Friday, June 25, 2021

A Seredipitous Moment

Staying in the hospital is not the best thing ever. And the last time I only had two big highlights:

#1 - I had a mock photoshoot in the bathroom—where I tried to make my hospital gown “sexy.” The nurse ended up freaking out because I’d been in the bathroom for so long (trying to hide from her honestly). Later an award-winning photographer saw the photos online and asked to take PROFESSIONAL pictures of me in my gown for cancer awareness!  Say whaaa??? Talk about awesome!

#2 - While I stayed at the hospital I had several wonderful visitors including my 16-year-old daughter.

If you’ve been reading my posts, you might recall that my 16-year-old ran away last October, a week before I was officially diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

Honestly, her absence in our lives has been harder than the cancer. Although we kept in contact weekly, even that brief interaction seemed unexpectedly strained, and I couldn’t understand how we’d gone from extremely close to distant in a matter of moments.

But I have good news: Over the last couple of months my 16-year-old started contacting me more and even said she missed me. 

When she came to visit in the hospital, we played games and laughed. After that, Sky said something that really struck me: “I forgot how funny I could be,” she said as we giggled.

You wouldn’t believe it, but she actually decided to come home. And now that weeks have passed, I can’t tell you how full my heart finally is again. Despite nausea, having labs that still show I’m in liver failure, and currently being on probation from cancer treatments, I am the happiest! Thank God I stayed at the hospital because I think that visit is what ultimately encouraged my baby girl to come home!

It’s not easy raising teenagers. In fact, it’s hard being the one to set down rules, make sure they have chores, help with homework and job responsibilities (that 5 a.m. paper route was the worst!), and work together with your spouse to stay in lockstep. I’ve decided though that as long as we’ve shown them how much we love, appreciate, and value them—for who THEY are—it works out in the end. They’ll know they can succeed and thrive in this tough world.

I once met a man, years ago; tragically his son had committed suicide. I remember our conversation because he wanted to give me advice even though my kids were quite small at the time. “Just show them how much you unconditionally love them. That’s what I failed to do.” And I’ve held his words close to my heart. Even though the teenage years have definitely had moments I thought we’d never get through (like when Sky ran away), the best we can do is show unconditional, selfless love.

This “reunion” still hasn’t been easy. We’ve had to talk about my fight against cancer, and she’s even spoken with a counselor at the Huntsman.

“I believe she pulled away because she was so scared to lose you,” the counselor told me. “She knew you were sick when she ran away—she knew something was wrong. It’s pretty common for kids her age to withdraw. It’s their way of coping.”

“Wow. I just never thought she’d need to leave to process all of this. You’d think this would bring families closer together.”

“Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t.”

I thanked her for everything, then we hung up and I walked into a fancy photography studio. Remember that award-winning photographer (and amazing friend) I told you about earlier? Dawn (of Fuzzy Love Photography) normally takes pictures of animals, yet she sent me an idea of boudoir poses for the “hospital gown shoot.” So, as I walked into the building, while still thinking about the call with my daughter’s counselor, I mentally prepared for a unique photo session.

Can you believe—after the insane year I’ve had with surgeries, hospital stays, radiation, and infusions—this woman made me feel like a real, live model!

After laughing and having the most wonderful time , I ended up telling Dawn about my daughter.

“I wish I could meet someone who went through this as a teenager—someone who knows what it’s like to be so young and have a parent with cancer...” I had JUST said the words when the owner of the photography studio peeked her head from around the corner.

“I’m so sorry for eavesdropping,” she said, “but I heard what you were saying. My mom… Well, my mom died of cancer when I was 17….” Her eyes grew quite large as she waited for my response.

My heart stopped. It became so incredibly hard to breathe. There stood this gorgeous business owner who appeared unscathed by hardship, and she was literally my answer to prayer.

Dawn and I looked at each other and both teared up. It was one of those serendipitous moments. 

