Thursday, November 3, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Sara went home to be with her Lord and Savior last Saturday night. Today, her family, her friends, her faithful and constant canine companion, and the world who knew her will officially say goodbye. Sara is gone from our immediate presence but her words and her work will live on and on. I have no doubt she will continue to minister to the chronically ill, those who suffer pain no one can understand, the weak in spirit, the lonely, the forgotten, and even the strong who simply want to share her joy and hope. Her words were prolific and always inspiring and will be a legacy she leaves behind to those of us who remain.
I wish I were able to be in Cedar Falls, Iowa this afternoon to attend her service in person. I can’t be. I feel a certain kindred connection to a town I’ve never been to because my parents were married there and my brother and sister were born there. Everyone moved west shortly thereafter and I am a born-and-bred California girl. But by the generosity of Sara and her family, her service will be shared through ustream. If you would like to attend, it begins shortly.
I would like to share a picture that I borrowed, without permission, from her dear and faithful friend, Shannon. Shannon talked to Sara every day via Skype or texting and, literally, took Sara with her everywhere via these devices. She traveled to meet her and this is a photo of the two of them with Shannon’s kids. It’s how I will always picture sweet Sara: enjoying every moment of joy that there was to be had. She knew how to wring out every last drop. Thank you, Shannon, for all you were to our sweet Sara and for all you’ve done with blogging in her absence and after her passing. I know, with your generosity of heart, you wouldn’t mind me sharing.
Join the service here (click on “Athletes” or “Athletics” and follow the prompts):
Sunday, September 18, 2011
I’m so sorry to all of you who may have stopped by to check on me and wondered if I fell off the face of the earth. Basically, the answer is, “Yes.” I have written the blog post about all of it 100 times in my head and still can’t find a way to write it on the page. I’m still limited in my sitting – in hard chairs and the chair at THIS desk. I have a laptop that is ancient but will allow me to sit sideways on the couch. However, it doesn’t even have Word on it. And I lose a portion of my day each day to recovery and pain management so what’s left over is taken up with schooling my son and feeding people around here, and occasionally hosing out the house.
But today, I MUST MUST MUST write this particular blog. It has been on my mind to do for far longer than my current issues even existed, and there’s no more time to waste. I’m sure you know what I mean (for those of you who blog). Have you thought of things you wanted to share and one little thing or another got in the way and you just put it off? That is this post.
I have a beautiful blogging friend, Sara, who goes by “Gitz” at Gitzen Girl Blog and she has been a source of amazing inspiration, laughs, and get-er-done practicality. She was diagnosed years ago with a disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis, a severe type of arthritis. She has been majorly affected, including her lungs, and has been unable to even venture outside for the last few years. Only in her 30’s, she has lived a house-bound life with her precious little dog, Riley – her near and dear constant companion. Family and friends come to her, even blogging friends have made the trek to see her in Iowa. I always wished I could have met her in person. She inspires greatly and I think it would have been awesome to share person-to-person.
She is a gifted artist. Even though she has been greatly affected, occasionally her body would let her paint and she would make these beautiful paintings with sayings on them. I won one during a contest she had and then I bought one. They hang to my left at this desk. I see them each time I pass by or sit here and I think of her. I have wanted to share them with you for a long time because they are so meaningful to me. The first, this one….
…..I bought because I WANT to be that person. You KNOW I love to laugh and make others laugh. It brings me enormous joy. The reality is, I probably worry about my own happiness more than I do others. Do I really spend each day trying to bring happiness or do my own wants and desires loom larger? Do I “me first!” or “you first?” I can tell you Sara’s all about “you first.” She looks for ways to enrich everyone who crosses her path. Even when she doesn’t have it in her she finds something encouraging to say. Her motto is “Choose Joy!” Pretty hard when your body is wracked with pain, you can only gaze at the world through glass, and there’s no hope of rejoining the world most of us take for granted every day. She definitely CREATES joy. I also loved this canvas for the colors. All of them right up my alley. And color helps me feel happy. My personal motto is: “Life is too short for beige.”
This canvas I won in her contest and I’ve pondered its meaning dozens of times when I’ve looked at it. It can mean so many different things depending on what I’ve been going through and where I am in my life. Right now, when I think of her, it’s especially poignant. I’m not sure Sara has ever met a stumbling block and every stone in her path she has decided to use as a stepping stone. And she always encouraged us to do the same. Right now, she’s one stepping stone away from the arms of Christ.
You see, Sara is losing her battle with AS. It happened pretty suddenly (my sweet friend Vicky, with her own serious battle – see my last post - sent me a note) and, last week, her body said “No more.” She is young, in her late 30’s, but the body can only withstand so much and hers has been through a war. However, her spirit is healthy and strong and soaring, even as she is confined to her bed, attended by loving family, saying her last goodbyes. She is traveling the path we will all travel at some point and the family says she is resting easy….something she’s been unable to do. She was put on hospice last week and we are helping to pray her through, and to pray her home, on her journey. Barring a complete miracle, we will not have our dear, dear Sara anymore on this earth. I’m crying now just writing that sentence. But Sara will be more alive than ever. Soon she will run outdoors in the most beautiful place in all creation. She will breathe deeply. She will be reunited with her father who she lost suddenly, and very unexpectedly, last year. She will see Jesus. She is breaths away from total joy and freedom.
