Let’s Go Racing!

Tomorrow is the Daytona 500.  We are usually excited but even more so this year since we will be going to the race in Las Vegas next month.  When we received our tickets it was bittersweet because only three arrived in the mail instead of four.

In years past, we invited friends over to watch the race or made sure we had plenty of pizza and snacks to celebrate.  Over the years the boys started watching more races and picked their favorite drivers.  Drew is a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan and Christian liked Jeff Gordon.  You can imagine our disappointment when Jeff Gordon announced his retirement, which just happened to be the year after we lost Christian.  It was bizarre seeing Jeff Gordon in the announcers booth with a suit on instead of on pit road in his fire suit.  I know Christian would have been bummed out not seeing the Dupont car on the track.

Since we lost Christian, I cannot hold the tears back as the National Anthem is performed or when Darrell Waltrip yells “Boogity, Boogity, Boogity!  Let’s go racing!”  I would like to share some photos of our trips to Las Vegas to see the race.  Christian and I just loved it when Darrell would yell at the beginning of each race so if you get the chance to tune in, even just for the “Boogity,” say it out loud for my son.  Enjoy!

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Christian wore this shirt almost every Sunday.  We set it out for the Daytona race last year.
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I became a Brad Keslowski fan after this moment.  He pushed the table aside for the picture and was very kind and patient.
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Kurt Busch was the first driver the boys ever met.  I am thankful he took a few moments for this photo.
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Dave and Drew all smiles as we wait for the green flag.
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Christian said meeting Michael Waltrip was the highlight of his last trip to Vegas!  The smiles say it all.

The Silver Lining

Too many people miss the silver living because they’re expecting gold.  -Maurice Setter

When I got married, my husband and I had it all planned out – we would have careers, at least three kids, and we would be the best parents we could be (supportive, encouraging, and active in our children’s lives).  The career part worked out eventually.  We were young,  moved a lot, and anyone who has been in the military knows how difficult it can be to adjust to civilian life.  We had two sons and always did everything we could to keep the boys active, healthy and happy.

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We took a trip to Fairmont Hot Springs in 2003

When the boys were diagnosed in 2001 with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, our dreams started to shatter.  Our boys never learned to ride a bicycle with two wheels, they were never able to learn how to drive, or able to participate in team sports.  I worked at a title company for a few years before I had to leave to care for the boys due to the progression of their disease.  I watched them lose the ability to walk, stand, raise their arms above their heads and I had to feed my oldest son during the last two years of his life.  We had to constantly adjust to our new “normal” as the boys needed more and more help with the things most of us take for granted.

Towards the end of Christian’s life, I had more and more difficulty finding the silver lining.  It was easier when the boys were younger – so easy to say it would never happen to us.  “A cure will arrive in time.”  “The disease will stop.”  “If I take the best care of the boys that I can, even at the cost of my own health, I can make this monster go away.”

I became miserable because I was focused on the gold that we never found.  I can look back now and see that Christian looked for that silver lining up until the last night of his life.  He asked me that night if we could take a day trip to Lewistown.  He still had hope.

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Christian’s smile will always be a gift to all of us

After losing Christian and continuing to watch Andrew deal with some of the same issues and complications Christian dealt with, you would think that the silver lining would be gone for good.  How can I see anything good come out of losing my son?  What kind of person would that make me?  There isn’t a single cell in my body that could possibly be glad my son passed away.

As hard as it is for me to admit, there is still a silver lining.  There will never be gold, but I’m okay with that.  What is the silver lining?  It is contained in the little things – the things that Christian taught me to appreciate.  Things like music, a bird on the feeder, sunshine on my face, a chance to make someone smile or laugh, the quiet moments during the day, a cup of hot coffee, being able to spend time with an old friend, or watching a good movie with my family.  I can be thankful that Christian is no longer suffering and that he didn’t have to pass away at the hospital, that he will never have to worry about another doctor appointment again, or see fear in my face as I watched him fade, that he is with the Lord, that he is at peace, and that he will only know love.

It is far too easy to focus on what we don’t have instead of what is under our very noses.  The all or nothing approach to life only leads to disappointment.  What if we were to do our very best with what we have?  Why not focus on what a person did right today instead of on what they did wrong last week?  If we expect our lives to be perfect, we will miss the miracles – the miracles that surround us each and every day.

Last sunset of 2015

As the sun started to lower in the sky this afternoon, I couldn’t help thinking that we were approaching the last sunset of 2015.  Thin, wave-like clouds stretched across the sky and snow was beginning to melt off of the streets.

The sun is almost completely set now, but I stopped for a few moments and watched the sky change colors and the clouds gather at the horizon.  The sun reflected a deep orange onto bare tree limbs and rooftops.  I thought about Christian, wishing he could be with us to celebrate the New Year.  It was the last sunset of 2015 and I am thankful for witnessing such a spectacular display of color.