The lady who owned the building talked with us about what it was like dealing with this as a teenager and how I should just be as loving and understanding as possible. “I pulled away from my mom too,” she said, then explained that she hadn’t talked much to her mom for the last month before she died.

“I don’t blame my daughter for pulling away,” I said. “This whole thing is so incredibly hard to process. I’m sure your mother felt the same. We simply love unconditionally. In the end, we just want our kids to know how much they’re loved….”

“Your daughter will be okay,” the woman said. “She has an amazingly strong mother, and she’ll look back and see that—just like I do. Give her the space she needs when she needs it. It’ll all work out.”

I wiped more tears away. This whole encounter would be etched into my mind forever.

Dawn and I walked from the building after that. I told her thank you for everything. (I had a sneaky suspicious she hadn’t done this as a cancer awareness shoot at all, but because she wanted to make me feel special.)

I gave her a huge hug and asked if she’d like to go to dinner sometime. “You’re too much fun!” I said before getting into my car. Because she IS epic!

So, that’s what I did last week after my appointments at the Huntsman in Utah. I had my pictures taken by the best animal photographer in the Western States and met a stranger who reminded me that my kids will be okay despite this harrowing situation. They’ve had a good foundation, and I need to remember that just like God has a plan for my health, He’s also looking out for my family every step of the way too. It’s astounding how serendipitous moments work; after all, when we’re open to the unexpected, that’s when miracles can happen.

For more info about Fuzzy Love Photography, please visit: Fuzzy Love Photography

For more info about this amazing head wrap, please check out Bliss Silk.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Scars and All

Once I interviewed a Vietnam veteran who told me he’d waded through swamps filled with leeches. He’d smoke cigarettes, and then use them to burn the leeches off himself just so they wouldn't keep sucking his blood. 

Now, I know stage 4 cancer isn't quite THAT bad, but there are days when I do feel like I'm wading through a swamp, just hoping to find solid ground. Yet, what happened last week gave me the anchor I’ve needed.

Someone paid for me to get a manicure for Mother’s Day. I’ve been pretty excited about it, but when I got to the salon last week, judgement practically emanated from the woman doing my nails. She impersonally motioned for me to put my hands on the counter before roughly sanding my nails and yanking on my hands. I tried talking to her, but she acted like she didn’t understand English, so we sat in silence for a while.

I’d worn fancy earrings and clothes that day (all from Goodwill *scha-bam!), and she hadn’t seen that I walk differently from regular people. I realized then that when I’m sitting, no one would know I’m sick. Regardless of the reason “why,” she didn’t act very nicely, and I just wished I could understand more about her.

(A dress I got for $5 at Goodwill.)

It wasn’t until she got to my left thumb that she studied my disfiguration and looked at me. “What happened?” she suddenly spoke bluntly—in English!

“I cut my thumb in half on a tablesaw,” I said. “It was crazy. The poor kids behind me—blood went everywhere. It was the worst accident that high school woodshop class ever had.”

“Hmmph! And what’s this?” She pulled my arm really hard and started touching the bruises on my inner elbow.

“I have stage four...cancer,” I said. “They have to draw my blood a lot and do treatments. I wanted a port, but I guess I can’t have one because I’ve had blood clots in the past.”

The air around us shifted. I swear this woman went from hating me...thinking I was some snotty feeling compassion.

She showed me all of HER scars then; they ran from her hands to her arms. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed them before! Just like she’d missed so much about me, I had missed so much about her.

“I’m from Vietnam,” she said. “I fished for a living before coming here. These scars are all from fishing.” Then her eyes twinkled as she let go of my hand and stared at me. “We killed the fish—while they were still alive.”

I didn’t know how else you’d kill fish, but THAT made me smile—as if a real, live pirate sat across from me!

“You have kids?” she asked.

“Yes, I do. Four.”


“19, 16, 13, and 11.”

“19! I have a 19-year-old too,” she said.

I beamed as she showed me pictures. “She’s a real beauty!”

