Saturday, October 10, 2009

Promised Pictures!!!

Many days ago....I promised pictures of our wonderful retreat...but, as usual time has gotten away from me. I'm not sure what I've been doing but it seems like things are swirling and swirling. Here are some of the retreat pictures..... Because I've been out of the blog posting ritual for a while....I'm having a really difficult time moving pictures around. I'm sure there's an easy way.....but after a good length of time....I GIVE UP!!!! So these pics may not be in order but at least you can see what happened over the magical weekend....I only wish that I had taken more pictures of all that went on....the food, the laughs, the joy, the love, the smiles. I also wish I had gotten pictures of Deborah's project. She is an amazing teacher....absolutely amazing. She actually taught 12 women how to basket weave. Working with Deborah and Tracy on this retreat was such a honor. They are two amazing women and their support has been unbelievable. I love them both deeply. We share a vision and we are all three holding hands as we reach for the stars.

All I can say, looking back at the weekend, is that it went beyond any of my dreams. Everyone was so dedicated to "creating" in the true sense of the word....not just art....but....compassion, friendship, support, heart. The Sparrow's Nest Studio was full of creative energy and true love.We asked everyone to bring a special token to add to our altar which we made as a group during the opening part of the retreat. The center candle was for Richard and his hats and picture are part of the altar. The candles were lit at the beginning of everyday and then blown out at the end. It truly was beautiful.
Our theme for the weekend was "nests".....and these are three samples of the projects that were going to be made. The left is a paper mache' type nest covered with "magic transformed grocery bags". The center is a felted nest that Tracy designed. And.....the right is a woven basket nest that Deborah miraculously taught us how to make.

On Sunday morning, before everyone arrived, I spent some time quiet in the studio just taking in the energy. It felt so awesome.....and I knew that Richard was very close and that he was very happy!!!!
On Friday night Tracy taught us how to felt wool fiber around a rock......sounds crazy but it works. Everyone had such a fabulous time....washing, smoothing, rubbing, massaging their fibered rock. The best part was that when they were felted each fibered rock was slit and pushed out....(we called it the birthing) and we were left with a beautiful wool nest!!!! Oh my gosh...magic was happening!!!We spent the Saturday morning transforming brown paper bags into beautiful painted treasures. Everyone was introduced to a variety of techniques and products that allowed beautiful and amazing end results. On Sunday....these papers were used to cover a paper mache'd nest and then fiber was added. These finished pieces were amazing.

Mali and Jazzy, The Studio Dogs, really enjoyed the weekend. They picked up on the energy and it just wore them out!!!

I wish I had gotten pictures of Deborah's basket weaving nest project. It was so fun. We all were totally in awe of the fact that we were actually weaving basket nests. Everyone was thrilled with their finished projects.
People at the retreat were asking for samples of the class projects that the studio was offering this Fall so we set up a display table with the various pieces on it. I must say....I'm really proud of the specific classes that we are doing in our opening quarter of The Sparrow's Nest Studio. The art on that table clearly demonstrated the depth of talent these two women that I am working with have. I trully believe there is something for everyone. True to Richard's dreams...creativity energy is going to flourish at the studio this Fall. Honey.....this is all being done with your spirit at the center. Thank you for being such an inspiration for us all.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

So long.......

Every time I sit down and attempt to write on our blog...I begin to feel all weepy.....and I'm so afraid that people are going to find me a bit boring and self indulged. The fog continues to be there but on some days I can see much more clearly than on others. My heart aches when I think of everything all of us have been through. I am still amazed that Richard isn't going to pull up on his "manly" motorcycle and yell for me and announce that he is finally home. I'm still waiting..... I guess it isn't going to happen. That is devastating.

I have begun an eight week grief class......there are about ten of us and two facilatators. There is a book and a journal that goes with the class but mainly we just talk and talk and talk and cry and cry and cry. It's a safe place to talk about all the struggles of grief... This group distinguishes the differences between grief and mourning (I thought they were the same). They believe that grief includes the internal feelings, emotions, fears, etc. and that mourning are the actions we do externally to show our grief. That was an amazing distinction for me....

I see where I've been continuing the "strong Sherri" show and not really allowing myself to mourn my loss. I'm uncomfortable with people seeing me weak and out of control. It's important to feel strong and capable. And I'm learning that that may not work in this situation. I am trying to be aware of the real actions I am taking in mourning the loss of my husband....and I'm trying to be real about it all the time. It's exhausting but as one facilatator put it so perfectly...."Grief is not like a fine wine...it does not get better with age....it just stays bottled up". To express my sadness is a task I haven't been willing to take.
Now don't worry friends.....I'm not going to express all over you.....blubbering and crying our time away. What it means is that I am going to be more purposeful in how I express my grief.....especially privately. That expression is going to be my priority for a while and I think it will help me become more functional and will help me see more clearly. Richard deserves me to honor him with a mindful purpose. I deserve to be able to express how tired I am and how forlorn I feel. My own life feels foreign and I guess I have to become more comfy in it.
Speaking of honoring Richard.....we opened the Sparrow's Nest Studio this weekend with a three day retreat. We had eleven women in all and the three of us.....and believe me....magic was made. Richard was right there with us....and every woman stood beside me as we officially started his dream of providing a place for wonderful creative energy to form. I wanted everyone to know Richard....so I told some horribly silly stories about him and some of our escapades.....I talked about his tenderness and gentle spirit. Many of the women who came to the retreat spent a great deal of time with Richard during this brain tumor journey....I believe we all had time, this weekend, to grieve our loss...and to create in honor of him.

I can't figure out how to download my pictures.....but when I can figure it out I will post them for sure. The work that the participants did was amazing. We had snacks and wine Friday night for them and then on Sunday we served them all brunch (even with mimosas). I felt truly wonderful and amazed throughout the entire weekend. The power of women creating could be felt by all.
I will post again soon.....as soon as I get the picture part working. I want to share them with all of you!!!! Until then....we have a website: www.sparrowsneststudio.com. Go take a look at our Fall class line up. It's going to be fun!!!
I hope that these ending days of Summer have been full of love and joy for you.
Blessings,
Sherri










Thursday, August 20, 2009

Inside I'm SCREAMING!!!!

I've had a very quiet few days after a very busy but wonderful weekend. The dogs and I have been alone....we've had few phone calls, I've made few phone calls and we've been moving slowly except during our walks. There were many moments where I didn't really know what to do.....but I did alot of resting and thinking, thinking way too much, trying to remember to focus on the here and now not behind or forward. Deep breaths helped, relaxation sometimes loosened me up, house cleaning kept me busy.....but that nasty "critic" came forward way too often.

I have these old tapes playing in my head. I believe that the messages from these tapes are horrible and incorrect, however, it is easy to hear them running when I let my guard down. Who knows where they originated from....it doesn't matter....what matters now is getting rid of them for good and replace them with new messages that are empowering and good. Richard hated those old tapes. He felt, at times, that they were stronger than either one of us and he hated how limiting they made things for me. He hated tha anguish that they brought me and one of his biggest wishes was that I could whole heartedly believe him when he said I was a beautiful person, creative, smart, strong, compassionate, intuitive, graceful, lovable, etc. Of course our relationship helped me move forward in minimizing those tapes...but still sometimes I would forget and slip back into the evil messages and let them be stronger than anything else.

My biggest regret is that Richard died without me ever totally turning off those old tapes and that brought him great sadness. I am so full of sorrow that he could not see me totally free of those old messages, that I did not live totally free of fear and unsureness and that I couldn't always see my best self. Our happiest times were when I was full of love for myself and others....especially him. His diagnosis whacked me in the head and I realized that now was the time to get "over it" and I believe I made alot of progress, but every once in a while those tapes would still play. My beloved died without feeling that I had won the battle with my negative thoughts...and my heart rips open every time I think of that.

I miss Richard so much. Widowhood is not at all what I imagined. My "wanting" is so strong sometimes I am driven to the ground. I can't believe, still, that I will never see his eyes, touch his face, watch him build something. It is still unbelievable when I think of what we have all been through. I often feel him and I hear him reminding me of little things like when I'm walking in Cornwall Park he reminds me to look down, when I don't close the door on the laundry soap cupboard I hear him remind me to close it so I won't hit my head, when I leave the dishwasher open I hear him remind me to close it so that I won't accidently walk into it. I also hear him telling me he loves me and every night I say, "Goodnight Honey, I love you" and look at his picture (that was one of our nightly routines) and I swear I hear him say, "Good Night Honey, I love you too"!

