It doesn't seem like it has been a year. I took this picture of you at your Happy Heaven Party, though we didn't call it that to you. August 2008 was when we got confirmation that your cancer had returned. As we knew that you would, you took the option of chemotherapy. Anything that would buy you more time, you were for. You knew that the chemotherapy could be the final nail, though. They told us that it could put you into an immediate coma state. They told us that it could just shut your brain down immediately. What they did tell us was that it wouldn't buy you much time. Still, you wanted it. As a surprise, the picnic was pulled together. In a few days, your kids contacted as many people as we could get together and we descended upon your humble little home. You were so surprised! You were so happy to be surrounded by everyone. This was what we grew up doing. It only seemed that a farewell picnic to you be done for you in the very same way that we celebrated family birthdays nearly every month for nearly every year of our lives in youth.
I spent so much time at your house. After all, you were my Godmother. And you were my Godmother until your last breath.
When my parents were divorcing, we lived at your house that summer.
I spent so many nights at your house and did the paper route with my cousins so many times that I could have done it myself. To this day I remember house, skip, skip, house, skip, house. We assembled papers, delivered them and collected payment for the paper. The miles we walked. The stories we told while doing it.
I was playing on a skid at your house, fell and blackened both of my eyes.
We made the poor kid's version of the Slip and Slide in your backyard using plastic sheeting. We also made a kiddie pool with a wooden frame and plastic sheeting.
You had an awesome swingset. It was only swings, but the swingset was so big that we spent hours and hours flipping over the side support bars.
I used to always go to your house to make Easter chocolates. I painted so many molds that I can't even guess the number. I probably walked away looking like a chocolate mercken, because I ate so many!
You had cable and I remember watching Goonies at your house for the very first time.
I fell off a horse while visiting your house, mom had to come back for me to go to the hospital to get 11 stitches across the back of my head. I was trying to ride bareback. When I slid off, I smacked my head on a rusty hay trailer. Ouch.
I began my journey of monthliness at your house. You gave me the talk. You gave me the stuff. You told me what to do. In fact, I didn't tell my mom, because you took care of all the details.
You always had a cake dome of cookies in the middle of the table and American cheese slices in the refrigerator door. Everytime I came in, I always beelined for the cheese. You laughed each and every time.
Your door was always open. You accepted everyone. If there was someone in need, you were there to help. You did foster parenting until you decided that you couldn't keep a child temporarily and give them back with no contact. You said that the next child that was placed with you, you would adopt. You did. That is how Jon came to be in our family.
Before your friend Joann passed away, you promised that you would take care of her children. You did. You took them in as your own. They lived with you. Ate with you. They were there at your very last breath and you treated their children as your grandchildren. They were listed as such in your obituary, too.
When I was first married, I would call you and my mom nearly every night when I was cooking dinner. Between the two of you, you talked me off the cooking ledge and got me to where I needed to go.
I remember when you were diagnosed with your brain tumor. It was July 2005, K- was 18 months old, we had just heard about her brother and were in the process of trying to get him. Both you and Grandma Gum were diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in less than a weeks time. I was working and doing VBS at the same time. My house was also infested with fleas. I thought that I was going to lose my mind. I threatened to dig a hole in the backyard and put my head in until the crap stopped. But then, Grandma Gum started radiation, was told that she could live a long and healthy 10 years anyhow with her cancer. You had surgery to remove the walnut-sized tumor (Glioblastoma) from your temporal lobe, started chemotherapy and radiation and you seemed to be doing okay. Though we wanted him, K-'s brother was taken in by his father's family. The fleas? Yes, they ended up going away. Eventually.
You started your pretty intense road of prayer. That was the same road that you were riding up until your last cognitive moment.
I'll never forget that, either. I was just getting ready to go on the overpass, turn to enter the expressway and my cell phone rang. I had just dropped K- off for the day, you were intensely in my thoughts as we knew that your last days were numbered. It was you. You were asking for prayer. You were asking not only for yourself, but for others.
You always thought of others no matter how times were for you. May I always remember that lesson you taught me.
I miss you. I miss your having lost track of time and calling me at 6 AM. I missed my birthday call. I miss you calling me in the morning to sing, "Good morning, good morning, good morning to you. Good morning, good morning and how do you do?"
It's just not the same without you. It would be selfish to want you back. Though the brain tumor had been removed, your brain had been cancered. You suffered from brain swelling as a result of the cancer, which ended up twisting your brain stem. Though you didn't complain, we started to see you beginning to slip about 9 months before your re-diagnosis.
You are in a beautiful place. Poppy is in his chair, Grandma is rocking my baby and you are in the kitchen, baking cookies and keeping stock of American cheese slices.
Just know that I miss you more than I can possibly say.
For more information about Glioblastoma brain tumors, please feel free to go to http://www.braintumor.org/. This is an organization that my cousins have adopted to raise awareness of brain tumors and cancers. Hopefully one day we can make this stop.