So we talked about our children, fishing, and even cancer. We both said how hard life can be and how strange things turn out. And oddly enough, neither one of us could fathom what the other had gone through! I couldn’t comprehend Vietnam, and she couldn’t imagine having cancer. 

And this woman—who’d pretended to not speak English—suddenly became a sort of kindred spirit.

After I gave her a tip and walked out to my car, she darted from the building and yelled across the parking lot. “Good luck! Hang in there!”

“You too,” I said.

As I drove away, I couldn’t help smiling. 

We all go through hidden struggles that no one sees on the surface. It’s just nice when we can have these transcendent moments and find such beauty along the way. I’m so glad I met that woman who felt generous enough to let down her walls to share some of her story with me. She is pretty amazing.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Generosity for Generosity’s Sake

We often need God’s grace the most when we’re experiencing the hardest times. As I watched men clearing out our fallen tree, I went inside momentarily to keep from bawling. It’s just that...people have been so kind!

We’ve struggled through some crazy things lately—and stage four cancer just compounds it all. When water damaged our basement’s carpet, a tree fell down, I experienced stage 3 liver failure, and our A/C stopped working, I REALLY didn’t know what we would do. 

I made jokes about it, (‘cause why not?), and Mike and I even had a photo shoot in the fallen tree “jungle.” But things felt hopeless when the doctor told me remission isn’t currently an option and that although my cancer isn’t progressing, the tumors in my spine and neck aren’t getting better. 

This IS actually good news—yet, a Herculean task. It means we’ll start infusion treatments again in three weeks, but I might have them for the rest of my life. Not only is this expensive, painful, and debilitating—it’s the price I must pay to see my children grow up. When I’m not feeling nauseous (or throwing up), I’m taking medications that completely knock me out just so I can keep food down. In short, it’s my new normal...and that NEEDS to be okay. (I know other people have it much worse than I do. But for just a moment, this reality felt insurmountable.) 

At the age of 38, I have stage 4 cancer that isn’t going anywhere.... It’s way better than a sudden death—but it is weird basically knowing how I’ll die. We went from a two-year life expectancy to more.... The point is, they just don’t know.

We’ve been dealt some rough hands, and just when I think we’ll lose the game, we get a wildcard!🃏♣️♥️♠️♦️

Last week, I honestly felt tired beyond words. Then a friend from high school gave us enough money to replace our flooring! My brother and nephew helped us fix the A/C in our house. One of my AMAZING cousins and several friends gave us enough funds that I can continue traveling and getting treatments—and everything is currently paid for!!!

I’m crying as I write this because I can’t believe how extremely—exceedingly—kind people are: people who don’t expect anything in return!

After the men cleared out the tree, our good friends stayed to talk with us as we ate a dinner they’d brought over. I learned that one of the men came to help because his son beat cancer. Another man was a stranger to everyone! He simply showed up because he heard about our situation from a friend (of a friend).

And so everything just came together. It’s been really hard needing help, but seeing everyone’s kindness has truly changed my life. Other people deserve this so much more than I do, but I’m beyond grateful for everything.

Cancer has been one of the worst things that’s ever happened to me, yet, this love I’ve felt from nearly everyone, well, it’s one of the best. 

Thanks for all of the generosity and support. YOU have changed my life. Somehow a hard situation has become surmountable. Thank you...for being my miracle.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

‘Oh! My Gosh. It’s You!’

“Elisa?” The woman looked my way, totally dumbfounded. “EC Stilson?” she said louder when I didn't respond. 

I didn’t recognize this woman at all. But she clearly knew me....

Maybe we'd gone to school together? 

She walked over after that and started telling me all about my life: how my son died and how my dad had colon cancer. She almost went chronologically from the beginning to the end (through my divorce and sickness), saying she couldn't imagine how I've gotten through everything and still “seen the bright side.” And the whole time I had literally no idea what to do because I couldn’t remember who this woman was!

Finally—getting desperate—I used the oldest trick in the book. “Oh! My gosh!” I squealed. “It'!” Then I gave her the biggest hug on earth just hoping that somehow the physical contact would jog my memory—and I would suddenly remember her.