But then I remember that his being gone is forever...for all of us.....he isn't going to come home from this long trip and just walk through the door, this wasn't a horrible nightmare that I just need to wake up from. The pain that that thought causes is different now....not as sharp and debilatating. The fog that I've been looking through has cleared a little. I know I'm making progress in learning how to live without him.

The road is a challenge and I am constantly working on it. I am determined to shut off the negative tapes forever and to live within the realization of my own goodness, compassion and strength. I am always reflecting on living with awareness and with love. I want to show Richard that his energy and love did make a huge difference in my life. That the work couldn't be done completely while he was on this earthly plain but that I am continuing to grow within his guidance even though he is gone. I believe he is watching me and I believe that he is proud.

So now I have to show him that those tapes have permanently been turned off. Oh how I wish I could just press a button and turn the machine off...but the voices are strong and when I am weak, sad, fragile the tapes are louder than ever.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Six Months......

Sometimes it feels like time is standing still and then sometimes it feels like it is rushing by. I feel stronger these days...less fragile...and less like I might burst out crying if someone stares at me. I miss Richard even more, I think. The permanence of him being gone forever seems to go deeper every day. I'm still often lost, not sure if I can find my way. I feel Richard near me alot. I feel him encouraging me and reminding me of my strength, my love and my compassion. He is still teaching me and loving me. It is comforting to know that no matter what, I will always be married to him...forever...... I also know that Richard doesn't want me to be in pain or to not get back into "life"....but believe me....this is hard.

Richard believed in the power of creative energy and thinking. He believed that, simply, in a world that often makes us feel powerless, using our creative minds is the most positive way to promote change. I use to tell him about the energy of my "play art classes" and how when I had six people playing, smiling and making beautiful art I felt such a power. Often I would comment that when working in my own studio I sometimes felt like I was connecting with others who were creating at the same time. He believed in the collective consciousness and he wanted to do something to add to the worlds creative energy.

So....we finished the outside art studio. It's a beautiful place and he worked so hard on it. He wanted to run classes out there...spiritual, my art classes and also let other's use the space to teach their own classes. It was a dream of his.....one that was on track..... But then Brain Cancer hit and well....you know the rest of the story.

I've been thinking alot about that space. I've been thinking about ways I could honor Richard's memory.....And I've decided to fulfill his dream of using the studio for teaching art. Since I'm not really ready to take on such a huge project....I've asked two other artists to join me. We are calling the space the Sparrow's Nest (Richard used sparrow in alot of his passwords) and our kick off celebration will be on September 18-20 with a women's retreat. It's exciting and it feels so right.

After our first meeting, one of the women that I am working with, Deborah, and I were going to dinner. We parked her car and started walking to the restaurant. She told me to look down and there walking on the ground beside me was a little bird. It walked with me to the restaurant and then flew away. I asked Deborah what kind of bird she thought it was and she replied, "A Sparrow"!!!!!! We both got cold chills. I don't need anymore clarification that Richard thinks this endeavor is a fabulous idea.

So......these next few months will be the creation of this program. I'm feeling excited and a little scared....because it feels huge. Tracy Vandermay and Deborah Moskowitz are the other two artists who are joining me. Tracy works primarily in the area of bead weaving and bead embroidary....but she also does alot of work with fiber. Deborah teaches "soul collage" and also teaches decorative goard making and basket weaving. They are two fabulous artists and two wonderful friends. They both are willing to help me make this happen and for that I am eternally grateful.

See....I haven't just been sitting around crying all day....I've been doing some of my own art, planning and dreaming about the Sparrow's Nest, walking the dogs, going to my usual bizillion doctor's appointments, going our a little and learning, in small tiny steps, how to live "onely". My heart is full and that feels wonderful!!!

Blessings,

Sherri

P.S. My step-daughter, Emily, just told me that I had counted wrong. The first title said seven months.....but its really only been six months. Sometimes I'm still acting pretty nuts. I've learned not to get scared when I do whacko things....I guess its part of the process!!!!! On Aug. 11th Richard will have been gone six months....it feels like forever. I miss you so much!!!!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Beautiful Day in the Garden!

It was a beautiful day in my garden. When I am out there I feel like I am tending to Richard. He loved this house. He loved this yard. He loved the property. It was something we created together. I just wish that he had more time to enjoy it. I believe that now I am enjoying it for both of us. It's a lot of work....but I absolutely love it!!!!

I made a new garden bed for Richard. He loved dahlias and I love roses...so that is what I have planted there. It also holds his grapes that he planted the first year that we lived there. These roses are breathtaking. I think I have six rose bushes in all.

This Bee Balm is taller than I am and just full of bees humming away. It is radiant from our deck and smells heavenly.
Mali loves to help me garden. She, Jazzy and Mia the cat are always near. They always find a little piece of shade.


How can I be anything but happy out with all the wonderful colors of nature. I have a wonderful friend, Wes, who comes every week and helps me around the property. I couldn't keep this place without him. Wes has worked for Richard and I for years and years. He is the brother of one of my most dear friends, Tracy. He and I are very proud of all our hard work.
This property holds Richard in its arms. He was so peaceful, even when he was the sickest, just sitting and looking at the trees and flowers that surrounded him. I am so glad that he and I got to have the time we did here. We found an even deeper love here on East Maplewood.
I just wanted to share this with all of you!
Blessings,
Sherri













































































































































Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Nursery Rhymes!

I love Nursery Rhymes. I spent Saturday night with my "borrowed son's" baby, Sydney and I found myself singing her little baby tunes that I magically remembered. They come back to you if you hold a baby for long enough. All of a sudden I said the Humpty Dumpty Nursery rhyme and BOOM!!!! I realized that that should be my theme rhyme right now. I finally totally get Humpty Dumpty.

I had a huge fall....recently.....it took 1 1/2 years but when I landed I was totally broken apart.....and now slowly.....with the help of my friends, doctors and children I am learning how to put myself back together again. It's a tedious process...but slowly I am beginning to at least see a shape that I can call my own.

Richard has been gone for six months....and my heart still hurts as if the last time I kissed him was yesterday. The thought of him warms me so. He is my hero. And is still helping me see my own strength, goodness and path. He continues teaching...everyday. He is a miracle.

I am thankful that I have started doing my art again. Soon I will post some of my visual journaling pages so that you can see what I've been working on. I've also been working feverishly on my garden and down by our creek. I feel so wonderfully close to Richard when I am tending to the garden. He loved it here. He loved this home and he loved showing it off. So I am taking care of him by taking care of it.

This is just a short post but I wanted you to know that I'm doing OK. Richard is loving us all....and we are carrying him very close.

Blessings,

Sherri

Monday, June 22, 2009

Some Moments in Time

I just have to tell you about some beautiful things that I experienced today. They felt very significant and amazing. I love it when things like this happen.

I was walking home from a doctors appointment today. It was beautiful and sunny. It had rained earlier so the sun was a surprise for me. I didn't have the dogs with me because I had gone to the doctor. If they were with me this probably never would have happened. The Universe works everything out....it always does.

It had been a "missing Richard" morning. I've been having less of these but today my heart felt broken and the tears were just laying on my eyes...ready to spill over at any moment. I miss him for so many reasons; but on days like today it is the little things I miss....the daily living that we did together....like drinking coffee together, like talking quietly in the morning, like getting showered and dressed together. I miss those moments of normal living a great deal. Now I do it alone...and some days it is really hard.

Anyway on my way home I was still missing him deeply. Walking through the park I had remembered some special times we had spent there. I missed hanging onto his arm or holding his hand. I always use to point out little things and he would act all excited....I don't know if he was but he always acted that way and it made me so happy. He always warned me about the roots on the trails so that I wouldn't trip. Poor guy...he hated it when I fell. Now I do my own root watching....

I guess I was talking about all this in my head....aching....but continuing to move forward in my "onely" march. All of a sudden I looked up and there were two big beautiful butterflies fluttering toward me. They looked like they were dancing. It was truly amazing. They twirled around each other, silently, moving their wings. The sun hit their majestic colors and they twinkled as if glittered with magic. I stopped and just stood and watched and the butterflies danced around me for moments, showing me their abilities to so show their wonderful performance. Obviously they had been practicing together for a long time because they anticipated each other's moves. They were partners, dancing and loving in the sun.

