Tuesday, June 5, 2012

365

We made it to day #365. 

The bad:
  • We have survived 365 days without her laugh.
  • We have survived 365 days without her spirit filling a room.
  • We have survived 365 days without talking to her or hugging her.
  • We have survived 365 days of grieving and yearning for her, every day. 
  • There are still thousands and thousands of days ahead with a part of our hearts missing.

 The good: 
  • She has experienced 365 cancer free days for the first time since 2006.  
  • She has experienced 365 days without any tests, scans, blood work, treatments bad news, pain or sadness. 
  • She has experienced 365 days of pure joy and happiness that we cannot even comprehend. 
  • She has experienced 365 days where she has been able to eat Wendy’s Frosties while remaining perfectly skinny.  :)
  • These 365 days to her have probably felt like only a second has past.

 What I have learned:
Grief is as unique as your fingerprint.  Yes, there are “normal” cycles, but you will react to grief, deal with grief and respond to grief in your own unique way.  What is comforting to someone else may not be comforting to you.  What works for you may not work for someone else.  And that’s ok.  And grieving the loss of child is the worse grief.   

When someone is grieving, they simply are not ok.  And we all need to be ok with that.  They will be ok again someday.  But for this season, they just are not ok.  And as uncomfortable or hard as that may be to watch, the best way to love that person is to be ok with the fact that they are not ok.

My grief hurts.  I miss my sister.  She was one of only three people who have been in my life from day 1.  She knew all of my ugly parts and still loved me.  But the pain I feel in my grief is NOTHING compared the pain I feel watching my parents grieve. 

Making those first bigger life decisions without that person is hard.  You feel sad.  You feel guilty. 

Grief is sneaky.  You will feel like you have turned a corner and then suddenly you get knocked over by something unexpected.

Children bring a unique hope and perspective.  My daughter is only two and I already know what her first purpose from God is and she is fulfilling that purpose daily.

I have an amazing husband.  Amazing.  He has loved me, every day.  He has been my punching bag when he didn’t deserve it.  He has been my rock even while he too is deep in grief.  He has never left me, even I when I pushed him away.  He has loved my parents and supported them.  He has never asked for anything in return from me over the last year.  He has gave and gave and gave.  He loves my parents as much as I love them.  How many men do you know who would encourage their mother-in-law to move in down the street?  My man did!  I love you, Jeremy.

My heart has softened to people.  I need to judge less.  I need to listen more.  That’s what Metisha did.  She was better at forgiving than I was.  She was more relational than I was.  I need to be more like her.

Mark Welsh is a strong man and a good husband.  No matter what, he will always be family.  And I will always be thankful for how he loved Metisha in health and in sickness.  I love you, Mark.

God designed our hearts to love each other in amazing ways. We have been blessed by people with amazing hearts. My friend Amanda Cain, thank you. You have been fresh air to my soul. I love you.

When you lose a child, part of your heart, part of your soul dies with that child.  No matter how old that child is when he or she dies.  You will never be the same without that child physically here.  You cannot be the same person.  And if you want to love that parent, you have to be ok with that.

Parents who have lost a child have a similar look in their eye.  You may not notice it, but if you look deep, you can see the hole in their soul there.  Now I can recognize it.  I wish I couldn’t. 

I don’t know if God allows bad things to happen, but I do know he can bring good again after the bad.  Will everything be good?  No.  But there will be good.

God promised us joy will come in the morning.  He has delivered on the promise.  Are we experiencing a season of joy yet?  Absolutely not.  But we have been given moments and glimpses of joy that remind me it is possible to have a season of joy again.

What have we done this last year?
We have made some BIG changes.  Hard Changes.  Good changes. 