The woman broke out laughing at this point. “You are just like your books! This is great.” Then she laughed so hard I thought she’d bust. “I don't actually know you,” she said.

“Wait a minute.” Then it dawned on me. My life is an open book—well books—plural.

“You did a book signing at my daughter’s school, and she won ‘The Sword of Senack.’ We had so much fun reading it that I started reading your memoirs. I just can't believe I would run into you and recognize you from your pictures online and things!” She suddenly turned sort of pale. “Oh! Don’t think I'm a stalker. I just found a lot of inspiration in what you're going through and how you handle it.”

“Don’t be embarrassed.” I chuckled. “I just hugged you and acted like I knew you!” 

“Well, I do feel like I know you. Hey, actually, this is so ironic, but can you do something for me?”

“Ummm...sure?” I nodded, and can you believe she actually went to her car and brought back “The Golden Sky” for me to sign?! I couldn’t believe she had it in her car! This was seriously the oddest—coolest—thing. For once IN MY LIFE, I felt like a successful author!

Life can be so terribly hard. I really don't know if I'm handling it all that well, but moments like this make it pure magic! Because even if I can’t hold food down and the doctor had to stop cancer treatments for a bit because my liver was dying.... Even when dinner is burnt, I’m exhausted beyond words, and I make more mistakes than anyone I know, there are Godwinks all around letting me know that God still loves me and everything will be okay.

So, I'm still amazed that someone recognized me AND actually read my books. But it sure was a neat way to make a new friend. When I started writing I had no idea how much it would connect me to so many people. If I never would've shared Zeke’s story, I don't think I'd have the same amount of support that I have now. There's power in vulnerability—in letting people know what our struggles  are. I'm just so grateful I've been able to send this “message in a bottle” out into the world, and that I’ve made so many new friends—and memories—in the process.

“Oh, my gosh! It’!” 🤣

Let Positivity Buoy You Forward

We recently received something quite disturbing in the mail. Someone anonymously sent us a document detailing how certain people are chosen to be the bride of Christ while others are not. These others are “people marked, stricken down with sicknesses and trials, so others will know those who are NOT God’s chosen people.” It went on to say that—if I’ve been wondering—this is why I’m sick...because I haven’t been “chosen.”

This upset Mike, and he didn’t want to tell me about the document for a few days. And when he finally did (because I knew something was eating him alive) the news literally brought me to my knees. I prayed, “Dear God, I’d really like to spend eternity with you. I can’t imagine existing away from you. So, if you have room for me in Heaven, that would be great.” I paused. “Why would someone want to hurt me so badly when I’m already going through so much? Why would a ‘Christian’ send this to me?” I exhaled slowly. “Anyway, thanks for listening. Amen.”

It took a couple of days, but after the shock wore off, the whole thing reminded me of something I’ve finally realized about sickness, trials, and flaws.

You see, when I first got cancer, I coped by painting....

I’ve been working my whole life to be worth something—to produce things that made me feel of value (start businesses, write books, play various instruments)—to rid myself of flaws. But when you get a cancer diagnosis, especially stage 4, that is NOT a sign of perfection.

My dad told me the other day how God sent him perfect children. I teared up a little, thinking about how I’m not perfect and cancer is just another blaring sign of that, a beacon saying, “I’m defective—and I’m definitely not good enough.”

But then I remembered my paintings. They are SO terrible that I could never make money off of them. My first few paintings were extra-horrendous because I’d go back and try to fix the flaws over...and over. But spray paint (my cheap medium of choice) dries so quickly that things stay permanent and too much paint just turns to brown soup.

Now, after months of this, I’ve learned to work around the flaws. In fact, some of my favorite parts of these pictures are actually things that went “wrong”...the unfixable turned perfect. And in these flaws I’m seeing such incredible beauty, and the paintings are improving too!