Sara, I now have to say this to you. I don’t know if you’ll ever hear these words but I’ll say them anyway and tell you how sorry I am I didn’t say them sooner. Do you realize how many lives you’ve touched? How many lives you will continue to affect through your exquisite writing? Pain is often a lonely path. Even those closest to us cannot share it. Many have no one – no one – to understand, to validate, to encourage, to pray for them, to offer hope, to even once make them laugh and feel seen. You did all that. You led by example but even more, you let each one travel their own path, in their own way. And you were there for them. Anyone struggling with the loneliness and isolation of debilitating pain and/or disease could travel to your blog and find a sister-of-the-heart in you. Do you realize you were all some people had? You may have made the difference between life and death for some who were desperate and thought no one understood. You did understand and you pointed them to Christ, the author and finisher of our faith. You encouraged them to “choose joy” and to look for anything, even the smallest of things, to be thankful for, while at the same time comprehending the abject battle fatigue that is chronic pain. Through three years of knowing you I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of comments from those so deeply moved by your words. I’ve been among them. You privately emailed how many? Thousands and thousands, I have no doubt. What an immense work you did in this blogging world. What an incomprehensible difference you made.
Go on to your great reward, sweet girl. It’s all waiting for you; joy we can only imagine here on earth. We will feel your loss deeply and profoundly but you deserve all that is yours through Christ. I look forward to seeing you there one day where all the former tears and pain will be wiped away. Dance, sing with your oh-so-lovely voice, and be happy. You chose joy here on this earth, Sara. Now, it’s choosing you. I love you.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
I know I've been gone for eons. I have written my returning post a hundred times in my head but it always ended up with you throwing up and that didn't seem like a good way to begin again. Then, there was the chicken aspect - me being chicken to trail out the crazy/horrible/private/weird details of my malady that won't let me sit down in my computer chair long enough to write anything worth reading. But all that can wait. (And the choir sang, Praise the LORD!)
Then something happened. I got a quick note from a blogging friend and it made me miss her and think about her all over again. It wasn't anything wordy or informative; just a line. I had long ago given up trying to visit blogs because all I have to use is an Ipod and, if you have one, you know how desperately slow it loads web pages. By the time I would get in and read, of COURSE I'd want to comment because I'm not known for not having an opinion (something very grammatically incorrect with that sentence but, who cares? It's my blog....gosh, I miss this heady freedom!). And so I would wax humorous, eloquent, loquacious, entertaining, (or more likely serious, feeble, tongue-tied, and boring but let's not nit-pick) and then it would ask me to sign in.
……through a very long, involved process. Ten minutes later, I was in and my comments were gone. I'm slow, but it didn't take me long to figure out this was a rapid slide into insanity. I ride too close to the edge as it is. I can't afford that kind of risk. So I bailed. I checked email and Facebook and let that connect me to the world. I have kissed my Ipod even though it is limited. At least it's a window! But it's not blogging. And it's not visiting your blogs. And so, I walked on the wild side and dropped into Vicky's blog, via my Ipod. Something about what she wrote made me go.
And this is what I found out........
My sweet blogging friend has cancer. Not just any cancer, either. She had to be an overachiever. She has stage IV breast cancer. She just found out about two weeks ago. One day, life was cooking along and she was just another hockey mom cheering on her two sons who are in second and fourth grade, doing the things moms/women/wives do. She was also recovering from the loss of her VERY dear father several months back, and, as if that wasn't enough....wham. A lump she found seemed out of the ordinary. She'd had two before and they were benign. This one was different. She followed up. And she found out - quickly. It seems there is also a spot on her liver, and spine. She is headed right into an experimental treatment and she has the attitude of a prize fighter. In fact, her home-girls have showered her with gifts and get-togethers and she has signs and gifts that say, "Fight like a girl!" One of her hockey mom friends has made bracelets out of darling hockey laces and is selling them for $5.00 each - through Vicky's blog - to raise money to help her.
I'm buying mine tonight. It has a clasp and I'll wear it for Vicky and for all my friends and family who have battled this disease. There are more than there should be - seven at last count. If your life, or the life of someone you love, has ever been touched by this disease, would you please visit Vicky's blog and buy one? It is unique and isn't just another plastic bracelet. It's lovely and looks like jewelry.
This is the link: http://thewestraworld.blogspot.com/2011/03/worthy.html
And you'll love Vicky. She is so real. She wrote to me in my early blogging days and encouraged me about some difficult things as only she could. And she's funny and upbeat and looks for every bright spot God ever created. She's looking to Him for healing, guidance, abundance, and the ability to put one foot in front of the other. You will be encouraged when you’re there. Let's stand together and ALL fight like girls - yes, even you GUYS.....if you can take the punch. :)
Please pray and please consider blogging about this yourself, if breast cancer has impacted your life in some way. Thank you, all my patient and loving friends.