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2015 was a year of grief, big changes and leaps of faith.  I spent a good part of the year accepting the loss of my son, best friend and hero.  I spent another good part of the year finally starting to realize that I did my best caring for my son until he went to God.  I have come a long way on this long, painful journey and I will feel the hurt for the rest of my life.  I have learned to manage with a broken heart and even feel moments of joy despite the loss.

We took a leap of faith when my husband left a very well paying job for his health.  A few months later, after over 10 years at home as a full time caregiver, I went to work.  Not just at any job, but the company I worked for until I had to leave to take care of my sons in 2005.  It blows my mind how things have come full circle.  Christian was walking when I left, both of my sons were walking.  And now I am back minus one of my boys.  Although this realization is painful, I am blessed to be working at the same place with the best group of people I could ask to work with.

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I became an aunt again and cried when I saw the first photo of little Damian.  I saw my youngest sister as a mother and felt so much love for her.

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Sonja and Damian

I am thankful for the healing God has done in my heart, the healing that has taken place in my husband after working harder than anyone I have seen for 14 years, for the blessing of returning to my former employer, becoming an aunt again and for the last sunset of 2015.  Big moments and small I am thankful for it all.  Corny but it rhymes, right?  Birds visiting my feeder, smiles from strangers, the sound of the furnace on a cold night, coffee with a friend, the small simple blessings that filled my days do not go unnoticed as 2016 approaches.

I will set goals for the new year as many of us do but for now, I will focus on the blessings in my life.  The simple yet most meaningful blessings.

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I find so much comfort in mourning doves.  I cannot take credit for this wonderful shot.

 

Happy New Year to all of you and thanks so much for reading my blog!

 

Long Time No Post

I must admit I was a bit shocked when I saw how long it had been since my last blog post.  I have read in more that one place that we have to make time to do the things that matter or we will never do them.  We also must not wait until everything is perfect before we pursue our dreams.  Our lives are ever-changing but our dreams remain in our hearts.  I have a dream of writing a book about my sons and their daily battle with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.  A book that I hope will inspire people to donate to the MDA and reach out to families afflicted with devastating, neuromuscular diseases.

So much has changed since my last post.  After over 10 years of being a full-time caregiver for my sons, I am back at work.  Not just any place of employment but the very company that I left to care for my sons.  I feel tremendously blessed to be rehired.  Even with blessings, it’s easy to still experience moments of fear and doubt.  Questions circled in my mind such as wondering if I would remember everything.  There is also the social aspect of working outside of the home that I have been missing for far too long.  It has been fun seeing people who I haven’t seen in years, literally.  It has been difficult not seeing my son as much but this change enables us to be a healthier and happier family.

October 27th marked the one year anniversary since Christian passed away.  I honestly thought it would be beneficial for me to go to work and with this year being the first one, I didn’t know what to expect.  Let’s just say I had to go home.  Being with my family made the day easier to bear for all of us.  This fall has been painful.  As I have been watching the leaves turn and fall off of the trees and the sun shine at a different angle, I have been flashing back to our last few weeks with Christian.  The good Lord has given me the comfort and strength I need to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  One sign of the healing that has taken place over the last year is the little moments of joy that fill my heart at the most simple of things.  A squirrel greeted me on one of my courthouse runs with a mouthful of leaves.  A house finch called to me from under a car in the parking lot behind the treasurer’s office.  A pigeon greeted me above the door before I went inside.  The simplest of sights are the most beautiful.

A squirrel in Gibson Park years ago.
A squirrel in Gibson Park years ago.

I had to remind myself lately that going back to work full-time does not mean I have to stop pursuing my dreams.  We can always carve out a little time every day to write, play a song on the piano or take a 30 minute walk.  I would love to hear about your dreams and I will keep you posted on mine.  I have a piano that I would love to start playing again but with most things, I will need to take baby steps.  I read a blog post by Tsh Oxenreider (theartofsimple.net) about not setting goals too big or it sets us up to fail.  It’s far easier to exceed a goal that’s simpler and realistic.  Wise words!

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Hit me Like a Bomb

As I was preparing lunch this afternoon, Hit me Like a Bomb by Third Day came on.  Lyrics video From the first time I heard this song, which wasn’t too long after Christian passed away, the lyrics became personal.

You hit me like a bomb
And everything I’m used to
Is suddenly gone
Sorry to accuse you
Do you know what you’ve done
When you hit me like a bomb

Hear the sound of the sirens ringing
See the world of a life that’s changing
Well you hit me like a bomb
I was scared and I started running
Can’t say I never saw it coming
When you hit me like a bomb

(La la la la la la la la…)

You hit me like a bomb
Everything’s changing
It didn’t take long
For you to start rearranging
Everything that I’ve known
When you hit me like a bomb

(lyricsmode.com)

I knew Christian wasn’t doing well.  His overall health was declining rapidly over the last 6 months of his life, whether I wanted to see it or not.  We knew we had to take him to the doctor and probably the hospital, but we didn’t think we were going to lose him that night almost 10 months ago.  When I went into his room to wake him up for the day, I was hit by the biggest bomb ever.  Our life as we knew it – forever changed.