A misplaced white dot turned to snow-capped mountains. A buck transformed into an majestic antelope. Even a boulder turned into the silhouette of a bear!

As I painted yesterday, it hit me again: Who cares if everyone knows I’m flawed, sick, and experiencing trials? I don’t think that designates me as someone shunned by God. This is simply an opportunity to become stronger and rise to the occasion. Maybe THIS is my chance to shine despite hardship! Just like these paintings, I’ll use the undesirable to my advantage. Although I’m exhausted and battling for my life, my soul is becoming resilient...and even things like this judgmental document are making me a better person.

Every day I’m remembering to embrace the imperfections and find beauty in them no matter how hard that might be. It’s a great mindset to live by—whether I get better or not. 

So, I’m resolute today: No matter what, I will let positivity buoy me forward...for myself and others.

One of my recent paintings.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Fiddle for a Dying Soul

Several years ago, before my cancer diagnosis and my whole world flipped on its head, I stepped into a bedroom with a four-poster bed and a poofy white comforter. A little head stuck from the top of the comforter. The woman smoked, completely horizontal, with her face barely visible! A bottle of whiskey sat on her end-table, still pretty full. I blinked hard, then stared—so this must be the cantankerous, dying woman.

"You’re the fiddle lady? You're not what I expected at all. You're much older."
I studied her, then before stopping myself, responded with, "You're not what I expected either. You don't even look like you're dying."
Her daughter, who had led me into the room, turned very pale.
I thought I'd get the smack-down from "Old Smokey," who still puffed away at that Camel Gold, but as she studied my apologetic face, she suddenly burst out laughing and coughing and laughing again.
"Awe, kid. You're too honest. But so am I."
I bit my lip and smiled at her. "Mrs. Beck, I like you."  
"Yeah, that happens from time to time. I'm usually an acquired taste, but the people who like me right off, I figure those are the good ones." She grinned so wide, showing several missing teeth and even a big silver one that modern rappers would go crazy for! "So what do you got, kid?" she asked, and I bent over to lift my violin from its case.
"I'm gonna play some oldies. That's what I heard you like." I snapped my shoulder rest into place and tightened my bow. "Mrs. Beck," I said, because I'm super direct, "you keep calling me kid, but you said I'm older than you expected."

“That? Anyone under fifty is a kid to me! And they keep bringing preteens over to see me—like they're doing a good deed or something. Why are you here anyway, Elisa? Why did you come?"
I thought for a minute. "I guess, I just want to make you forget whatever it is that you're going through—even if it's just for a minute. Focus on something else, and enjoy." I set my violin on my shoulder. “So, I have a favor to ask you. Set down your cigarette and close your eyes."
She kinda snort-laughed, set her ciggy down, then snuggled into that huge white pillow before closing her eyes.  

“Now, as I play, I want you to picture a story."
And I started. First I played the beginning of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon and Garfunkel. The music started out quiet—a trickle of spring rain. "When you're weary, feeling small." The words swam around my head as I played. "When tears are near your eyes, I will dry them all...  I'm on your side when times get rough and friends just can't be found. Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down."
Little tears seeped from the sides of Mrs. Beck's eyes. She glowed, so utterly beautiful, like an elderly Snow White or somethin' with her sheered, dyed-black hair and leathery face. But instead of lying there, waiting for the kiss of her prince, she was dying...waiting for the kiss of God.
Tears suddenly came to my eyes too, and I told myself to quit being such a freakin' pansy. I shut my lids and instead of letting my emotion escape through the weakness in my eyes, I pushed that pain into my arms, my hands, my fingertips. And I played that violin, like a flippin' lover—it cried in my arms, wailing over the melodies and having so much power it couldn't help reacting to the sheer feeling flooding my body. I knew Mrs. Beck and her daughter could feel the very sorrow buried deep in my soul—my sorrow for them. Because that violin was a magnifying glass, exemplifying exactly why I was there, who I was, and that I wanted to offer at least some semblance of peace. 
"Sail on by. Your time has come to shine. All your dreams are on their way...."
Then my bow grew with deep friction and strength, and I transitioned into notes and melodies that just came to me. My fingers and violin took over. That's the funny thing about me and my fiddle; I think I have control, then that thing takes over like an addiction. I have the roadmap, but my fiddle has the details that always take me there—a good friend, leading me home.
The song swelled, over and over. At one point, I realized the window at the foot of Mrs. Beck's bed remained open, because a gust of wind rode in on a high note. Right after that, my fingers and bow slowed to a stop. The notes descended to my D string, and the weight of the music left my body. The song...was over.
I held my violin at my side, that extension of self, then faced the window and closed my eyes. I didn't want Mrs. Beck or her daughter to see me cry. I even prayed the wind would come again, and God would dry my tears. The Becks were sad enough. They didn't need to see some kid—over thirty—crying because she "felt bad."
"Elisa," Mrs. Beck rasped. She beckoned me to the side of her bed. I wiped my eyes, then obeyed. She reached out her wrinkled hand, with that soft, paper-thin skin, and grabbed my fingers. "That...Elisa, that was beautiful."
"What did you see," I asked, "when you closed your eyes?"