Last September everyone was at our house in Sand Springs and when Mom and I came home from a therapy session (of the retail verity) Dad asked, “Do you want to go look at house we should buy?”  Mom and I looked at each other, laughed, and continued what we were doing.  But he kept insisting he was serious.  So Mom played along a bit.  “Where is this house?”  Dad happily responded, “in the back of the neighborhood.”  There were more shocked looks from Mom and I and I immediately gave Jeremy a look asking, “You’re ok with your in-laws living in the same neighborhood?!?”  We finally went to go look at it and while Mom didn’t fall in the love with the house, she did start to fall in love with the idea.  After they left I had a serious conversation with my husband to make sure he was ok with this plan before anything moved forward.  He assured me he had no problems with them living so close (and he stills feels that way).  And three months later, they sold their house in Fairview to a wonderful young family who we love, and Mom and Dad’s new house was under construction just about two blocks away from my house. It was big change.  It was hard to make that first big family decision without Metisha.  But it was a good change and the right change.  Logistically, Mom is here most of the time and goes back to Fairview every other week to take care of business stuff.  Dad splits his time between Sand Springs and Fairview for work and stays in his 5th wheel travel trailer when he’s at Fairview.     

I know this move shocked a lot of people, especially in Fairview.  Mom and Dad had lived in Fairview all but a few years of their lives.  They had lived in the same house since Metisha was two.  There were a lot of memories in that house.  And the Fairview community had (and still does) provided so much support and love through Metisha’s cancer battle.  I still call Fairview home.  But sometimes when you experience great grief, you need a major change.  And mostly, we needed each other.  Mom needed Emmory, she is her greatest source of joy.  I needed my parents.  I needed to be able to look in my mother’s eyes to see how she was doing.  We needed each other.  Fairview, please know how much we love you and we still feel like we are a part of the community.  But this move was the best decision we made.  None of us, especially Mom, would be doing as well as we are today if we were not together.  We needed each other daily, and God made that possible.    And to all of you wondering, Jeremy and I are still happy they are here and it has been a much smoother transition that we expected.  And Emmory quickly learned when Mommy says no too many times, she wants “go to Nanny’s house!”    

Mark had made big changes too.  He’s met someone who makes him very happy and that makes us very happy.  She puts an amazing smile on Mark’s face and we are so thankful for that! 

How are we doing?
I’m never sure how to answer that question.  For what we’ve endured since 2007, and for the loss we have experienced, I think we are doing well.  There are still really bad and ugly days.  For Mom and Dad, they still have a lot of years of adjusting and grieving.  But in the last month I’ve started to see them return to old activities.  We have good days.  We are laughing more.  And I am noticing that when the laughter ends, the pain doesn’t immediately take my breath away again.  And we are planning Emmory’s first trip to Disney World which we know would make Tisha happy :)
I think what I’m realizing is that when God promised us Joy will come again, he didn’t mean a season of unbelievable joy will come again and quickly.  He meant we will have joy again and we have.  We have moments of joy.  When Emmory acts like Metisha we have joy.  When we get to have dinner at my Mom’s every night, we have joy.  When Dad comes home on Thursday evenings, we have joy.  They are not seasons yet, but those moments are relief and pure joy.



Metisha was an amazing person.  She did amazing things.  We have been blessed over and over with people honoring her and remembering her.  She fulfilled her purpose here and she exhibited many qualities that we should all try show every day.  She had a joyful spirit, even in cancer.  She fought for what was right.  She was a person who connected people.  She loved a lot. 
I love you Tisha.  I hope your first heaven birthday is filled with a lot of sugary treats and big hugs from Granny and Grandpa!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mark Welsh Day

We all know the amazing strength, faith and attitude that Metisha had through her cancer battle.  Her strength was inspiring.  I think a lot of strength came from the rock in her life who hasn’t received nearly enough of deserved attention on this blog.  So today I am declaring it Mark Welsh day on the blog and I know he will hate every word that I am about to write :)

Mark and Metisha’s first dance was in junior high.  They started dating in high school where he was the football quarterback and she was a basketball star.   They continued to date on off through college and in 2000 were married on a beach in Jamaica. 

In 2007 when Metisha was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer, Mark became her rock.  He was her steady, her calm, her constant, her consistency.  He was and is amazing.  He never stopped loving her.  He experienced more heartache than we will never know and is the only one who endured watching Metisha slowly fade away every day.  When it was time to stand true to the vow, “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health”, he did not falter.  He loved her through all of the sickness and the worse.  Leaving to him was never an option and never a thought that entered his mind.  Mark is a man of commitment and he never wavered from his commitment to Metisha.  Even when he was breaking on the inside, externally he was her rock.  While the rest of us were emotional and would fall apart, Mark was her steady and that was in God’s perfect design. 

