small pieces of joy

pieces of joy in each day

the third

Monday marked the third anniversary of Dad’s passing from this world to the next.

The third year without Dad. Wow.

It seems like such a long time, but remembering the events from three years ago feels like just yesterday.

The past two years we have remembered Dad’s memorial day with something special. A service at the gravesite the first year, KSU football game and dinner at Texas Roadhouse the next.

This year I wanted to do something specific in honor of Dad, but it was hard to figure out what that would be.

We had a steak dinner at Mom’s and simply enjoyed family time, even though my youngest brother couldn’t make it.

I went home, put the kids to bed, and still felt like I needed to do something more to make the day feel complete. I had wanted to go to the gravesite by myself before dinner, but my husband got home late from work so I couldn’t do that. Then I was going to go after the kids went to bed, but now it gets dark early.

On a whim I left the house and drove to our church’s adoration chapel, thinking I had the code to get in. Nope. Wrong code. So I sat outside of the chapel, wondering if this was a sign or if I should wait for someone to come and let me in. After about 10 minutes I just decided to drive for a while and ended up in the cemetery at twilight.

Only a little creepy.

I turned the car off, started talking to Dad, then had a major cry-my-heart-out-tears-on-the-steering-wheel sob fest. As I was letting it all out, I still felt lost, like I needed to do something else.

I called my mom, and was at her house a few minutes later.

She held me and we cried. Cried about missing Dad, cried about the good memories, cried about the things he was missing, cried about what we thought he might be like today, cried about the whole crappy situation.

It was one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time.

The thing is…grief is complicated. There is no amount of time to make losing my Dad OK. Just because it is three years out does not mean I’m not still hurting. Yes, I’m getting much better about living my life without him. I’ve come to terms he is not here and will not be here.

But I’m still hurting.

It hurts that I had to see him decline over 10 months, that I was a new mom, living in a different state, trying to juggle all my roles, while cancer was slowly sucking the life out of my big strong hero.

That will never be OK with me.

And all those things I mentioned are things I haven’t had time to really process. Because unfortunately, life continues to move after loss. So it takes a while to get to a place where the shock, agony, and pain can come through and be truly felt.

No, I am not stuck. No, I’m not dwelling on the loss. I’m actually moving forward in the best way I know how.

The best way for ME.

I’m learning about grief, I’m allowing myself to feel, and I’m sharing with others in hopes they can work through their pain too.

These past few years have been the most challenging years of my life, and looking back, also the years in which I have grown the most. For that I’m thankful.

The third year without Dad. Another step forward on a long path to healing.

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words of remembrance

As I’ve been working through my grief, I’m saddened I wasn’t able to give words of remembrance in the days following Dad’s passing from this life to the next. I’ve found that I wish I could have said something to everyone who came to his visitation. I wish I could have said something to everyone who prayed for his soul at this funeral mass. I wish I could have given tribute to dad with words from my heart.

Looking back I know there were many reasons why it didn’t happen. Everything worked out the way it needed to in those moments. Some people, myself included, were able to say things to Dad at his Celebration of Life party. That just wasn’t enough for me, especially since he was driving his electronic wheelchair away from me as I spoke!

I guess it is never too late to write the words I would have liked to share with everyone eighteen months ago. And it is fitting that I will speak about his life on this day, March 8th, the day he entered this world in 1959. Here goes.

“My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”

These words from Clarence Budington Kelland sent goose bumps running all over me when I read them recently. I silently whispered, “That’s what my dad did.”

I didn’t really have a lot of heart to heart conversations with Dad about living life. But I really didn’t have to.

Dad taught me about life by living it.

By taking us on inexpensive, meaningful family vacations.

By showing me how to put a worm on a hook when fishing.

By helping me oil my glove, and always being my catcher.

By building our swing set and deck with his own hands (and a few helpers).

By helping us fly kites in the open field behind our house.

By showing us how to ‘box out’ at basketball practice and yelling a few intense instructions during a game.

By watching a Chiefs game with the TV announcer muted and the radio announcer blaring. (And yelling a few intense instructions during the game).

By clapping proudly after every sports game and band concert—especially after my adult dodge ball games!

By playing board games with the family and working his business skills to trade one wheat for two sheep.

By claiming every sports movie is his favorite because he loves the underdog. And watching them over and over and over and over.

By playing in the parents band, proudly banging on the drum that gave him so much joy.

By taking leadership positions even when the job is not easy and sometimes goes unnoticed.

By making the difficult call because it is the right one.

By being a man of few words, but making those few words speak thousands.

By respecting and working with people of all nations, creeds, and backgrounds.

By saying his name with confidence, followed by a strong handshake.