I knew that Richard had sent me those beautiful butterflies. They demonstrated, so eloquently, a very precious love. The love was obvious, yet it was quiet and sure. That's how our love was.....obvious....but quiet and sure. I was deeply moved by the moments and felt so grateful to be part of that magic. I knew Richard was standing beside me, watching with a matching wonderment.....I felt him there.

Tonight as I let Mali out I stayed on the deck. She's become weird about going outside alone so I often just stand on the deck and listen and watch the happenings of the approaching night as she scouts around for the perfect place to pee :). Tonight my eyes immediately went to the beautiful, huge trees that surround our property. With the silver sky of dusk the trees appear very black....giant silhouettes. Tonight all seemed still but as I stood there, one huge tree began to sway with the wind....back and forth, back and forth. The other trees seemed to stand still....but this one beautiful tree kept up its rhythmic movement. Then I heard the sound of the wind blowing through the tree's leaves and branches. It was like a soft whisper, a tune, but one just for me. It was an awesome few moments.

Again....I believe that Richard was letting me know that he is still with me...always.... I just have to pay attention. He was always a subtle man....he moved softly and when he played his guitar it always sounded so beautiful....similar to the sound of the wind blowing through the leaves of the tree. He was such a gentle man....just like the movement tonight that I saw in that one tree. I feel so thankful that I payed attention to these special moments.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day Richard!!!

I woke up today thinking of Richard and of Father's Day. He loved Father's Day because that is when his children were always around him. It was a tradition that they would come over for breakfast and we would all have peanut butter pancakes and eggs. Richard and his kids loved peanut butter pancakes. Initially, I was skeptical but as the years went on I began to enjoy them too. It's one of those meals that has a very pungent odor.....and either the smell can make you sick or you have to be eating right along with everyone else. I was pleasantly surprized at how yummy the combination of peanut butter, pancake and syrup are!!!! It became one of my favorites too!

Richard's primary role in his lifetime was that of "Father". He loved being a Dad. He loved doing things for his children. And they loved being around him. I miss that activity and commotion that was always part of our household. We always laughed and laughed and laughed....but also had some very deep, meaningful discussions.

That is one of the adjustments I am making in my life without Richard. It is natural and something I expected....but I miss the gathering of all the kids and their friends here at our home. It was so fun listening to them and being part of their story telling. Sometimes I would just sit and watch Richard glow in their presence. He was a proud Father and I believe that his children knew this. His pride and pure love made visiting him so attractive.

There are so many changes now, yet I had a year and a half to anticipate them and I think I thought about this adjustment with a realistic mind. It isn't easy...but I get most of the changes. I can't say I like them all....but I get why they naturally happen. Even though I have wonderful relationships with both of Richard's children...the fact remains....I am a step-Mother who was married to their Father. I love them very much and they love me....but without their Dad here it is very different for all of us. It's almost like the main attraction has left the building.

It's a beautiful day here....sunny but not too hot. Emily and Adam took Mali on a hike and my friend Cheryl and I took Jazzy on a two hour walk. Both dogs are resting now in pure happiness and contentment. I am glad that we all got exercise. Now I am off to do my Sunday chores.......new chores that have become mine since Richard has been gone.....mainly.....the world of the garbage and re-cycling. That is a huge job.

Keeping everyone in my thoughts and prayers.

Blessings, Sherri

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What to do with myself?????

I miss Richard. When I write that it cuts to my bones. It seems like such a trivial little sentence....yet it holds such weight in my world right now. My task, so I am told, is to create a new me without my husband, without me being a wife, without our routines, without our usual activities, without the kids bringing their friends over, without cooking for two, without sleeping next to him, without holding his hand, without, without, without. It is a mighty task. And for the first time....I am at a loss as to how to do that.

I'm doing everything I can to try and get through this. I've joined a bereavement group on-line, I'm back doing a little art, I'm walking everyday, I'm eating OK, I'm not drinking myself drunk, I'm not smoking, I'm keeping in touch with a few friends who have stood by me from the very beginning, I'm setting healthy boundaries, I'm getting lots of rest...... I'm working really hard doing all the "shoulds" of grief 101. But even after all of this....it seems just my skin is learning to live without Richard.....you take that away and I am totally loss.

I've been more quiet about it....realizing that I am probably boring people and that some may be thinking I'm off my rocker. I've learned that it is a solitary journey. I can attempt to share it with others, but they have to leave, or I have to go home and then the depth of the pain surfaces once again. I also feel fragile and weak which is so different for me. It's all new....It is ALL new.

I guess that's enough for now. Everytime I write anything I believe it sounds stupid and I erase it.....so I must be done. I am just "doing it" and for now that is enough. This experience has left me raw....it will take time to heal. I have to be patient.

Blessings,

Sherri

Saturday, June 6, 2009

What to do?

It's been such a long time since I have posted. Honestly I haven't known what to do with this blog....should I continue this journey? Should I go back to my old blog....where I tried to me my artistic self? Is this journey completed? Do I have anything of value to say?

Today I went to the Farmer's Market and a dear woman came up to me and held me in her arms with wonderful warmth. When we moved apart she looked into my eyes and I looked into hers for a long silent moment. Where I am right now, it is dufficult to look people in the eyes; however doing so seems like part of the healing process. I am only going to heal from a soulful wisdom...it is difficult to find that in myself or through others without a connection....a true meeting. Lately I've been trying to see the little dots in the pupil of people's eyes, often right around the iris....When I see those little specks of darkness I know I am close to their soul, there true spirit. I know I am present and paying attention...and that I am taking the time to connect. Anyway...she thanked me for our blog and told me how much it meant to her. I was deeply touched...deeply.... I admitted to her that I really didn't know what to do with the blog at this point. I heard myself tell her, with clarity, that by no means do I believe that Richard's and my journey with brain cancer is over. The words amazed me....but I said them. And then I said that this part of the journey seems worthy of sharing however at times it is very dark and grim. She commented that it seems so important.

I guess that the answer came to me then. The blog must continue for a while longer. Our story is not done yet. These last four months have been as huge as the months of dealing with chemo and radiation...different... But still part of the same journey. I feel like this part is important. This part bears witness to the entire experience of cancer and of losing someone whom you love so deeply. For these reasons I will continue....

There are many reasons that I have hesitated, but the main reason is the dark places in my mind where those horrible negative tapes keep playing. Who would want to hear this part? Why whine here in public? Why expose such a private time in my life? You are so dramatic....always thinking that it's about you....well it isn't.....it's about Richard? Why are you choosing to do it this way? Other's will judge this as self-indulgent. Those tapes are vicious....and in the midst of pain it is difficult to control the off button. But you know....for all of us who hear similar tapes....I believe that they must be turned off in order to grow and, for me, in order to love.

So, my friends....here we go..... The next chapter..........

Blessings for now,

Sherri

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

This is not for light weights (wieghts)

Richard....my beautiful Richard....has been gone for one month today. One may ask, "What have you been doing since he's been gone?" I would honestly have to reply, "Learning how to live without my beloved husband." It has been a daunting task. Thank God I don't remember a lot of it. But what I know intimately is that I have never in my life experienced such heart break and pain. It is a roller coaster ride, for sure. Sometimes I'm O.K. and then boom....my eyes fill up with tears and I can't talk....I've come to accept that that is part of grieving. I'm just not use to being so vunerable and fragile.

The children are all back in their own homes and back to work. They are trying desperately to live their lives. They are so amazing....they march on....miss their Dad tremendously, but are moving forward. Again, I am touched by their awesome courage. Richard, I know, is so proud of them. They can't see it now....but I see a new wisdom about them....a gift that they have received during this experience. They are taking care of themselves and I love them so much.

There is a lot to do when someone dies. Some of the tasks are easy to walk through, but many of them are very difficult. All the paperwork, visiting the funeral home, telephone calls, visits to City Hall, going to our banks, talking to social security, learning where ALL the paperwork is, getting caught up on the bills that became unimportant during the last couple of months and, the worst of all, filing the dreaded taxes. It's kept me busy and it's made me "act" competent and required me to pay attention to details which takes up my entire brain. I've learned that it can surprisingly be a good break from the grief. Again....I just keep doing the "do". So far all the "to-dos" are going well but I'm not done yet.