Something from when I was a kid.  Something I thought I forgot. My mom, dad, and I were walking in a field." She took a very deep breath. "I miss them. They were good parents."

I had to twitch my nose just to keep from crying. After all, she'd probably be reuniting with a lot of people soon. I put my violin away, then hugged both Mrs. Beck and her daughter.

"It was nice meeting you both," I said. Then, I left the house, and I never saw either one of them again.
And now that I’m sick, I can’t help remembering these odd moments from my life that have all built into something so much more. The present...sure is a strange thing. 

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Do Trials Come in Threes?

 I took a picture after deciding to show you my arm—that’s bruised from constant cancer labs—when suddenly a massive part of our tree blew down in the backyard. I simply had to laugh out loud because this happened after water damage in our basement and the death of our A/C unit. 

(My arm = the smallest of my worries.)

So, let’s play the “glad game.”

#1 At least the tree didn’t hit our house.

#2 The repairs to the basement are gonna be awesome!

#3 Mike, my brother, and my nephew (Neo) already fixed the A/C unit—and I think they had fun doing it. (They even went and got death-hot wings after.)

So, this afternoon Mike, Trey, and I went outside and took pictures. We figured our family can look at this one of two ways: We lost a great tree or we got free firewood. 

Thank God Mike just built us a firepit. #FistPump #ComingUpRoses

I might still have cancer, but I’m gonna have s’mores now too. Blam! I’m the luckiest!

Saturday, June 12, 2021

This is War

It started as an odd journey. Who knew that having cancer could bring so many people together. But I’ve written all about it, been open and honest about my fears, doubts, and even peace with it all. And what’s happened in return has been amazing.

I’ve met people who have survived cancer or are still battling it. They’ve felt the same as me and now have someone new to talk with. I’ve seen people miraculously healed from tumors. I’ve met people who’ve died, and now I know their surviving family members. I even wrote about my doubts with religion and was surprised to discover that I wasn’t the only person who had an exorcism done on me when I was a teenager. That same pastor had done exorcisms on two other kids I knew. Each of us had no idea about the other experiences. And...after over 20 years of feeling like a “bad” person, peace came with the knowledge that I’m not alone. That’s what cancer has taught me: I’ve never really been alone, even when I thought I was.... Family and friends were there. God was always there, too.

I’ve had some very good news and some hard news recently. My brain tumors are gone—which is a miracle in and of itself. (The doctor told me those are usually the last to go, if at all.) But my liver started failing a few weeks ago because the immunotherapy began killing the cancer AND my liver. My lab numbers continue to improve right now, but we did have to stop cancer treatments for a moment so my liver can recover. This really IS a battle. And just when I think I’m starting to win, there might be a sobering setback that momentarily buckles my knees.