When Mark first came around I was a snotty, hormonal junior high girl and the beginning of our relationship was a bit rocky.  Suddenly the only flavor of Kool-Aid in the fridge was HIS favorite flavor.  Lasagna was made WITHOUT cottage cheese.  And I had to SHARE my birthday with him.  But worse of all was that my big sister wanted to spend time with him, not me!  You can see that my choice to despise this change in family dynamics was completely justified and he should have been more considerate to my feelings :)  But I matured and realized he probably wasn’t going anywhere so I better get used to it!  We finally had a bonding experience on a spring break ski trip.  It seems that my ankles do not bend to normal angles so every morning he had to wrestle my ski boots on.  And when I say wrestle, I mean wrestle!  I would have to sit on the ground with a foot in the air while he would twist, push and grunt until the boot finally gave way.  The process was always followed by him telling me if I took my boots off I was done skiing for the day.  Oddly, Mark’s doesn't expressed an interest to go skiing with me again … 

Watching Mark unconditionally love my sister, especially at the end of her life, was beautiful, heartbreaking, changed me and inspired me.  He didn’t have to say anything about how much he loved her because his heart was completely visible through his actions in those final days.  He loved her, was a Godly husband and fulfilled every word of their marriage vows with honor and integrity.  I will always love Mark and he will always be my brother and my daughter’s Uncle Mark.

Mark, thank you for loving her and for loving us (even when we were emotional).  I know you don’t like gooey emotions and big accolades and you’re going to be ticked at me for writing this but I don’t care because I love you :) 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Joy Will Come

It’s been 99 days since Metisha went to heaven.  99 days.  And 101 days since we’ve been able to talk to her.  It feels like it’s already been a lifetime, but the then reality is we still have a lifetime of separation to face.
So today, and really for the last two weeks, my heart is hurting a lot again.  I miss her voice.  I miss her laughter.  I miss the way she would get excited about things.  I miss the way her spirit would fill the entire room when she entered.  I just miss her. 
But there are two promises that God has given us that I am holding on to with white knuckles and not letting go of.  The first is there is eternal life and Metisha has that and I will too because we chose to accept a gift which we do not deserve.  The second is that joy will come again.  Joy WILL come again.  This is an important promise for me because I have feared that without Metisha our family will never again have joy.  I remember sitting at my kitchen table with my Dad last winter and we were talking about Metisha’s declining health and what the worst case scenario would be.  I remember telling him with tears streaming down my face that I was most afraid that regardless of whether Metisha lived or died, we would never experience joy again.  We would either be constantly battling fear of cancer or forever devastated by her death.    Where and how could joy fit into either one?  Dad told me we will have joy.  It will take time but there will be more joy than sadness.  I didn’t believe him.  My heart was full of anger and fear and just could not absorb the possibility. 
But when we needed it most, God gave Dad tangible proof to backup his statement.  Just 6 days before Metisha died, Dad was out walking at the family farm and came across a single page out of Bible lying in the dirt, dropped there after a tornado went through the area.  It was Psalm 29, 30 and 31 and on the page was Psalm 30:5 which says, “weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.”  Joy comes in the morning.  We know God sent this scripture for us and was telling us this promise is for us.  So now I believe my Dad, am holding on fervently to this promise.  I don’t know how long the night will last.  I don’t know how dark the night will get.  But weeping will turn to joy.  
After Dad got back to town he posted his story on Facebook.  And in a string of comments to Dad’s story on Facebook is this:

Metisha Ewbank Welsh So cool Dad!!! I love you!
May 31 at 7:13pm

Danny Ewbank Love you more than u know!
May 31 at 8:44pm

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Just My Heart of the Day

Grief is a sneaky thing.  You have a run of good days, maybe even weeks, then something small comes along and that heavy pain in your heart is all consuming again.  It's a process.  It's a part of life.  And even though my pain and loss are unique to me, everyone knows grief. 