I've tried to honor the pain and the process surrounding the loss of my life partner. For once in my life...I am sitting with pain....forcing myself not to run like crazy....but just sitting and being. I wear Rick's cozy shirts and his socks all the time. They bring me such comfort...he feels so close to me when I have them on. I spend a lot of crazy time in our walk-in closet...touching his treasures, smelling all his hats, lining up his shoes carefully, holding his stethoscope....all the things that bring him nearer to me. And I sob and sob and sob....a deep wailing, primal, cry that I'm sure has been done by others who have experienced loss for centuries before me. I know it sounds insane...maybe it is....but it feels like I have to do this and that someday...as time moves on I believe the need will not be as strong.

I've had a few horrible nights...long and very frightening...but just when I'm feeling like I can't go on...something miraculous happens. Last night was one of those nights....I was forlorn and very tired. I went into my art studio and I looked out the window....and there was the moon....huge, golden orange, hovering over the roof of my neighbors home. My breath caught...and my soul filled with peace and love and I believe...Richard. Later that evening I went out back with the dogs for our last ball playing. Out back my neighbors have these huge trees....huge...that have lost all their leaves...they are so majestic against the night sky. Last night as I looked at them through my tears, I saw our Omak star twinkling at me. Oh Richard, thank you for touching my heart. Everything became O.K.

Please don't send out the medics with a straight jacket. I'm doing fine. After those moments I actually feel the most calm and centered. I believe that Richard is orchestrating those special times...just so I will stop and remember how much he loved me and believed in me. At those moments I feel that I am the best I can be. I remember who I really am.

Richard, I believe, surrounds all of us as we move through our busy days. He is there when we see beauty. He is there when we care and comfort someone. He is there when we love honestly and openly. He is there when we become peaceful in our own beings. He is there when we let ourselves experience stillness. He is there when we experience each moment in our day to the fullest.

I love you all. Thank you for all your kindness. I continue to be touched by all the acts of pure love that surround me. Until next time....

Blessings,

Sherri

Saturday, February 21, 2009

And time moves on...slowly

Before Richard died, Emily bought him a star and named it Omak. Omak is the name that we all called Richard...it's a long story but when it is interpreted it means (to the kids and I) Omak....the man of great wisdom and grace. Emily is the daughter of Omak, Dana is the son of Omak. Alex is the step-son of Omak. And I am Omak's wench!!!! Anyway we had so much fun over the past year and a half calling Richard Omak, bowing to Omak, naming his favorite chair the Omak Chair....and on and on..... Anyway he loved it that Emily bought him a beautiful star and that she named it Omak. Since the first night that he had the Omak Star paperwork we have called Venus....the Omak Star. We know it isn't really....but we pretend and we've seen it every night over the past few weeks.

These past few nights, when I've taken the dogs outside, I've seen the Omak Star. It has given me some wonderful "peace" and connection to Richard. Tonight (night two of being alone without Dana and Emily) the star was covered by clouds....but as I sat down and waited for the dogs....the clouds cleared and the star shone with brillance. I was feeling so lonely...and so full of pain....but then the star came out and I felt totally grounded. How blessed I am to have the star in my life.

Wednesday we went to Orcas Island to see Alex. We had a wonderful time...perfect!!! We hiked up to this little spot on Mt. Constitution and let off helium balloons....yelling that we loved Richard. The clouds parted and the balloons rose and rose, together, and went through this perfect opening in this white fluffy cloud. It was beautiful!

The three dogs went with us....(even Jamaica, who we carried everywhere). Alex took us to this beautiful beach and Mali and Jazzy swam while all of us drank an ice cold beer in tribute to Omak. Richard loved the salt water. He would have loved us all being together, jumping around, throwing the ball for the dogs and toasting the most amazing husband and father. It was a wonderful memorial. Alex was the perfect host....and it was a special time just being together.

Thursday night....we had more gut wrenching sadness as Jamaica started having trouble breathing. The breathing problems went on all day...but when Emily got home he was really struggling. She and I ended up taking him to the emergency vet...and we had to put him to sleep. Again, Emily and I held someone who we loved and helped them transition onto the next life.....I kept whispering to him that Richard would be there waiting for him.....I believe that...it made it easier for all of us. You know things are really bad when the vet. and her assistant are crying with Emily and I. It is another loss...but Jamaica had a long, wonderful life...we all know that he did, but it seems perfect that Richard has his "little buddy" with him.

My pain is touchable...I can smell it, feel it, taste it...but I know that paying attention to these feelings is in some horrible way paying honor to my beloved Richard. I spend alot of times looking at pictures of our family. It feels so good seeing him looking healthy and happy. We had so many magical moments together.....I am so thankful for every single one of them.

I'm still having trouble seeing people. It will get easier (won't it?????) but right now I am asking for patience from my many friends who want to help. I still feel as though I am recuperating...and tending to myself and my family. That feels like that's all I can handle.

I have treasured the cards and letters from friends, relatives and even people I don't know but who were touched by Richard somewhere during their lives. He touched many people....I know that....but hearing everyone's special words about him has touched me deeply.

I think of all my friends and family often throughout the day. I feel you all still praying for us. Thank you so much. This time is a difficult part of the journey. I definately don't know exactly what I am doing...but this time also feels so blessed and important.

Blessings to all of you!!!

Love Sherri

Thursday, February 19, 2009

We just keep doing.....

Life is moving on....very slowly....and it feels like we are in a unchartered territory where everything is strange and activities feel different. I knew that life would never be the same without Richard but I never expected that my own body and skin would feel so foreign and unfriendly. Since the morning that Richard took his last breath, my own rhythm and breathing has felt stilted and shallow.

We are all still very aware of those last few days with Rick. I seem to be re-living every moment...but yet not recalling the sequence of things. It seems as though that week happened simultaneously...a flash here, a flash there...and a seering pain which at any other time would have knocked me flat.

My compass...or maybe my map....is all controlled by a constant reviewing of what Richard would want to happen....what would he expect....am I acting as he would want me to act. I ask myself constantly if I'm pushing myself enough while at the same time wondering if being quiet and just at home surrounded by Richard is the perfect thing to do. What I know for sure....nothing feels right yet.

Dana, Emily and I have hung on to each other over the past eight days. We understand the level of grief.....the level of pain. We accept where each of us are, support our attempts to do things....and then we're there for one another as we return to our safe haven. For me...they are Richard.....and being with them is being with a safe "me"...the mother, the lead in this experience.

I know they need to get back to their "normal" lives. Emily went to work today....I am so proud of her. Dana has plans to leave for Seattle tomorrow...but if that doesn't feel right for him we both have agreed that he can come back without judgement. They're both worried about me....but I've assured them over and over.....that I'm going to have really hard times, but that I'm going to be O.K. I know that this pain will change...and that remembering the bad things will diminish over time and then the good memories will become part of my daily experience. I am anxious for the memories of the week before his death to stop flashing in my mind....I never know when these episodes will hit and the safest place for me to be is here at home in the safeness of the place Richard loved most.

I want to move through this with awareness and love. I believe that I have grown tremendously....but testing this growth seems way too scary now...just little steps. The scariest moments is when I can't feel richard within my soul....I panic that I may be losing him...but then I can stop, breathe and get in touch with his shining essence. So much of that can help me move forward.

Your prayers and special thoughts have brought such warmth to all of us. Thank you for the way you have all continued to support us. It is amazing to see how many people can be touched by the sweetness of one blessed man. I truly believe he is with us all.

Love Sherri

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sadly

It is with deep sadness that I am writing this entry. My beloved husband, Richard, passed away early this morning at 1:10 a.m. surrounded by his loving family. There is so much that I want to say....but now just doesn't seem to be the time. I do want everyone to know that the last 30 minutes of Richard's life was amazingly beautiful. I believe that he was totally at peace.

I love Richard deeply. He was a courageous warrior until the end.

Thank you for including us in your thoughts and prayers. I promise that I will write more later when I feel more rested.

Until then....as always....my love,

Sherri

Monday, February 9, 2009

What day is it?

Richard continues to stay with us....after many days of a grueling fight. His heart is strong...but he is growing so very weary. We gather around him, as a family, tending to his needs and taking care of one another. The depth of sorrow is intense...deeper than any of us imagined. But we are a strong force....insuring that Richard is comfortable and full of peace.

Today, David, our blessed Hospice Nurse, had to remove Richard's wedding ring because his hands are swelling. My heart broke as I sobbed with tears from my deepest, darkest place. I ran from the room and Dana found me, then lifted me from the floor and held me quietly, reminding me that we were all going to make it through this nightmare....somehow....together. He assured me that Pam had placed the ring on a special necklace that Richard has been wearing around his neck.

This afternoon I went to give Richard a kiss on his forehead......time stopped for me.....as I noticed that my beautiful husband had his hands around his necklace...holding his wedding ring in his beautiful fingers.

Blessings and miracles continue to surround us.

Tenderly,

Sherri

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

How can it be time to say Good-bye?

We have been told by Hospice that it will not be long before this journey is over. I knew that we were at this point...but hearing it brought it deep into my being. I am afraid and yet I feel determined to remain strong for Richard. My only wishes are for him to be totally comfortable and for our family to have the closure that everyone needs. I feel as thought Richard and I have said all there is to say between us on this earthly plain...I know how he feels about me and I know he feels my love and committment. I also know that this will not be the end of our communication....it will be different but we still we feel each other's love forever more. I know I will see him often....in the beauty around me, in his children's eyes, in the sunshine, in the dahlias that we grew together...and I believe he will be a part of me forever....guiding me, believing in me, proud of my accomplishments.



I have been blessed in many ways in my life....but my biggest blessing will always be the time I have spent with Richard A. Estes. He has helped me become a better person. He has tenderly shown me my best self. And he has believed in me totally and without hesitation. He has loved me as I have never been loved before. I feel honored to be his partner....it truly has been my most meaningful role.



Richard has slipped into a place that I believe is between two worlds. He has said that it is a fuzzy place.... I know that he is prepared to move from this world to another. I know his transition will be warm, peaceful and full of light. He will be surrounded by those who love him and are waiting to stay by his side as he moves into a new reality. I believe, and I know he does to, that he is about to find his true spiritual essence. God will come to him and he will be whole.



This is excruiating for me and for all of us. The pain is intense...so real and massive that I often question whether I can bear it. This is the hardest thing I have ever done....but I know that I must open my arms, take a deep breath and let him go...with love and gratefulness.



How will I make it? I truly have no idea. Will I be able to bear the pain? I'm not sure. But my beliefs tell me that this is all part of my own spiritual journey. I need to honor Richard's and my time together. I must take time to pay deep attention to my heart, to love and to my own compassion. Only then will healing begin.



Please pray for us. There are many of us...all trying to do something that is very foreign and do it with grace, love and respect. Pray that we can all find the way to join together and gain strength from our unity. Pray that we can remember Richard's love for us and his peace and courage. His light shines over us all.



Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones. You are all important pieces of the puzzle that is Richard's life.



Blessings,



Sherri

Friday, January 30, 2009

Too Many Thoughts!!!

It seems as though we are all always thinking.....not in a steady stream but all over the place...patches here and there...no conclusions, no solutions, only worry, fear and the unknown.

Sleep for me is very difficult. I just know there will be lots of time for sleep later. I feel, now, like every moment is precious. I sleep enough. Don't worry, I am remembering that I have to remain strong and well for Richard, our children, our families and friends. But I'm constantly thinking about the next thing, the list of to-dos, the memories that I am learning to hold dear. It's all O.K....necessary parts of this journey maybe....or possibly a distraction.

Tonight all the kids are gone, Richard is asleep and I find myself feeling empty and somewhat numb. But then I will remember...and my breath stops....allowing a wrenching pain to bubble up and cover me entirely. I am surprised there are tears left. I will often find myself just sitting beside him, quietly on his bed....tears flowing quietly down a now familiar path....watching him sleep.

I have allowed myself some moments (about all I can handle) to try and imagine what it will be like to live in this house without Richard. I am so afraid.... He is so much a part of our home. All his treasures surround me. His smell is in our closet. His shaver, with little pieces of his hair in it, is lying on our bathroom counter. His favorite soap is on his side of our shower. I know these things will be comforting to me...but also I think it will all make me sad, painfully sad.

Richard is slipping away more every day. I tried to talk to him about the beautiful things he has given me and of how thankful I am. He has believed in me, my strength and goodness. He has given me the confidence to love myself. What a beautiful gift. I talked....trying desperately to get him to understand. I also assured him that when he was gone I would continue to believe in my best self. I promised that I would continue my own spiritual study. I told him I would find a way to not always feel afraid. I have a need to share my walk of abundant appreciation and thankfulness. I can't risk him forgetting for a moment what he means to me.

As he grows weaker, there is a need for me to grow stronger. I am doing it....finding it almost easy and comforting. He is dependent on us now for almost everything. We are all stepping up and learning to work together intuitively....all for Richard, our hero. There is a rhythm here now.....a focus. I believe our movements are the same ones that have been taken by our ancestors for generations before us. Somehow, even though so much is frightening, it all seems familiar. I have experienced a "knowing".....and so have the others that are doing this with me.

I can feel you all thinking about us. I know there are prayers being said, candles being lit, loving thoughts surrounding us. I am so thankful for all of our family and friends. This is a huge group effort. Believe me your thoughts, remembrances, prayers are an integral part of this journey. I know that Richard feels all of you. I know it is part of his acceptance and peace. Thank you.

Blessings,

Sherri

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Reality

That isn's a very creative title...but it is the best I could come up with. I believe that all of us have entered a type of "time warp".... We often look at one another and say, "I can't believe that we are doing this." "I can't believe that we are talking about this." But slowly I believe that it is sinking in. It is horribly sad...yet I continue to feel as though it is such a gift to be caring for this wonderful man....the horror of it all can be diminwshed.

Richard grows weaker daily. He sleeps a great deal, now has a catheter and has had episodes of breathing problems. His voice is very quiet...a whisper and sometimes it is difficult to understand him. However, there are such beautifully tender moments...Dana and I giving him a bed bath, Jason stroking his cheek, him thanking me and telling me that he loves me and seeing flashes of his beautiful smile.

Dana and Emily are very close....I often see them holding one another, stroking each other's back, bowing their heads together....comforting one another as only brothers and sisters can do. It warms my heart greatly. Sometimes they include me in that tenderness....but I have learned to reach out and tell them what I need and they are always willing to give it to me. They are beautiful children....they are Richard's children.

My son is coming tomorrow....and I know for me that will be a comfort. I can feel his sadness over the phone lines and his worry about me, Richard and his step-brother and sister. I will welcome him here with open arms. I can't wait to have him hold me. He is a man now and he is a great hugger. I am thankful he is coming even if it is just for a few days.

My friends...we are moving through this holy time. We are very busy....hospice has supporter us beautifully and we move forward with caring for Richard under their compassionate guidance. While they keep us busy....I know their intentions are right and in the end the preparations will make things much easier.

I wish that everyone could be here and just observe the miracle of this experience. I believe it is golden. I feel honored to be part of it.

My love to evereyone. I wish this were longer.....but I am needed.

Love Sherri

Saturday, January 24, 2009

To all who have loved Richard

I am very tired but I feel like I need to take a few minutes to let you all know what is going on. This will be short.....I'm weary and know that my sleep is crucial to face this next phase of our journey.

Richard had an MRI yesterday. The doctor (our angel....Dr. Gittle Goodman-Wilson) came to our home and shared the news with Richard and his children, Dana and Emily, and I. The cancer has aggressively spread throughout Richard's brain and no further treatment can be done. I didn't need an MRI to tell me this; however Richard wanted to go through with the test and so did his children. I am surprised that even though I felt like I knew what was happening....hearing it and seeing the report took away all of the denial that was still part of my deepest wishes that Richard would live with me forever. The news was devastating. Last night was very intense....but today, even though bleary eyed, we are all facing the challenge of meeting Richard's wishes in the best way that we can.

Hospice had been called in last week. We had to stop it....so that insurance would pay for the MRI....but the minute the results came in, we re-signed and hospice has started again. Family has gathered....lots of comings and goings....but I'm trying to stay centered and focused, knowing clearly what my job is at this point. My main focus is on providing Richard with as much comfort and love as I can as he faces this last stage of this journey that we have been on.

Richard has carefully taught us all how to proceed through this phase. We are all moving within his constant message of love and compassion and everything else has fallen away. We are all tireless in our mission. I believe that this is Richard's last lesson on this earthly plane....how to receive care from others instead of always being the caregiver. As expected, he is facing this challenge with grace and courage.

He has prepared me well and I know my role as his partner and wife. His children are totally amazing.....as is all our family and friends. Whenever we feel lost we look at him and the way becomes obvious. He is surrounded by glowing candles, pictures, amazing smells and tender hands. I believe we are all holding him up....standing beside him as he prepares to leave this earthly place. He is at total peace....he is calm, tranquil and shining with the assurance of a man who has lived within the pure light and understanding of how this Universe works. It is awesome to watch.