By lying down on the floor next to his crying daughter, reassuring her that things will get better.

By letting his daughter move into a shady apartment during college, even though he had huge reservations—and then letting her move out of the house before having a job!

By saying, “I’m proud of you buddy” after he spent a few days with his brand new grandson.

By allowing people into his cancer journey, accepting all forms of help and encouragement, and at the same time paying those gifts forward. And buying lottery tickets for the radiation nurses!

By going to confession for the first time in over 10 years, and then speaking to me about forgiveness.

By letting me teach him to pray the rosary when he couldn’t remember anymore.

By gracefully letting God take him Home.

As someone wrote in a sympathy card to our family, “He was honest, thorough, and trustworthy. There were only two types of people—those that didn’t know him or those that called him friend.”

I do not believe it was God’s will for Dad to have cancer. But God sure did use the fact he had cancer to show us more good and beauty in this world than I ever thought possible. All of our friends and family were God’s hands and feet on earth, showing His love during the most difficult time of our lives. We are now able to see how God used Dad to teach us loyalty, friendship, leadership, and LOVE.

I miss you, Dad, everyday. I’m working hard to continue the legacy you began and I hope to teach George and my future children the way you taught me. By living.

“I came so that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” –John 10:10

If you have some memories or words of remembrance you’d like to share with my son, George, so he will know his Papa better, please send them to george.j.ashley@gmail.com. I know he, and my family, would be forever grateful for your sharing of memories!

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friday

Seven Quick Takes for Friday

1–We received some sad news yesterday. Dad’s tumor has grown even under intense treatment. We have decided to stop treatment in order to improve quality of life. I’m still processing what all this means, but in the meantime I’m leaning on the love expressed in texts, facebook messages, etc. If I’ve learned anything during this trial it is “say something, do something” whenever someone is going through difficulty. It’s in feeling alone when our thoughts and worries can run wild.

2–I couldn’t sleep last night so I stayed up video chatting with my middle brother. It was calming, relaxing, and almost like we were in the same room. I need to send a personal note to the creator of video chatting and thank him or her from the bottom of my heart for making being away from family a little easier.

3–While I’m writing personal notes, I need to add the creator of spotify on that list. I have been listening to Mumford and Sons a lot lately, without having to pay for it. This makes this stay at home mom, wife of a graduate student very happy!

4–I watched View from the Top the other day, compliments of Netflix. I really love simple comedies, especially of the romantic variety. Just another guilty pleasure of mine. I really hope they bring back the plethora of ABC family Christmas movies in December…

5–I’m really enjoying the fact that my little one is sleeping through the night and taking long naps during the day. I sometimes get annoyed at the people on facebook who boast of their 3 week old sleeping through the night, but I have to realize that no matter when it happens, it is something to celebrate!

6–I’ve made a cleaning calendar. Yes…I spent the time I was supposed to clean making a cleaning schedule. Anyway, it sets out a few tasks to do each day so cleaning is not ever overwhelming. I plan to start today, but we’ll see if that happens. The best laid plans for me sometimes lack follow-through. I’m hoping this will work though!

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7–My brother mentioned he had prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for Dad the other day. This prayer is said with the aid of a rosary and has a very powerful focus on mercy. If you feel the tug to pray with us, please do. Here is a link to the information on how to pray the chaplet and the prayers. Any way you can pray for a peaceful transition for my dad is greatly appreciated. 

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Thanks for reading my quick takes. I will try very hard to find some small things in the coming weeks. 

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visitors

small thing from last week: visits

One thing that has stuck out from my stay with my family has been all the visitors who have been coming to see my dad. 

It feels like almost every day we have at least one person stop by to say hi. Some are bringing meals, some are giving dad a handshake between business meetings, and some have a mission in mind.

The day after we returned from Arizona we got a visit from a neighbor and his ukulele  group. They played a wonderful set of songs for us intimately in our living room. All the players were filled with joy and you could feel it permeate the room with every note. One song in particular really touched all of us deeply. It’s called The Hymn Song and it is a must-hear song. 

It was perfect timing because we all were a little sad to have to leave Arizona, but it was a reminder that lots of great things can happen no matter where we are.

Yesterday we had another great visitor: the Chick-fil-A cow! A friend of the family brought a wonderful lunch for us and the cow came along. George was a little hesitant at first, but eventually warmed up and managed a smile. 

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Having these visits to look forward to, and be surprised by, have made our days much happier. It has been so easy to be brought down by the weight of Dad’s cancer, or from all the things on the ‘to do’ list, or from feeling we can’t do it all. But the love we see from visitors wipes all that away, even just for a moment or two.

Have you visited someone lately? What’d you do together?

 

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