But I keep living and moving forward because if I do any less, Metisha will kick my butt when I get to heaven :)  And I keep thanking God that because of his plan, there is a heaven, Metisha is now experiencimg pure joy beyond my comprehension, and I will have that same joy and be with her again someday. 

That’s just my thought heart today …

Friday, August 19, 2011

Inked

In my last post I promised a story about tattoos and decided today was a good day to share! 

During Metisha’s battle, she decided to get “Believe” tattooed on the side of her left foot as a visible reminder to keeping believing for a miracle. 
 I remember she called me that evening and told me what she had done.  I wasn’t surprised, she had talked about getting a tattoo since she was in college but the parentals were always adamantly against it.  So when she told me, I was sworn to not tell Mom and Dad.  That still makes me laugh that even as adults I got the big sister “don’t you dare tell” threat!  Of course the next time we were together Mom saw the tattoo and was less than impressed.  But she did show restraint from lecturing her adult child!

Fast forward to this July.  I have never been a big fan of tattoos either.  No judgment, it was just a little too permanent for me and I always wondered how it would look to be an eighty year old grandma with “ink”.  But after Metisha died, I randomly had the thought that I wanted to get the same tattoo as a way to stay connected to her.  But I’m a type A, boring, responsible, analytical person so I decided I would think about it for a few months just to be sure it wasn’t the grief talking. 
That next weekend we were all together in Fort Worth and were heading to dinner.  Mark asked what we wanted to do after dinner and Mom said, “I was thinking about getting a tattoo!”  We all laughed and made fun of her, certain she wasn’t serious (she has a family reputation of making big statements with no action).  But she loudly and repeatedly declared she was serious because she wanted the same tattoo as Metisha as a way to stay connected to her.  What?!?  That statement caught my attention and when I revealed I had the same thought, Mom was even more decided.  So I said I would do it if she did, feeling  sure she would back out and we would have more time to think about it.  The men of the family at this point were still very skeptical and making fun of Mom.
So we had a nice dinner and ice cream and loaded back up in the car.  Mark asked Mom if we were going home and she said, “Nope, we’re going to the tattoo parlor!”  At this point it was 8:30 pm, and the whole family, including my one year old daughter whose bedtime as an hour earlier, headed to the tattoo parlor.  Yes, I had a baby, in a tattoo parlor!  I’m sure our suburban family looked completely normal at the tattoo parlor, right?  Mom and I told them what we wanted (getting very skeptical and annoyed looks) when we were suddenly thrown a curve ball (or I was thrown a life vest):  we needed our IDs which neither of us had.   So the whole family loaded back up in the family SUV, buckled the one year old in her car seat and headed home.  Good, Mom and I would have more time to make sure this is what we wanted to do before making a permanent decision! 
While I was putting my daughter to bed, my husband came in and said Mom was ready to go.  I asked, “Go where?”  His reply, “Back to the tattoo parlor!”  My thought, “You have got to be kidding me!  This is a bad idea!  She is going to regret this!”  But I could not be out-cooled by my mother, so at 10:30 pm on a Friday night, the men went to bed and Mom and I drove back to the tattoo parlor, this time with our IDs. 
To be sure I was not the only leaving with ink, I made Mom go first :)  She showed no pain and we joked about what Fairviewites would think of her with a tattoo.  After about 20 minutes (she swears it was longer) Mom’s was done and it was my turn.  She looked at me and said it hurts, a lot.  I laughed, sure she was just trying to scare me.  I sat down and he started to on the bottom part.  OUCH!  That did hurt, a lot.  But everyone says it goes numb so I figured no problem, a few minutes and it won’t be so bad.  WRONG!  The closer to the top of my foot he got, the MORE it hurt!   But I survived, and now we both have something we said we would NEVER have:

When we left the parlor, I told Mom when she dies I will not be honoring her with a tattoo because that hurt!  And I say that as someone who has given birth with a failed epidural and back labor!  But despite the pain, we laughed more in those short hours than we had in the last 6 weeks.  It felt good to laugh.  It felt healing to laugh.  And we feel connected.  I hope Metisha got look down on us and laugh with us!  Over a month later, I have no regrets and am glad Mom and I both had the thought to do something we swore we would never do!  And I'm glad to have a reminder to continue to believe, despite the heart breaks of this world.   

The next morning my Dad told me he decided that when Mom dies, he’s going to have her leg cut off and taken to a taxidermy and a lampshade put on top of it.  Then when my daughter asks if she can have a tattoo dad can tell her, “Look, Nanner got a tattoo and now she doesn’t have a leg to stand on!”.  I love my family and our sense of humor!  That statement still makes me laugh!

When we were done I said I would never do that again.  I should learn to never say never because I will be doing that again.  No, I’m not getting another tattoo, but I need some touch up work done on the bottom of my Believe.  And my Mom thinks that’s pretty funny … 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Metisha

Today is Metisha’s birthday.  She would be 34.  Today is hard.  She’s been gone from earth for 53 days and with each day we miss her more.  Much more.
I think when you battle cancer with a loved one for four years, you want to believe that you’ve already grieved so much that the grief after they’re gone will somehow be easier.  But the reality is we spent the last four years grieving for Metisha and her loss and pain.  And now we are grieving for ourselves and for our loss.  We are happy her body is not poisoned with cancer anymore, but our pain now isn’t about her.  Our pain now is about us.  It’s about facing our lives without her here.  It’s a different kind of pain than the pain of the last four years.  And while we know it’s a pain that only time can heal and that God has promised us joy will come again, it feels like this season will never end.


There is a major lesson of faith that I am learning and processing as a result of Metisha’s journey:  Faith is a constant balancing act.    I know this isn’t a new revelation, but I think I’m just really beginning to grasp what that means and how that works.  For four years we balanced our faith and hope that God could physically heal Metisha against preparing ourselves for the reality that he may not.  Now we are balancing the overwhelming grief we are feeling against the hope that God has promised joy will come again and the promise that this separation from Metisha is not permanent.  I used to think that blind faith meant you ignored everything else and only focused on the good and that would somehow defeat the bad.  But I don’t think faith necessarily overcomes the bad.  Faith gives us hope despite the bad.  It looks like a teeter totter.  There is the despair of this world on one end and the promises from faith on the other.  If all you have is the despair, you are sitting on the ground.  But with faith on the other end, you get off the ground and find some balance.  I know there is a lot more to it and a lot I have to process yet, but for now I am focusing on the fact that faith is keeping my big behind out of the dirt :)  Like I said, I'm still processing so ask me next week and the analogy may change ...   


Since June 5th, we’ve been spending a lot of time together as a family and continue to be blessed by so many of you who continue to check-in on us and love on us.  I think my best advice if you want to help someone through grief is to just be ok with the fact that they are not ok.  The grief is real and ignoring it won’t make it go away and you can’t fix it.  So just love that person.  Tell them you’re sorry and you love them.  Often times that is enough. 


One of my favorite parts of this blog has been sharing stories that depict Metisha’s infectious spirit.  And because Metisha’s spirit lives on in us, there’s a story about a baby in a tattoo parlor that ends with Mom and I both getting our first “ink” at 10:30 on a Saturday night.  But I’ll save that for another post.    Today’s story is all about Metisha.  Before Metisha died, she and Mom were talking and Mom told her she wanted them to pick a sign that Metisha would give Mom after she died to let her know she is ok.  Metisha picked a rainbow but Mom said that was too generic and she wanted something more special.  The conversation moved on to something else and they never picked a different sign.  Fast forward to the evening after Metisha’s Celebration Service in Fairview.  I sat down at my parents table, looked out the picture window and saw this:
 It was positioned perfectly in the picture window and was in the South instead of the West.  We all ran outside and watched it grow across the sky and then fade away.  It was Metisha saying hello and defying her mother’s orders one last time :) 


So I will end this post where we started, at Metisha’s birthday.  Happy Birthday Metisha!  We love you.  We miss you more than hearts can comprehend.  We will celebrate you tonight as a family and make a toast to you with friends.  Then we will send some balloons up to you.  Oh, and I had a breakfast donut in your honor because I know that’s how you would have started your day ;)      

Thursday, June 16, 2011