Yes, I am frightened...sometimes breathless about how fast it is all moving. But I know that we will all be O.K.. We will be sad, lost at times, totally forlorn....but yet strong in the knowledge that Richard feels so sure that he has reached a state of completion with this life and is ready to move on.

Please keep us in your prayers. The work we are doing now is true soul work. We all hear the true essence of a higher power directing our every move. We are thankful for all of you. You are giving us strength to find meaning in this most difficult time.

Love each other....that is exactly what Richard would want.

My love,
Sherri

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Checking In

Hello my dear friends and family,

This past week and a half has been a total blur. Dana and I have decided that we have entered a "time warp".....a little microcosm of the real world. We have no sense of what day it is, what time it is or even of what normal is like anymore. But we are all moving forward in learning to care for a man who is at this stage of the brain cancer journey. I am so proud of Dana and Emily. They are amazing as they care for their Father. It is so touching to watch them interact with him.

Richard's decline over the past ten days has been absolutely stunning. I see him changing daily and feel him slipping away from me as time goes on. He is in bed most of the day. Now he can only transfer or walk with alot of assistance and even, at times, needs help changing position in bed. He is more confused and forgetful. Fortunately the cancer has prevented Richard from really understanding what is happening to him or to even be aware of the changes in his ability to do his daily living skills. I am so thankful for that.

Because of this....Richard is still talking about getting an MRI and possibly continuing chemotherapy. As he talks about the possibility of continuing treatment I believe our children are also needing to see and hear what is happening, medically, in their Father's brain. So I had pushed for an MRI. I've had to fight with the insurance company to get this to happen but we finally got it through and we're having the MRI tomorrow morning at 11:30. Our angel doctor will come to our home and tell us all the results and we will all make plans for what should happen next.

After being with Rick, pretty much non-stop for the last few days, I don't need a test to tell me that there have been huge changes. All of this tells me that something is drastically happening to my husband's beautiful brain. The pit in my stomach, the ache in my heart, the tears I have shed, the faces of our children.....all tell me that Richard is approaching a place of late stage cancer. I pray constantly that I am wrong and that this is just a little set back; however I must be realistic in order to truly be there for Richard and our family and friends.

We all are having the most difficult and important conversations of our lives right now. I have had to be brutally honest with Richard and with our children in regards to what I am seeing and what I believe is happening. I've had to stop and hold their hands and just be quiet; there's really nothing I can say to make this better. I know we all feel helpless.

The most important thing I want everyone to know is that Richard is experiencing minimal pain at this point. What he is feeling is either a headache (scary) or body aches from being in bed. He says that he is peaceful and assures us that he is not afraid. He is being a courageous man...even through this difficult time.

Caring for him is such a sweet honor. Each of us have our own strengths....but it all is so touching and loving. I love helping him, bathing him, feeding him, toileting him, etc. I know that this is a time where Richard is learning one of his most important lessons....how to be cared for instead of always being the one to take care of others. I thank him daily for letting us do this for him....

Betsy let me borrow the cutest little "day bed" that during the day we use as a couch, cuddle place and at night Jazzy and I sleep there. As I lay there I listen to the rhythm of Richard's breath and I watch him as he sleeps peacefully. The hospital bed has an air cover over it and when Richard moves the cover squeaks.....it always wakes me and I look over and see if he needs something or if he is just moving. There will be no more attempts at getting up by himself. I was always so fearful of the time when I would have to stop sleeping with him....but I am loving our little room and I am sosososo glad that he is more comfortable.

He continues to be precious. My love for him has grown even deeper....I like to think that it is growing deeper into my heart so that I will feel it there forever. He is my biggest blessing in so many ways.

The out pouring of help, prayers and love is immense. Thank you to all of you who have dropped off food. We are ALL enjoying it and it is so wonderful that none of us are having to cook. Thank you to the angel(s) who send periodic Trader Joe's gift cards. I'm not sure who you are but we are putting them to good use. Thank you to all the family who are supporting all of us daily. Thank you to all who are continuing to surround Richard and our family in light and who are praying for us. I feel your prayers and thoughts. That is often what is keeping us moving through this part of the journey with strength and compassion.

Love to you all!

Sherri

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A changing Journey

My special friends,

Our journey has changed dramatically since I last wrote. I am heartbroken to report that Richard has declined tremendously. These past few days have been a blur. They have also been very painful for us all. But we are supporting one another. I believe things are progressing as best as they can at this point of our experience with brain cancer. I am sad and frightened for us all. But with Richard as our teacher and model I have faith that we will make it through this horribly difficult time with strength and courage.


In the wee hours of Monday morning, my once robust husband, took his first fall getting out of bed to use the restroom. Up until that time he was moving with stability (although his gait had changed to a shuffle) and requiring no help to do anything. Sunday morning he had gone out to breakfast with my Mom and all of our children. He walked into and out of the restaurant without assistance. We all were amazed as he ate six pancakes scrambled eggs and hash browns (no, his appetite has not changed!)!!!! The previous evening he had gotten himself ready for bed and climbed in as if it was another day.

Needless to say, this fall took he and I by total surprise. As I have written before, there were significant changes in gate and speech…also sleeping more…..and lots of cognitive decline…but something changed in those early hours that seemed to make everything drastically different.

We had to get up early on Monday morning because it was a chemo day and we have to drive an hour to get to the cancer center. My friend, Sheryl, was arriving at nine. When the alarm went off Richard stayed in bed which is very unusual. Up until that morning he had always gotten up to made the coffee while I fed our dogs…but that morning he didn’t move and I did the morning “get up routine” on my own. When I went back into the room he said that he was going to need help getting up but that then he thought he could take care of the showering himself. In getting him out of bed…his legs buckled and he fell again. He needed lots of assistance getting to a standing position. My arthritis has left my arms, neck and back so weak….but somehow the strength came and I was able to get him standing and with a considerable amount of help he got into the shower. After I got him dressed he wanted to lay back down in bed as I showered and got dressed.

When Sheryl arrived to drive us to Everett she helped me pack up our bags and I took care of the dogs. It took both her and I to get Richard out to the car, using his walker (Thank God I had gotten one as requested by the doctor during the week before). After a Starbucks stop we were on the road. Richard ate the breakfast I had packed and half of a scone and then he immediately feel sound asleep on our way to Everett. It was a difficult drive….knowing in my gut that everything had changed. I texted my sister-in-law angel, Pam, and she met us in the garage with a wheelchair. We unloaded Richard and got him upstairs to his appointment.

They put us in a private room, drew blood and then they wheeled him over for his appointment to see the doctor. Dr. Congdon met us with a very sad look on his face. After talking for a while, answering questions etc., the doctor told us that he feared that a small part of this sudden leg weakness may be due to the steroid increase, but that decreasing the steroids would put Rick at a higher risk for seizure. We decided to lower the dose to see if that had any significant change. He then told us that his biggest fear was that these symptoms were related to a sudden surge of tumor growth and once again he explained his on-going worry about continuing a round of chemo when he felt we were seeing tumor progression. Richard asked how we could tell if these symptoms were due to tumor growth and the doctor explained that we would need a new MRI. Rick stated that he wanted to continue with this chemo treatment. So we decided to proceed and then scheduled an MRI for the following week with a plan to go down to Everett on his next scheduled chemo day (Monday, January 26th) to hear the results of the

MRI.

After his treatment Pam and her husband, Scott, drove us back to Bellingham. When we arrived home, we put Rick to bed, Pam started dinner and Scott and I went to a medical supply store to pick up a wheelchair, a urinal and a shower seat that the doctor had ordered. It was obvious that I couldn’t take care of Richard by myself and so Dana (his son) came home from Seattle and has been by Richard’s and my side ever since. Our daughter and her boyfriend have also been here when she wasn’t working. They also have been an immense help.


During that night Richard fell again, even with using the walker and with me holding him up. His gate suddenly changed. He and the walker went flying in different directions and Rick landed on his face, hitting his left eye on our scale. I screamed for Dana and he came running, Richard is now sporting a frightening black eye.

The next morning I called our local doctor (Dr. Gittle Goodman-Wilson) and brought her up to date with what was happening. I told her my “take” on our meeting with our oncologist and Richard’s desire to continue chemo. but that I suspected that we were looking at tumor progression. That day she contacted the oncologist, called me back and we made an appointment to see her on the following day. The sweet woman called me again that evening, asking me about how things were going and offered to come to our house to check Richard out…but I felt like we could wait until the following day to see her.

