wanted me to go with them, and I was very excited for them that they had reached the 50th wedding anniversary milestone.  I drove over to their house that day, and dad was insistent that he drive us to lunch.  Dad was always the chauffeur of the bunch!  We got to our local Cracker Barrel and enjoyed a really fun lunch together--mom and dad doing a lot of reminiscing about their wedding day 50 years ago, what struggles they went through together, their many accomplishments in life together--it was a special moment for all of us.  The staff treated them to a complimentary blackberry cobbler for dessert.  I picked up the tab as part of their gift, and we headed back home.
     I have this outing etched in my memory, because it was the last time that all of us went out as a family for a meal together.  It wasn't long after that day that my dad's leg pain worsened and we all packed up and headed to the emergency room.  We found out that daddy had a large metastatic lesion in his left femur, and that was the reason why he had been having leg pain.  No muscle pull or strain, the cancer was back.  And this time with a vengeance.  As I've stated before in a previous blog, I became a lot closer to both of my parents after my daddy was initially diagnosed with lung cancer back in October of 2008.  I am so grateful for the time that I got to spend with my daddy during those almost three years.  I am especially grateful that I have a super understanding boss who let me take additional time off to be with my parents during that time.  I went over to their house very frequently during the last couple months that my dad was alive.  He was very adamant at his desire to stay home until the very end.  And with the help of my mom and Hospice, he got his wish.  I saw my mom work tirelessly after he came home from the hospital after having a rod put into his femur.  From that point on, dad never was able to get out of the hospital bed that we arranged in their living room.  Never once did she complain, and neither did she.  They both knew they were on borrowed time.  I knew this too.  My relationship with my daddy changed.  He had always been the strong man who took care of me--his little "Punky".  I suddenly became the one who took care of him--my hero.  He said to me one day, "I hate that you're having to help take care of me, Punk."  I just hugged him and said, "let me have a chance to take care of you.  Look at how long you took care of me--I'm just returning the favor."  A kiss on the forehead sealed the deal and we never again discussed it.
     After dad passed away, my relationship with my mom changed.  I had been a source of strength and support to her before daddy died, and I feel like I continue in that role today.  That being said, she has always been and will always be a source of strength and support for me as well.  A lot of people say that I'm a lot like my daddy.  And I think that's true.  I know that I inherited his sense of humor, crooked smirk, and positive outlook on life.  But I aspire to be more like my mom, too.  She is such a graceful and strong woman and has remained positive through many life difficulties.
     There was a time when I was younger when I took both of my parents for granted.  I know now that I didn't truly appreciate them like I should have.  But as time passed, I was able to learn just how important my mom and my daddy are in my life.  Even though my dad isn't here in the physical sense now, his legacy lives on.  I am very grateful that God gave me two of the best parents that anyone could ever ask for...I am indeed blessed.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Thirty Things...Blog #2

This is today's topic.

Describe 3 legitimate fears you have and explain how they became fears. 

Okay, so this is a tough topic for me to talk about.  It's not easy to share your fears with everyone.  Sometimes, it's not even easy for me to think about them!  Maybe writing about them will be therapeutic.  We'll see!

1.  I guess my greatest fear is what will happen to my son when I'm no longer able to physically care for him.  I know that for as long as I'm able to, I will care for Joshua at home.  Unless something changes in the future, Josh will more than likely be my "lifer kid".  That's what I refer to him as.  I guess there could come a day when he's an adult that he would want to live in some kind of group house or other facility, but honestly--the thought of that scares me too.  Even though Josh has come a LONG way in his autism journey, he's still very much a little boy on the inside.  He's growing up physically, and he's the sweetest kid you'll ever meet.  But he remains very much child-like.  So with that said, I feel like he will continue to be dependent on me for a long time.  And that is fine.  I accepted it a long time ago.  But I fear what will happen to him when I'm not around anymore.  Children do typically outlive their parents.  However, I have faith and peace that everything will turn out okay and that Josh will always have the best life available.  I would be lying to myself and everyone else, though, if I said his future without me didn't scare me.  So that is definitely my greatest fear.

2.  Another fear that I have is getting old and being alone.  Yes, I realize that with friends and family I'll never be truly "alone", but I would like to get the chance to show someone in the future that I'm capable of having a loving and healthy relationship with them.  I don't think it's ever too late to find someone in your life to love.  The timing might be wrong, circumstances may be less than favorable, but I think it's possible.  Do you ever see an older or elderly adult sitting at a restaurant alone?  It makes me so sad.  I wonder what happened in their life that made them have to sit by themselves.  Did something happen to their spouse?  Or did they choose to live this way?  I think we as humans are made for companionship.  I'm not a loner.  Don't get me wrong, I like my "alone time" just as much as anyone else.  But I think I feel my best when I'm with someone....helping them, nurturing them, feeling wanted and needed.  So to think that I would have to spend my final days without that component in my life scares me.

3.  Okay, this should be obvious to a lot of you.  I'm scared of heights.  Oh, and camel crickets.  But I'll stick to why I'm scared of heights.  Actually, I don't know why I have a fear of heights.  I've just been that way for a long time.  But get this, I've bungee jumped before.  It scared the beejeezies out of me, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't get a huge adrenaline rush from it.  Never again, though.  It was a once in a lifetime thing and I can't see myself ever doing it in the future.  I survived it one time.  That's enough!  Funny as I am, though, I absolutely LOVE roller coasters.  The higher and more intense, the better.  My friend Chris and I went to Carowinds a couple years ago and rode The Intimidator....and wow.  I think I about died the first time....the panic was crazy, but then it was the most fun thing ever.  Crazy, huh?  Scared of heights but I love roller coasters.  Sometimes I feel like a walking contradiction!

So tell that I've shared my fears, what about you?  Do you have any of the same fears as I do?  Or are mine completely different from yours?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Thirty Things

Wow, I haven't blogged in FOREVER.  We'll chalk it up to mid to end of semester craziness, work craziness, craziness in general.  Sometimes I feel like my life is a roller coaster.  I get excited, I buckle up, and then I hang on.  But then once in a while I just want to leave the amusement park!  The past couple of weeks has been a nice break for me.  My spring semester is finally over, the kiddos are out of school, and summer in the casa has finally arrived.  Life is good!  I seriously can't complain AT ALL.  So now that I have you guys updated, I wanted to share a list of things a friend of mine is doing on her blog.  I think that thinking of topics for my blog is the biggest hurdle to me actually blogging!  So much goes through this head of mind that it's hard to stay focused.  (See above, I swear I have adult ADD!)  These ideas sound great for me.  Some things you guys already know about me.  Some things will be new.  Let's see how it goes.  Feel free to do the same on your blog if you have one.  It sounds fun!

First on the list is:

List 20 random facts about yourself.  Here goes!

1.  I was named after a Russian exchange student that my mom knew.  Hence the weird spelling of my name.
2.  When I was a kid, I wanted to be a professional potter.  Not Harry, just the kind of artist that sits around all day and spins clay on the wheel.
3.  I'm a lefty, but I bowl and throw a ball underhanded with my right hand.
4.  Totally double jointed in my hips and legs.  Weirdness flows freely.....
5.  I named both of my kiddos after two adolescent pediatric patients that I took care of when I worked as an RN in our local childrens' hospital.
6.  Loved art class in art school.  Was my favorite subject, other than advanced biology.
7.  All of my cousins, my sister, and I have names that start with the letter "S".  What was my mom and aunt thinking?  Talk about a tongue twister at family gatherings...
8.  I'm a picture taker.  Not really great at it, but I love being behind a camera, capturing life through my eyes.
9.  Aquarius.  Nope, won't grow up anytime soon.
10.  I love to sing.  I really suck at it, but I do it anyway.  It makes my heart happy.  I am a huge music lover.  I have a really weird taste in music, and I bounce around a lot depending on my moods.  Right now I'm really liking old Hank Williams and AC/DC.  Told you I was weird.
11.  My favorite color is blue.
12.  Speaking of the color blue, I especially love DUKE BLUE because I'm a blue devils fan through and through!  Dad raised me right.
13.  I love to cook.  Love to eat.  (Obviously.)  Love to FEED EVERYONE!!  If you leave my house hungry, it's your own danged fault.
14.  I'm a Christian.  Not afraid to post it.  Not afraid to talk about it.  If you want to talk to me about my faith, fine.  If not, that's fine too.  I'll respect you either way.
15.  Another thing you can talk to me about is autism.  I have a son who is autistic.  I have learned SO much during our journey that I never knew before.  It's okay that he's autistic.....he teaches me more than I'll ever be able to teach him.  Good stuff.
16.  I have a daughter who is almost fifteen.  I honestly don't know what I'd do without her.  She's such a bright spot in my life.  Beautiful. Caring. Smart as a whip.  And the BEST big sister ever.  Seriously, I can brag--she's amazing.
17.  I love the beach.  You know the spot where the waves meet the sand?  That's my happy place.  I could walk on the beach every single day for the rest of my life and never tire of it.
18.  I'm a Hot Tamales addict.  I know, I'm hardcore.
19.  I stopped smoking almost six years ago.  Never was a heavy smoker, but I smoked.  And I'm glad I quit when I did.  I could have never watched my daddy go through his battle with lung cancer with a cigarette attached to my fingers.
20.  I grew up in a small town and still have a lot of friends that I've had since I was a kid.  And the funny thing is--when we get together, it's like time has stood still.  We're still the same funny, dysfunctional and hilarious bunch as we were years ago.

Okay!  That's it for now.  Hope you enjoyed.  Until next time....

1. List 20 random facts about yourself.
2. Describe 3 legitimate fears you have and explain how they became fears.
3. Describe your relationship with your parents.
4. List 10 things you tell your 16 year old self, if you could.
5. What are the 5 things that make you most happy right now?
6. What is the hardest thing you have ever experienced?
7. What is your dream job, and why?
8. What are 5 passions you have?
9. List 10 people who have influenced you and describe how.
10. Describe your most embarrassing moment.
11. Describe 10 pet peeves you have.
12. Describe a typical day in your current life.
13. Describe 5 weaknesses you have.
14. Describe 5 strengths you have.
15. If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
16. What are your 5 greatest accomplishments?
17. What is the thing you most wish you were great at?
18. What has been the most difficult thing you have had to forgive?
19. If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why?
20. Describe 3 significant memories from your childhood.
21. If you could have one superpower, what would it be and what would you do with it first?
22. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? 15 years?
23. List your top 5 hobbies and why you love them.
24. Describe your family dynamic of your childhood vs. your family dynamic now.
25. If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be and what would you eat?
26. What popular notion do you think the world has most wrong?
27. What is your favorite part of your body and why?
28. What is your love language?
29. What do you think people misunderstand most about you?
30. List 10 things you would hope to be remembered for.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Another tug at the heartstrings...

This whole cancer thing just really, really sucks.  It snatches people away in our lives all the time.  It's an evil and cunning little spiteful disease.  It knows no boundaries.  It takes away babies, toddlers, children, teenagers and adults.  So many diagnoses, so little cure.  I think that my daddy was actually really lucky to have fought cancer for as long as he did.  Maybe that sounds strange, but that's how I feel.  He was diagnosed with stage 2/3 lung cancer in October of 2008.  He successfully went through grueling radiation treatments (35 total) in the beginning of 2009.  And from then until last summer, we were able to spend quality time together.  The bond between us grew stronger than I ever imagined.  I think we both knew that we were on "borrowed" time, so we made our time together count.  When his COPD worsened and then we found out that the lung cancer had metastasized into his bones, obviously I was devastated.  It had only been a year since I lost my only sibling, and I wasn't ready to go through another loss.  But fate is a weird thing.  And when it was dad's time to go, he was gone.  He didn't suffer a lot and God took him in the early part of the morning on September 15th, 2011.  I never imagined the night before when I told him that I loved him and kissed him on the cheek would be the last time I'd see him alive.  I went through a lot of emotion then....and I still go through it now.  It's not something that I feel like I can just bounce back from.  I was, after all, daddy's little girl.  Dad was my hero.  No, let me IS my hero.  He may not be here physically, but he's in my heart...and he's on my mind.  And he fought that spiteful thing called cancer with all the dignity and grace imaginable.  Not once complaining....not once having a negative attitude.  His legacy lives on through me.  I'd like to think that, anyway.  I really want to be more like him.  Because he was such a great guy....a wonderful daddy.  Cancer took him away, but he's still with me.  I can feel his presence, and I can see him when I smile in the mirror.  Kinda cool how that works.

Dad, Easter two years ago.  I miss that smile.  I miss his voice.  Love you, daddy.