Anyway, what I wanted to say isn’t how tough this is, but rather how beautiful it’s been seeing the love and support from so many people. Laying everything bare, although terrifying, is liberating. I thought people might shun me for some of the things I’ve shared, but instead, people have selflessly shown love—and just accepted me despite all reason.

You see, none of us know what the future holds or if we’ll even wake up tomorrow. And that uncertainty can be scary. But when we have the love and support of each other, life’s so much easier: It’s beautiful. I have more flaws than most, but the fact that people have accepted me regardless, well, it’s one of the greatest gifts of my life. And I’m so fortunate to see it while I’m still alive—I honestly think everyone has this support, they just don’t always get to see it.

I’ll have more scans this week (and my biweekly labs). We’ll find out where to go from here (if they’ll continue a lighter version of immunotherapy—or if they’ll start chemo). 

Wish me luck and strength. 💪 Things are really starting to look up, but this is war; and I guess war isn’t meant to be easy. I asked for God to refine me in 2020, ten months before my cancer diagnosis. I better buckle up. Apparently, trying to be the best version of myself is gonna take a LOT more time!

(Free fishing day in Idaho, 2021. Living life to the fullest!)

Monday, June 7, 2021

That’s a Beautiful Thing

I remember the first time he came in because a couple of the other patients accidentally stared. You see, “Jeff” didn’t look ordinary. He had tiny ears that sat low on his small head. His chin sloped inward, practically nonexistent, and the way he wore his loose clothes showed he’d been born with other abnormalities he preferred to hide.

Over the months, we spent a lot of time in the waiting area together. In between my answering of phones and processing of bills, we visited about the intricacies of life. Slowly he stopped wearing his hood. Sometimes we laughed. One time we cried.

“I like coming here, Elisa,” he finally said one day. “It’s nice having someone to talk to.”

“I’m glad,” I said. “It’s always so fun visiting with you.”

Time passed. I eventually got a better job that led into a bachelor’s degree and then a career. Years later, I ended up running a newspaper in a different town—and as such, I became one of the first people to see the obituaries before they were printed.

I still remember the day I read Jeff’s obituary. His elderly mother (at least in her late 80s) had called and sent it in. He lived with her all those years even into his 60s. And I’m still not sure why, but I didn’t tell her I knew Jeff until she came into the office to get several copies of the newspaper.

As I handed her the publication, I just couldn’t believe that Jeff was really gone.

She started walking out the door and suddenly turned. “He had so many birth defects. And he was so sick. He had no friends. He never got out of the house.” Huge tears rolled down her face. “It’s killing me that he never really knew anyone—and it was all my fault. He lived with me all these years. I just wish he could’ve known more people.... Someone. Anyone....”

“Ummm, Mary,” I used her first name because I’d heard so many lovely stories about her, “I have something to tell you.” Then, I asked her to walk outside with me, so we could talk privately.

I told her about her brilliant son and how much he had changed my life. I explained that Jeff had loved her and all the kind things she’d always done for him. I shared everything I could think of: How he encouraged me to strive for more and switch careers. How his simple visits to the clinic made my job bearable. How his wit and humor were nearly unrivaled. But mostly how much he had appreciated all of her sacrifices so he could have a fulfilling life.

“I can’t believe he was from this small town! And that I’m meeting you now!” I said. “It’s a bit unreal.”

“It was meant to be. You have no idea how much I needed to hear this.” She smiled so big, her eyes completely flooded with peace.

“You know...I don’t think any of us truly realize the complete import of our actions. I bet we’ve all changed so many lives—just like Jeff changed mine.”

She gave me the biggest, longest hug. And I kept thinking about how amazing it felt to share such a sacred, unexpected moment with a stranger. 

Friday, June 4, 2021

Make the Most of What You Have

They admitted me to the hospital last week because the cancer treatments started hurting my liver. I guess they’re just working a little too well.

Anyway, I got so bored at the hospital that I had a fashion shoot in the bathroom. The nurses would’ve killed me if they knew because I was supposed to be resting. Oh well ... I think they thought I was pooping.