That same day I also called Richard’s old place of employment (a wonderful care facility where Rick was a nurse and then the medical record’s director) and asked for some help. When I explained our situation the angel I spoke to (one of Rick’s dearest friends) said not to worry she would get on this and see us after work. That afternoon three angels arrived, one with a variety of medical supplies that filled our dining room table, one with a huge box of food and a physical therapist with more equipment. She taught Dana and I how to do safe bed adjustments and transfers. She asked Richard’s permission to bring in a commode to make toileting easier and he agreed (She later dropped one off), and made some adjustments to our current set up so that caring for Richard would be easier. It was an amazing hour and after they all left the three of us cried with appreciation and total love for these women and all the people at Mt. Baker. They totally embraced us and helped us all immensely.

Since we arrived home from Everett I have watched my husband weaken and change minute by minute. When we tried to get him up for the doctor's appointment it became obvious that he was way too weak to go and I called the doctor’s office and told them. Gittle called me back and said she would come to our home that evening. Pam came up so that she could be part of that appointment.


Richard fell again when I went to let the dogs in. I had left him on the commode and he fell trying to empty his own commode pan. He did get to the toilet (a total miracle) but then fell into our closet. When I found him his was laying flat on his back in our walk-in closet holding the pan proudly in the air. When I saw him I burst out laughing, went and got Dana and after the three of us got over our hysterics, we got Rick up, scolded him and put him back in bed. He spent the entire day sleeping in bed and begged us not to make him get up. It was so painful to watch.

When the doctor came she examined Rick and then sat on the bed with all of us and talked to Rick about our options. In the end Richard agreed to bringing hospice in so that they could help us. It was a heart breaking conversation but we all agreed that we needed help. I was already experiencing significant arthritis pain. Even with our strong 26 year old son helping me, lifting a two hundred pound man has been really hard.

I am so sad…heartbroken. I am watching my husband change right before my eyes. I know that tomorrow a hospital bed will arrive. Last night was so painful because I sensed that it may be my last night of sleeping with my husband and our comfy big bed. He was so restless and uncomfortable throughout the night that now, I can’t wait until we get the hospital bed. It will be so much easier to help him get comfortable and to move him safely.


My grief is immense for all of us. Watching our children (my son will join us soon) and both of our families as they slowly accept where we are headed has been excruciating. Feeling Richard’s deterioration has been awful.

I also know that this is a blessed, holy time for Richard, myself and our families and friends….and want to honor it with as much grace as possible. We have all become witnesses to a holy transition and we are assisting Richard by caring for him, loving him and just being with him. I know he is constantly surrounded by angels....actually I feel them all around us. If you listen real carefully you can hear their soft voices, their melodies, their on-going rituals as they help Richard face this part of the journey.

I keep thanking him for letting us care and love him. I keep assuring him that he has done well....we are all doing O.K. by using his example. He has helped us gain wisdom and courage to do our holy work in tending to him. We are all touching him, holding him, spending time with him in bed. I believe we are all being intuitive as to what exactly needs to be done as the time passes. Tonight we all got in bed with him, including all three dogs....and held him as he snoozed and we all got silly. It was wonderful and Richard was so peaceful and happy.
Please pray for Richard...that he may remain peaceful and protected at this time. Please pray for all of us as we love him and care for him.

This has been a difficult post. but probably one of the most important. I love all of you. I feel you all embracing us...I can feel your warmth. Thank you for continuing to hold us close.

Blessings,

Sherri

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Rain Rain Go Away!!!

We've had such a busy few days. Richard's dear Father has been here and I've absolutely loved having him. There is something about watching a Father tend to his chldren that absolutely touches my heart. I can see, easily, where Richard gets his tender touch and his strength. Leo is a very special man.

We spent our days being busy...doing chores, making soft blankies for my children, playing cards, watching T.V. and all the flooding, cooking together and helping Richard whenever we could. Richard is sleeping alot now....and so Leo and I had some precious talks and beautiful time just being together.

Leo's wife, Angie, is very sick over in Wenatchee. She has been in Wenatchee in the hospital after weathering two surgerys where parts of her small and large intestine were removed. When Angie got stronger after her operations the doctors told Leo to go and visit his son. They felt that Angie was on the road to recovery. Can you imagine? A sick wife and a very ill son????? How horrible for this man. Angie is still facing a third, very serious, surgery where they will try and fix a main artery leading to her stomach which is blocked and interfering with proper digestion. However, this can't occur until she is stronger from these current situations. They have a rough road ahead...but we are all hopeful and believe that Angie is going to get better and be dancing again, with her gorgeous husband, very soon.

Last night, when Leo called his wife, she really wasn't feeling very well and he made the decision to return to Wenatchee. However, now all passes are closed because of the rain and flooding. He was so frustrated (we all were) and he decided to leave this afternoon to at least get down to Pam's in Everett so that the minute the passes open he can scoot across. Hopefully, tomorrow he will be able to return to the bedside of his beloved.

Meanwhile, today, Alex (my son) came over here from Orcas Island to have four wisdom teeth removed. YUK!!!! My poor baby!!! Thank you to my brother-in-law for taking Alex and I to the oral surgeon. It was a treat to be able to spend some uninterrupted time with Richard (yes, another Richard) and just talk while they were yanking Alex's teeth. Richard and I shared a very tender moment together when Alex started throwing up on the way out of the doctor's office...I ran for help while Richard helped Alex to the men's restroom. I will say no more other then GROSS and ACHE for Alex's miserableness. As Richard loaded us into the car...he actually was laughing and informed me that that little moment absolutely was not part of the deal!!!! Bless him for hanging in there with us.

For the rest of the day I was playing Nurse to both Alex and Richard. It felt absolutely perfect to be taking care of both of these men. When you love someone as much as I love Richard and my children, taking care of them is so easy and wonderful!!!! It's been a long time since I've gotten to take care of Alex. He is a big adult now...but when he's sick I think he was glad his Mommy was there. He was very sweet!!!

However, my plate became a little too full when Jamaica, our old, little dog (who is in doggie diapers because of constant peeing problems but is otherwise the picture of health) walked in from outside with poop everywhere!!!! I did start to cry a little at this point...feeling very sorry for myself...but I slapped myself around, took a deep breath and bathed and dried our little dog. Phew!!! Life can be amazing sometimes. And Phew!!! We can handle a lot when we put our mines to it!!! And YEAH...this evening he is smelling like lavender and vanilla. That's very nice.

I've been so down in my last few entries that I wanted to share a few thoughts that I have had. Richard and I are experiencing something that is so unique. Yes, it is the most heartbreaking thing I have ever experienced but at the same time I have learned so much and have been blessed in so many ways. Richard has chosen to keep fighting. That in itself is impressive. And I have the privilege of standing beside him in this fight. We treasure every moment. We touch, we hold hands...I'm never very far away in case he needs help standing or sitting or if he needs anything. I love helping him. I walk beside him as he moves through the house, making sure he's safe but also just loving the warmth I feel coming from his body. I watch him sleep. I watch him smile. I celebrate having him here with me and just our time together. This is blessed time. Even though he is sleeping more and more I treasure just being with him.

Tonight, after he went to bed, I stood outside with Mali, listening to the roar of our very full creek. It was beautiful out....I saw the moon for the first time in many days and I could sense the weather changing. As I stood there I felt this wonderful warmth melt all over me and I almost felt like I was glowing. It was an awesome moment...at first sort of scary/lonely but soon my heart and soul became very peaceful and I could take deep, nourishing breaths. It lasted for just a few moments...but it was very real. I don't know exactly what happened out there but I have my suspicions.

There are times with Richard when he feels very far away from me. He goes to a place that is totally separate from me. These moments use to terrify me. I would look at him and call his name and move in very close. I would touch him and ask him what he was thinking and usually he says either he doesn't know or that he was thinking absolutely nothing. Then I would jibber, jabber away....kiss him, hold his hand. He would be back with me and I would feel relief.

Well, I have learned and come to believe these moments are sacred time for Richard. I believe that it is at these moments that Richard (not consciously but on some plane) is surrounded by beautiful, loving angels. I think they are helping him, preparing him for the huge transition from this world to the afterlife. I've come to believe that these times are imperative and that this instruction from these holy beings is helping Richard gain wisdom, strength and courage for what lay ahead. I don't fear those times anymore and never try to bring him back to me. He must have this support now in order to maintain the immense peace that he has demonstrated throughout this whole experience.

Is it possible that tonight, as I let myself be quiet and still for just a moment, my own loving angels came and surrounded me and on some level gave me instruction, wisdom and courage to move through this experience also with peace? What a wonderful thought. I really don't know how to do this time now and I can't find clear instructions anywhere. But tonight I'm thinking that maybe I do it by allowing myself to just stop, be quiet and still and breathe. Maybe, just maybe, each of us will have our own holy beings that will be beside us, showing us the way........

Tonight I have found a little peace. It probably won't last for long and in my hyper-active way I may forget and I may feel frightened and horribly lost again. But tonight I have faith that remembering will come quickly. I will learn to just stop and be still and breathe and the way will become clear.

Love to all of you. Please continue to keep my beloved husband in your thoughts and prayers. He is still glowing and peaceful...I am so thankful for that.

Blessings,

Sherri

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hello Friends!

I find myself putting off posting because I don't know exactly what to say. It's been a very tough few weeks....I am sososo tired and I am so heartbroken. I want to be positive and upbeat...but I just can't be. I'm sorry that I have to come here with such a heavy heart...but I know that many of you want an update. I haven't found a chunk of time where I am breathing freely; where I can share hope and a positive spirit. I never, in my wildest dreams, thought that we would be at this place so soon...but I guess that this is an important part of the journey. When we started this experience I promised Richard that I would be faithful to this blog....I don't think I ever imagined that the time would come when it would become so difficult to share, with honesty, what this part of a very challenging road.

Richard had his first session of chemotherapy on Monday, December 29th. The infusion itself went smoothly. We reaffirmed with our doctor our desire to fight this monster called glioblastoma. Richard clearly stated that each additional day with his family and friends is worth this chemo regime. I agree totally with him. I am positive we are doing the right thing.

Richard continues to seem very weak physically. I don't know if it is the new chemo or if it is the tumor profression. I feel so powerless and frustrated at times. I can't make any of this better and my heart aches for him. He is in bed most of the day...He gets up for a while but tires quickly and needs to return to the comfort of laying down. He is shuffling badly and is having to have help getting up and down from a laying or sitting position. The doctor suggested that we get a walker for him (that was a hard day for all of us) and usually I am either walking with him or he is using his walker to move from one place to another. His speech is much quieter and is slurred...usually worse when he is tired. I think he is often confused...and when he is very tired he seems to slip into his own world. He often seems so far away.

He and I are handling the physical part without any problem. But for me the most difficult time is when I can't seem to reach him and when I realize that our partnership is changing rapidly. I get so frightened...almost panicky....eventhough I feel as though I have been prepared for this period in this journey....I never anticipated how badly it would hurt. I never knew I had so many tears to shed. I never knew how frantic I could feel...so powerless to change what is happening. And....sadly....I feel so alone. Eventhough we have so much support...no one can possibly understand my anguish unless they have traveled a road where they have lost a loved one.

Richard seems at peace with all that is happening. He has gotten to the point of total acceptance...his only distress that is expressed is when he sees me or his children struggling with our sadness. I always assure him that sadness is OK and that we are OK...and most importantly.....we will be OK. Struggling and sadness is a huge part of this journey and its important to let it happen. We are all learning to grieve and it is an essential lesson. Once we talk for a while he calms down and relaxes again. He continues to tell us, over and over again, that he is not frightened...and that he is giving the chemo space to work and yet accepting the seriousness of where his disease is at. He continues to be our hero in so many ways. His courage is absolutely amazing and gives us all such pride. His example gives us all such strength.

I want you all to know that eventhough it is easy to look into the future, to worry and fret....We are all still focusing on living each moment to the fullest and remembering the preciousness of this time together. Our home is so full of love...everyone talks about how "homey and warm" it feels....we hug everyone, all of us sit close together and touch...hold hands, listen intently and look into each others eyes, take time to let our breaths come together in a strong rhythym. We laugh and we cry...but in an amazing way...it feels so real....and we all know that something special is happening here....our job has become one of witnessing.....and often standing in awe.

I have come to learn and believe that at those times when Richard feels so far away from me I am watching a "holy time" for him. I've read that it is at these times that people who are seriously ill are surrounded by spiritual guides or angels who are assisting them in their preparation to transition from this world to another. These guides are there to assure and comfort and to give understanding to something that is so difficult to grasp in our earthly world. This explanation has helped me to let this time between us just "be" and eventhough it is so hard....I fight trying to bring him back to a place of relating to me. It is horribly sad for me...but at the same time I find myself sitting in awe...wishing I could join him but knowing that this part of the journey is only for him...a very private time of comfort and faith.

One more thing....At night I find myself laying very close to Richard....spooning....with either my arm around him or with his arm around me, especially when we first go to sleep. I take time to feel the way our bodies fit perfectly together and I always hold his beautiful hand. I feel his breath and his warmth and I see us surrounded in a glowing light. My heart is full at these times and I often have tears in my eyes. I lay there for a long time...silently and perfectly still...soaking in these intense moments. I truly feel so horribly sad and frightened when my heart knows in such a deep way that laying with my beautiful husband will not go on forever. I'm already aching with the anticipation of not being held by him, It is such a deep loss..I didn't know I could "feel" so intently.

There's so many other things I should mention.....but for now this is enough. I must go and try to sleep. Thank you for all the wonderful support. We hold you all very close.

Blessinngs,

Sherri

Saturday, December 27, 2008

It's Melting

The snow is melting....you can hear the drip, drip, drip of water as things begin to thaw. This is the part that I dislike....it seems like such a hard process to get rid of all the snow. I guess I'm always a little sad to see it go.

Richard is having a difficult day today. He is very weak and sleepy. He's been in and out of bed for most of the day....and he keeps asking me what I think is wrong with him. I think that it is the new tumor growth and swelling that is making him more tired. Sleepiness is one of the most prevalent symptoms among many. He also seems confused and agitated a little (which could be the increase in steroids). I guess this is how it is going to be for now. Acceptance is my mantra right now. I'm still numb....having a hard time believing that we are at this point.

Our insurance company did O.K. the new chemotherapy which is such a blessing. We go down for his first infusion on Monday and I can't wait to see Dr. Congdon so that he can assure me that this is what is expected. I hate feeling so alone in this...having to make decisions, assuring Richard and the kids and his Mom......trying to appear strong and unphased by all the new symptoms....when actually my stomach is shaking and I feel almost sick. The doctor has told me that there is an increased risk for seizure. I've told the kids and his Mom and it's like we are all just sitting and waiting.

As Richard's partner I have to accept where he is at. I have to go to where he is instead of trying, desperately, to drag him up to where I am. I have to accept the changes in him and stop expecting him to help me make decisions, deal with household stuff, help me take care of my own illnesses. His ability to empathize with me is very limited and that scares me alot. He's been my partner in my own disease care. I'm on my own now and I really feel afraid sometimes. This is just the beginning....I have so much work to do in order to accept what is happening.

Blessed things continue to happen. Richard, Emily, Dana and I had about three hours alone last night where we just talked. It was a miracle what happened. So much love and respect were shared. Misunderstandings that are part of all families were cleaned up, all the questions that the kids had were answered and Richard talked about his death and his sadness to leave us but his belief and faith that the transition will be awesome and that he is not afraid. We cried, we laughed, we told stories, the children asked questions. It was an amazing time.

Today Dana said that last night almost felt unreal....maybe like we went to a very different place for a few hours and learned a tremendous amount. I asked Richard alot of questions during this talk...especially about things that I knew had been confusing for the children...regarding the divorce between he and their Mother, when he began dating me, what it was like for them to initially meet me, how they are feeling now about all of this. He found out how deeply his children love and respect him...what an awesome thing for a Father to hear. He found out that his children held no resentments regarding his decision to leave their Mother. He heard that over their adult lives both of them have thought about taking on the Estes name....prompted by no one....just realizing that they wanted both their parents represented. We talked about things that we all wanted to happen. Emily wants us all to sleep in the same bed. Richard talked about what he wanted before he died. I talked about my fear of doing life without him. It was a beautiful evening for us all.

I will post our Christmas pictures later. Right now I don't think I can look at them. We did have a joyous Christmas and we had lots of fun. It was perfect....absolutely perfect...accept that Alex and my Mom (who got a cold) weren't with us. But today even that seems unreal and hard to hang onto. I just need to sit where I am......and be by Richard. Right now that seems like the most important thing I can do.

We love you all. Please keep Richard in your prayers and thoughts.

Love Sherri