I lost my son, my best friend, my hero and my life as I knew it.  Everything changed, including how I looked at life.  Life is still changing, rearranging.  Everything I ever knew up to that point no longer mattered.

As time has moved on, we have been healing in our own ways but we will never be the same.  Christian made us appreciate the small things, even something as simple as seeing a bird outside of the window or a spot of sunlight on the wall.  Because of him, no matter how much the darkness enfolds me, I will NEVER give up.  I have moments when I feel angry and I question God about Christian’s pain and suffering.  I remind myself of God’s love, provision, mercy and grace so the anger isn’t able to fester and make me bitter.  I would rather heal and live the life Christian so much wanted to live but wasn’t able to.

This song by Third Day has a rock sound to it and plenty of energy.  Let me know what you think!

Blog mania

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Hello blog world.  I hope everyone is having a good weekend!  The weather cooled off some in Montana but things are creeping back up into the 90’s again.  I filled the bird feeders this morning along with the bird bath and it wasn’t long before I witnessed some sparrows taking a dip.

I wanted to share with you a new format I want to try on my blog.  I have wanted to write regularly but sometimes it can be hard to come up with a topic.  It seems like the ideas pop into my head when I have nothing to jot them down on – like when I go to the store and forget what I came for.  I thought it would be fun to focus on a particular topic on certain days such as Throwback Thursdays or Photography Fridays – just something to dust the cobwebs off of the dark, unused corners of my mind and start being creative again.  Later this week I want to share with you how my blog is hopefully going to fit in with a larger goal I have in mind – something people have been encouraging me to do but I have been terrified of.  It involves writing a book.  That’s all I will say for now.

We are going through quite a bit of change in our household with my husband changing jobs and it’s far too easy to fall into the trap of fear and negativity.  I admit that my thinking and my words have not been too positive lately.  I miss Christian terribly and going through a major life change almost makes my heart ache more.  One thing that helps me through difficult times is to remember all of the good things God has done for us over the years.  He has provided us with all of the medical supplies for the boys, the right doctors and resources to ensure that my sons would have the best quality of life we could offer them.  The verse I want to share is from John 10:10 (NLT), one of my favorites.  Jesus said “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.  My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”  God’s goodness and abundance is limitless and so is His love for us.  He knows we are not perfect but yet He provides.  Jesus said himself that He wants us to live a full, satisfying life and He will provide all that we need and more.

I hope you will enjoy my new platform.  Some days are busier with doctor appointments and caregiving for my son but I will do my best to say a few words or make sure to the next day.  Thank you for reading my blog and have a wonderful week!

Lessons from loss

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I would like to start today’s post by sharing a bible verse with you.  “Lord, help me to realize how brief my time on earth will be.  Help me to know that I am here for but a moment more.  We are like grass that is green in the morning but mowed down and withered before the evening shadows fall.  Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should.” (Psalms 39:4; 90:5, 12 TLB)

When we lose someone we love, we are never the same.  Not too long after losing Christian, I would look out the window every morning and watch the sky change colors as the sun came up.  I still do.  At sunset, although my heart aches as daylight fades, I do the same thing.  I stand in my kitchen in the last light of the day and close my eyes, appreciating the warmth.  I am going to share with you something that Christian said to me the night before he passed away.  It felt like a knife going into my heart hearing it, but his words have changed me.  He said “Mom, I wish my pain would stop long enough so I could really look at and appreciate things.”  He said this as I was covering up his finch, Kiwi, for the night.  I think he wanted to look at him just a little bit longer.

During the years before Christian passed away, due to burnout mostly, I went through many days like a robot.  I would notice things but not REALLY notice.  I would see with my eyes but not with my heart.  Now, it’s like seeing everything through a new set of eyes.  I see the blueness of the sky and the red tints in the clouds and my heart stirs.  I hear a line in a song or a certain tune and I feel an inner stirring in my soul that I forgot was even there.

I read somewhere that we can take beauty for ashes.  We can take the soil, which is fertile with grief and watered with tears, and plant seeds which will slowly begin to grow into a beautiful flower.  This flower represents the beginning of spending life in a way that honors our loved one.  This may mean different things to different people such as appreciating the preciousness of each day, each moment or serving others.  This can also mean finding out who we are again and taking steps to rediscover our talents.  This may mean taking up a musical instrument we may have given up on years ago, picking up a drawing pencil again or going back to the gym.  For myself, I have drawn a couple of pictures and started working with my photos.  I have also cherished my reading time even more.  Christian and I shared a passion for books and I will keep on reading for him.

All I know is that life is too precious, too brief, to spend it being grouchy every Monday or to let our loved one go out the door without telling them we love them.  I look back on my life and see far too many moments that were taken for granted and I intend on living my life to its fullest, for Christian and for everyone I love.

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