But ... in other news, they let me out last Saturday, and I’m feeling MUCH better. It’s so nice to not be in as much pain today. Thank God for good days—and for modern medicine. 

I’m loving having the summer with my kids and my husband. Being with them and working from home is just about the best thing ever.

The Throes of a Dryer

In what many are calling a possible murder/suicide/homicide/tragedy ... my favorite Victoria Secret bra died in the dryer early this morning. Literally ripped strap from strap—leaving padding strewn amidst fading, damp towels—the remains were nearly unidentifiable.  

It has been said, and I quote, "The deceased was dearly loved, unforgettable. Able to bolster—even in the darkest of times."

Authorities on the matter have yet to decide the exact cause of death, although "failure to read a label" is one of the likelihoods under review. 

Others were slightly injured—i. e. my flippin' dryer—although workers (myself included) have reported no worries of lasting injuries. 

Survived by two implants.

Can we please take a moment of silence to pause for a damn bra—that cost more than my life is worth on some days!

Thank you!
*Heading to Walmart to buy a cheaper bra that can withstand being in the throes of a dryer!


Tuesday, June 1, 2021

A Book on a Grave

On Zeke's birthday I visited his grave and left a published copy of his book there.  It was my final way of saying goodbye.  I can't describe how bittersweet that felt.  At the time I had a romantic notion that God and Zeke were somehow guiding me.  I'd leave the book, and then the right person would find it—that's what I hoped for anyway.

After returning from his grave, I cried and cried at the computer because I was finally saying goodbye—after so many years of grieving over my son. 

Months passed after the publication in November of 2011, and my life, my marriage, and everything spiraled out of control.  One day, I sat on my bed and thought about how tough life can be. BUT even during the worst of my life—when Zeke died—God helped me the entire time.

“God," I prayed then, remembering.  "I'm worried about everything.  My life is falling apart.  I don't know what I'm doing anymore."

My oldest daughter knocked on my bedroom door.  "Mom?  Are you okay?"

“I'm fine."  I cleared my throat, then wiped the tears from my eyes.  "I can be strong," my voice came out as a whisper.  After all, it wasn't like Zeke was dying again.  

I hugged my daughter, went downstairs, and hopped on my computer.  It still amazes me how the strangest things can happen at the perfect times.  In that exact moment, the tides shifted a little for me.  I’d received an unexpected message.

“ don’t know me,” the message said. “You see, Zeke's grave is right next to my sister's grave. I went to put some decorations on her grave and Zeke's too. I’ve been putting a little something on his when I go out there as well, and I came across a copy of your book. It touched me in ways that you will not know. I am so glad you let me share in it. I cried when I read the part when Zeke passed.... I hope my sister is up there enjoying Zeke as well as a lot of your family members are. She loved children. I just wanted you to know how I felt and that I will continue to leave things on Zeke's grave if that is okay. I feel even closer to him now that I know his story. We lost my sister to breast cancer at the age of 45, and I was very close to her.”

I paused reading that part. I felt so much for this woman. But a strange peace filled my heart, just knowing that our family members are next to each other, and that she’d been leaving things for Zeke for so many years.

“God bless you and your family,” the message ended. “Take care!”

Reading that email, I realized something important: There's a difference between letting go and just saying goodbye.  Sometimes we don’t have to totally let go.

This Memorial Day, I felt bad that I wouldn’t be able to travel to Zeke's grave in Utah.  The doctors just released me from the hospital on Saturday, and I didn’t have the strength to travel back to Utah again today.

“I just wish I could do something special to honor him,” I told a friend. Imagine my surprise when she sent me a photo from the library. The staff chose “The Golden Sky” to feature this Memorial Day weekend....

It never ceases to amaze me how God is looking out for each of us. I hope Zeke knows how much I love him—and how I still remember. I’m so grateful the library featured his story so other people could meet my son this Memorial Day and remember him too.

Life is full of so many miracles.

Find out more about Zeke’s book here: