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Come See What Hope Looks Like

It’s been about six months since I’ve even logged into this blog.  I haven’t felt the desire or any event significant of writing about.  The saying that ‘time marches on’ holds true for us, as it does for the rest of the world.  New days come and go, and lives move forward.  I’ve said before, sometimes it feels as though Darren and I are stuck in a time warp.  There still isn’t a day, not really even an hour that goes by, that Tyler doesn’t creep into my thoughts.  I know that Darren feels the same, probably even more intense than I do, because I find myself busying every waking minute to avoid ‘idol’ time.  When I have too much time to think, it isn’t good for me.

But, nevertheless, we are finding ways to move forward.  We are loving our grandbabies and enjoying the paths that our children are choosing.  Tanner is almost ten months into his mission in Paraguay and enjoying his life of service there.  Things are not easy for him, but he has learned how to do ‘hard’, and is finding great satisfaction in the challenges.  Taylor is enrolled in school up in Rexburg at BYU-Idaho and is content with his new social life, a good job, and progressing in school.  Erika and Brian are still living close and are kind enough to bring the grandkids up and let them help heal our hearts and our minds.  Indeed, our lives are still very blessed and we realize that.

One of the projects I keep myself busy with is the Giving Trees.  I don’t write about them much because I feel  the need to protect privacies of those who are going through difficult things and want to keep them to themselves.  Since Tyler’s death, we have given over 100 Giving Trees to those suffering with life-threatening illnesses, mostly cancer, and I have found great satisfaction in seeing a measure of joy on the faces of those who have been fighting life’s toughest battles.  I had the amazing opportunity to meet one such fighter this past weekend, and with her mother’s permission, I want to share her story – hopefully so those who are fighting hard battles of their own will find strength in her story.

Occasionally, because of our time in Primary Children’s Medical Center, I will be fortunate enough to make contact with another cancer fighter who we feel could use a little smile – some hope that life doesn’t have to be all about pain and suffering.  I was put in contact with Nicole, a single mother of a three-year-old little girl with Neuroblastoma, Stage IV, who is fighting to stay here on this earth.

Sunday morning, I took a few of my sweet teenage-aged friends to PCMC to meet up with this family.  All we knew is that mom had three little girls – five-year-old twins, and Keanna, the little one with cancer.  We stood in the lobby watching for someone with three little girls to come in, when we saw her.  My heart skipped a beat as we walked to her.  I could feel her spirit and her strength before we even met and exchanged names.  The twin sisters were every bit as charming as well, holding hands and so quiet and sweet as they were introduced.  We only chatted for a few minutes before we gave Keanna her Giving Tree, this time not a real tree, as she is post-bone marrow transplant, and they cannot have living things like that in close proximity because of their extremely vulnerable immune system.  We bought darling silk branches and made our own ‘tree’.  We had filled it with gift cards and a bit of cash for this family.

We visited for only a few minutes, because Keanna actually had to go in to the hospital with a few complications.  As we got ready to say goodbye, Keanna, with her giant eyes, motioned for us to come down to her level so she could tell us something.  As we put our heads close to hers to hear her tell us goodbye, she whispered, “I’m so strong”.  That’s all.  No goodbye.  No other words.  Just a reminder to us of her unfailing spirit and strength.  That is so something that Ty would have done, probably not as sweet and tender as Keanna, but more like a roaring lion!  He always liked me to take pictures of his ‘muscles’ while he was in the hospital.  I think he actually posted one on Instagram when he had been admitted, demonstrating how ‘strong’ he was as well.  Maybe that’s why it hit me so hard.  I quickly said my goodbye’s and cried all the way to the car.  I couldn’t stop thinking about her all day.  I know that these trees cannot pay off medical bills, buy a new car that is probably needed, or make a rent or house payment.  I do hope that they bring a measure of peace, knowing that there is still good in the world today, and that people are always willing to help when asked.  This little sweetheart will be in my constant thoughts and prayers, as are so many I have met along this journey.

Thank you so much for all you do to help us continue to provide these trees.  The 5K coming up on August 9th should be able to fund a years’ worth of trees!  Our registrant list is well over 1200 so far, with almost 40 teams of warriors to run in honor and celebration of!  I am so excited to share this event again with so many who need a great cause to celebrate their loved ones also.  I think Ty would be proud.

If you are looking for something to do Saturday morning, August 9th – it’s not too late to register online at www.anythingforafriend.com, or just show up the morning of the race.  It’s not like any other 5K you’ve ever been to.  There are no ‘winners’ – just ‘finishers’…as we all have the responsibility to ‘Fight to our own Finish’.  Come find out what Hope looks like!!

Jasmine, Keanna, and Nikita - sweet sisters

 

Keanna - Diagnosed on Christmas Eve, 2013

Sweetest Little Fighter

Miracles

Well, I have yet to write anything on Tyler’s blog and it has been 18 month’s now since I lost my son.  Not a day goes by that he does not consume my thoughts.

Three years ago, my life was perfect I thought. Things were going well at work, my marriage was great, and my children were all doing great and growing up. My daughter had just had her first baby, and I became a grandpa – one of the greatest blessings in this life. My older son Taylor was on a mission in Houston, and I was enjoying hearing about his experiences as a missionary.  Tanner, my second son was now becoming a great golfer and I was finding it a challenge to try to keep up with him. He was also playing on a competition basketball team and I enjoyed going and watching him play. Tyler was my youngest.   We had just finished up football that fall.  We were back-to-back mini-bowl champions in his division. I had the great opportunity to coach Ty for 5 years.

The first weekend of May 2011, I took Tanner and Tyler to Las Vegas for a weekend and we played golf all weekend. It was a perfect weekend. The weather was great and I was playing golf with two of my boys. They were becoming great golfers by now and they challenged me on the course. At that time I did not know that in one week, my life was going to be turned upside-down.  I did not know that this would be the last great weekend with my boys golfing.

That next week I was in Dallas, for meetings. I left on a Thursday and would be returning on Monday. I really did not want to go-Ty had two basketball games while I was gone.  I hated to miss any of my boys’ games. Friday night he called me after his game and told me I missed one of his best games. He scored 22 points and told me he was on fire from the 3 point line.

Well Sunday came around and as I was getting ready to go off to my meeting that day, my phone did not charge over the night. I didn’t think I would need it on a Sunday, so I left it in my hotel room to charge. When I got back to my room that evening, I saw that I had missed several calls from Ann. I called her and she said Ty had been really sick and did not go to church.  She had taken him in to the doctor that afternoon. They came home with nothing to report. Later that night Ty became very sick and Ann took him into the emergency center. That was when I got the next call from her. It was then around seven in Dallas. I told her to keep me updated and I would have my phone with me. I had a very uneasy feeling that night. I knew something was wrong but cancer never crossed my mind. See, cancer does not run in my family or Ann’s.   It was one of those diseases that I thought I would never have to face in this life. I felt so uneasy that I even packed my bags.  I just had this feeling that I was going to have to catch a early flight home.

It was late and I was still waiting to hear from Ann. I was laying in my bed at the hotel room when I got the call. It was Ann.   “Please come home…they have found cancer in Tyler’s body. To this day I still feel that pain as my heart was just torn into several pieces.”

I caught a  flight from Dallas early that morning and arrived home in time to take Tyler to Primary Children’s Hospital for further tests.

In the next few weeks, I witnessed a young 14-year-old boy that had more strength than I have ever had. Not once did I hear a complaint or crying as I watched him go through several chemo treatments and through his sickness. I watched him vomit daily and when he was done he would shake his head, wiggle his body, and then that ‘Tyler’ smile would appear and he would say, “I’m hungry… can we go out and eat? or, “Can we go play golf today? A father is to teach his children valuable lessons of life, and yet, on most days, Ty was the teacher and I was the student.. From the time Tyler was born, he had a love of life. I don’t recall him ever being in a bad mood. When he was awake, he lived that day at full speed. Since he was just a toddler, by the end of the day he would be physically exhausted and it would take him less than 30 seconds for him to fall asleep each night.

Well, as the weeks went on and the test were being done, we were told that the chemo was not making any headway. We knew at the start that the chance of chemo working was less than 10%.

I knew from the beginning of this journey that I was in need of a miracle from God if Ty was going to beat this cancer. Ty stayed pretty healthy as far as staying out of the hospital with fevers and such. In fact, he was able to do most of what he wanted. It kept hope alive in me that just maybe, Ty would beat this cancer.

I have never played more golf in my life as I did the fall of 2011 and the spring of 2012. I’m grateful that I was able to do so. Golf was a passion for Ty, on one day as we were driving home from a round, Ty said, “Dad, I think I have an addiction.” I said,  “You do?…an addiction to what?”  He said,  “I am addicted to golf.  I love golf so much, I just can’t get enough.” He had this same passion for snowmobiling in the winter also.

When May 2012 came around, Ty’s health seemed to be getting worse.  He was starting to need blood transfusions because he was vomiting blood. My heart became very heavy once again as he seemed to take a turn for the worse. Mother’s Day  will never be the same for me the rest of my life, for it was on Mother’s Day 2012, that we were at Primary Children’s Hospital again for the 4th or 5th straight weekend. This time, though the blood transfusions were going right through Ty.  They could not stop the internal bleeding anymore. It was this day that we had to tell our son that there was nothing more they could do for him. This would turn out to be the second-hardest day of my life. We were sent home that night not expecting Ty to make it through that night. He did, and when he woke up on Monday, he wanted to play golf.  We did just that at Davis Park. By Wednesday, he was doing even better and we played 18 holes at Ogden Country Club. We were to play again on Thursday but Ty wanted to go to lunch with some of his friends.  He said, “Dad, lets play on Friday instead.” Well Thursday night, Ty made another turn for the worse, and by Friday did not have the energy to play golf.

On Sunday morning, May 20th, at about 1:30  I got my last hug from my son. He sat up in his bed,  gave Ann a big hug, and then turned and gave me a big hug.  He then laid back down as he took his last breath. This was the hardest day of my life.

As I look back, I had prayed for a miracle that my son would live and beat this cancer.  He did.  I now realize that, though I did not get the miracle that I wanted, I did get a miracle. Ty was given 3 months to live and he lived 1 year and 5 days. We did everything he and I wanted to do. I did nothing new or different with him that we had not done up to him being sick, we just did more of it. That year that he was sick, I never saw him as being sick, I just saw this as a set back. See, we still did plenty of golf and snowmobiling. I am so thankful for that year to do more of what we liked to do. It wasn’t until he after he passed away, that when I looked at pictures of him then, I could see how sick he was. To me, while he was alive that last year, he was just Ty to me.  He still had that big ‘Tyler’ smile. I now know that this was a tender mercy from my Father in Heaven to me. Without this tender mercy, I would have spent that last year in pain and sorrow.  I didn’t.  I enjoyed every minute of everyday that was spent with Ty, never once thinking that this may be the last time we ever do this again.

Since Tyler’s passing, I have never felt such pain and hurt that I was now experiencing in my life. There are not words in our language that can even begin to describe this pain. My faith has certainly been tested. I heard a lady who had lost a child say that it takes a different kind of faith to continue on with this life. At the time, I agreed.  I still do, but I have changed the word ‘different’ to ‘deeper’.  It takes a deeper kind of faith to continue to move forward. I found myself asking myself if I truly believed what I had been saying I believed to that point. It now took on a whole new meaning.

I am thankful for the wife that I was lucky enough to convince to marry me. I knew at the time I got married that I was marrying way above myself. She is a rock.  She is solid. At times I envy the strength she has shown. I myself have never cried more in my life. Before Ty got sick, I could have counted on one hand how many times I may have cried in my life. Now I could count on one hand how many days I have not cried in the past 2 1/2 years. I have become very emotional and it is still difficult for me to speak about Ty. Writing this is a huge step for me.

Through all of this, my testimony of a loving and living God has been strengthened to a greater height. My testimony of Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice is much more real and has a much deeper meaning in my life now. I have pondered the words in Matthew chapter 11 verses 28-30: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  I have found peace and comfort as these words have sunk into my heart.

From a couple of tender mercies from my Heavenly Father, I know that Ty is still very much alive and a part of my life. Though I can’t see him, which I would prefer, I know he is my angel watching out for and taking care of his Dad now.

In the wisdom of my lovely wife, she had me hang some decor in our bedroom over the door. I read it every morning on my way out.  It says, “Life is all about how you handle plan B“.  I have thought about this so much.  Everyone in this life will have to handle plan B – some a plan C, and so on. This life is the time to prepare to meet God and we will be tried and tested in one way or another. At some point all of us will have to follow a plan B and that will be our test to see how we handle it.

One last quote which I just read again today:

In the sight of the Lord, it is not so much what we have done or where we have been but much more where we are willing to go.

Thanks to many for your prayers on my behalf.  I thank you for praying for me to have peace and comfort in this life. Though a day does not go by that I don’t miss him and still have pain not being able to share this life with Ty, I know that the day will come when I will see his face and see that ‘Tyler’ smile once again. Then will my joy be full once again.  Until then, I will continue to press forward with  hope and faith of this day.

Pine Canyon Golf Resort in Flagstaff Arizona

 

 

 

Email from Heaven

Oh how I love technology! It can be such a blessing in our lives…I remember when my brothers were on their missions in Guatemala and Japan, it would take a good two weeks for letters to get back and forth. By that time, we’d forgotten the questions that we would be getting the answers to!  News would be ‘old’ by the time we got it…but we didn’t know any better, so it was exciting to get that thin red, white and blue folded piece of paper stamped ‘airmail’ in the mailbox each week!
When Taylor left four years ago, I would anxiously sit by the computer on Monday mornings…I knew about what time he would get on the computer there, so I would just keep ‘refreshing’ my email to see when it would finally come through! Email Mondays were my favorite!
Now that Tanner is out of the Argentina training center and in Paraguay, his preparation day is Monday also, and I wait just as impatiently for that email to come through…it’s like Christmas every Monday…he informed us last Monday that he has had a fever of nearly 103 the past few days and had been quite sick. Not always what a mother likes to hear when her son is a continent away from her…it is close to midnight this Sunday evening, and although I am exhausted, sleep will not come because of the anticipation of these emails I have come to love!
Changing gears a bit, we just spent the Thanksgiving holiday in Beautiful Island Park, the place our family loves more than anywhere in the world, especially in the winter. This week, we were lucky enough to find some snow and do a little snowmobiling…another loved family pastime. Darren, Taylor, Brian and I headed out for a ride Saturday morning, and rode as close as weather would permit us to getting to the top of Two Top, a mountain peak that separates Island Park from West Yellowstone, one of our family’s favorite rides. As we rode along, I had plenty of time to think to myself as I cruised down the trails, admiring the snow-covered pine trees and majestic mountain views. Each time we pulled off the trail to play in some fresh, untouched powder, I had vivid images in my mind of Tyler riding around in that same meadow, practicing ‘doughnuts’, jumping off cornices, or just speeding by me, laughing because his snowmobile was so loud it would make me jump…yes, although it’s been exactly eighteen months since he’s been gone, the memories and pain can return with such fierceness that they still can literally take my breath away and make my heart race…
As I rode down the trail flooded with memories of Ty (I ride his snowmobile and wear some of his clothes), I was also missing Tanner and thinking about the upcoming email I need so much. I got thinking, ‘What if I could just get one email from heaven?’ What would I give for a little vibration on my phone, alerting me to a message that Ty’s okay now, what he’s been up to, and that he’s happy and great…enjoying his new adventures very much, but looking forward to the day when he can be with us again. That’s what I’m imagining Tanner’s email is going to say Monday-couldn’t I just get one from Ty too?
I mentioned this to my sweet, wise friend. She lovingly reminded me that maybe my ‘emails’ are beautiful snow-covered pine trees, mountain-top views where one can almost see forever…going together as a family to get a Christmas Tree and being able to laugh again…
I know she’s right. My ‘emails’ are there, waiting to be recognized. I have a loving Father in Heaven who desires to bless me and ‘communicate’ with me with all he has given me. This season, I am grateful for this knowledge, and mostly for my family and the love we have for each other…those bonds will never be broken.
I hope all those who have lost someone dear will be able to ‘open their emails’ as well and see the tender mercies of the Lord in all they have been blessed with as well. I believe He is constantly placing loving signs in our path if we will only open our eyes and recognize them!

Christmas Tree Outing- Joyfully adding Hadlee this year, painfully missing Tanner and Tyler

 

'On a Clear Day...you can see forever...but on a cloudy day, you can still see pretty far! :) '

Ty doing what he did best!

Check out this awesome Fundraiser for Tyler!

Anything for a friend Fight 2 The Finish