Archive for the ‘Updates’ Category

Accepting His Will

I honestly figured I was finished writing this blog when 2013 came around.  It felt like there was nothing left to write about and no one needed to hear about our experiences or grief any longer.  But for some reason, the last few weeks, I’ve felt like I should write what I’ve been feeling.  Maybe my feelings are more tender right now, where it is coming up on the one-year anniversary of Tyler’s death…I’m not sure.  This week last year was the beginning of everything really going south for Tyler.  This weekend last year was the first time he entered the hospital after vomiting blood.  We were there every weekend after this until he passed away.  I am really wishing that June would just hurry up and get here and maybe the unpleasant memories would go away with it.

Things have felt a little upside-down in 2013 – Our family has had so many changes to weather the past 23 months.  Last spring, when I finally faced the reality that we would lose Tyler to this disease, I only thought of having him away from our family for this life and the pain his absence would cause.  I did not ever realize all the ramifications it would have on our family.  Everything changed…mostly relationships, both with family and friends.  I had heard that from others who had lost someone dear to them, but realize now how true it is.  It is truly peculiar how ‘vulnerable’ it feels in public and how home is truly a ‘safe’ zone, although painful memories abide here too.  Sometimes it feels like there is nowhere to hide.

Both Darren and I have spent much time wrestling with the ‘whys’ of Tyler leaving us.  There were so many things that made our family feel like Tyler would be the one who would finally win this unbeatable diagnosis.  I have wondered if I should share some pretty tender experiences we had when Tyler was first diagnosed, but decided that in order for some to understand why, they would need some information about some sacred experiences we have had.

In July of 2011, about two months after Ty’s diagnosis, we were blessed to have President Henry B. Eyring come to our home and visit with Tyler and our family.  There will never be words to explain his visit and the love that existed in our home that night.  President Eyring offered to give Tyler a blessing and invited Darren, my father, and my son-in-law to stand with him in giving this blessing.  I listened intently to every word and clung to everything he said, fully waiting and expecting him to command Tyler to be whole and clean from this disease.  It was one of the most beautiful blessings I have ever witnessed, but there was no pronouncement of healing-only of peace.   He did, however, tell Tyler that the Lord had allowed this to happen to ‘strengthen the faith of the youth’.  My heart leapt.  If the faith of the youth was to be strengthened, Tyler would have to beat this disease!  How could faith be strengthened if the cancer took him from this life?  From then on, I was sure we were in for a mighty battle, but Tyler would ultimately overcome…then everyone would know that the Lord had healed him from this awful disease.  I don’t know why I felt like I had the authority to interpret or tell the Lord what the outcome would be…but nevertheless, I did.

From that moment on, I did my best to share his battle on the blog, because I would do my part to help ‘strengthen faith’ if it would save my son.  As spring rolled around last year and we started to be told that things were getting worse and to begin preparing for the worst, I wondered when our mighty miracle was going to come – the one that would ‘strengthen the faith’.   Oh, how I have much to learn…

Sweet Becky Anderson did such a wonderful job speaking at Tyler’s funeral, helping those to see that their fasting and prayers did change lives.  Her words really helped to strengthen their faith.  Tyler had come to earth and completed exactly what he came to accomplish.  To read her amazing talk, click here -Written talk from Tyler’s funeral.  Reading it over and over has brought much comfort to my aching heart.

Recently, Elder David A. Bednar gave a talk at a CES fireside and his words completely spoke to my heart.  He told about a young man who was diagnosed with bone cancer just three weeks after he was married.  Elder Bednar visited this young couple in the hospital and was preparing to give him a blessing and felt prompted to ask him this question:  “Do you have the faith not to be healed?  If it is the will of our Heavenly Father that you are transferred by death in your youth to the spirit world to continue your ministry, do you have the faith to submit to His will and not be healed?”

Wow!  I had NEVER, ever thought of exercising faith this way.  I thought if my faith was strong enough that I could change Heavenly Father’s mind and He would heal Tyler.  If our family, friends, and the community, who had been such a strength and support to us, had enough faith, would not the Lord surely decide He should heal my son?  Elder Bednar continued, “…we increasingly understood that if God’s will were for this good young man to be healed, then that blessing could only be received if this valiant couple first had the faith not to be healed.  In other words, John and Heather needed to overcome, through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, the ‘natural man’ tendency in all of us to demand impatiently and insist incessantly on the blessings we want and believe we deserve.”

I felt very humbled after listening to this.  I knew this was exactly what I had been doing – “insisting incessantly on the blessings I felt I deserved”.    Even ten months after Ty’s death, I was still wrestling with ‘why’ and ‘did we not have enough faith?’.  I can tell you that Tyler wasn’t a part of this struggle – up until the very end, he was completely at peace with what was happening and tried continually to comfort us.  He would continually reassure us that it was all as it should have been.  There was never a question in his mind as to why he wasn’t healed.  He knew he had completed his earthly mission.

So I suppose one of the things I am working on learning is changing my pleadings to ‘please give me the faith to accept whatever outcome Thou hast planned for me’.   I have no idea what the Lord has planned for me, or for the rest of my family, but I need to have faith that if I do all that I can do, He truly will do the rest, according to His will.  And His will is exactly what I need to strive to accept.  I will continue trying to work on this.

I guess what I am trying to get across in this post is that I, like Elder Bednar, do not know everything about the Lord’s timing and why some are healed and some are not.  But this I do know, that Tyler lives.  We will once again be reunited with him and see that million-dollar smile.  Oh, how I look forward to the day when our family can stand together again and there will be no pain and suffering any longer.  I hope those of you who are suffering with pain and challenges that feel beyond your understanding can find peace in accepting the Lord’s will for you.  Someday, through Him, all things will be made right.  Of this I am sure.

To listen to Elder Bednar’s amazing talk, click here.

 

President and Sister Eyring and Tyler

There's the smile we can't wait to see again!

 

A Different Christmas Celebration

I am sitting here, knowing I have to update this blog…it’s probably been two months since I even got on this website.  “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” is playing on my CD player – Amy Grant – one of my favorite Christmas collections.  Somehow it doesn’t bring the same feelings of excitement and anticipation as it used to.  It takes a great deal of effort to prepare for the season this year.  I don’t even have my Christmas decorations up yet, except for the beautiful tree in Tyler’s honor, given to us by Erika and Brian, and Jimmy’s Flower Shop.  Can you believe this beautiful tribute to Tyler?!?

Our Amazing F2TF Tree

 

Darren and I came home from work and found this in our family room…So touching.  We have pretty amazing people in our lives…thank you Brian, Erika, Mike, Martin, and all those at Jimmy’s who helped with this!  We love it!

As we move almost to the end of the holiday season, I am filled with so many different emotions.  A big part of me just would like to move to January 2013, where most of our ‘firsts’ are over with.  Anyone who has experienced a loss knows this – the ‘first birthday, first Thanksgiving, first Christmas, etc.’.  I don’t know how much better the ’2nds’ are, but I’m thinking that they can’t get any harder…We had a quiet Thanksgiving with just our family, mostly so if one of us fell apart, we would be here at home with each other to help us through it, but I think it was best to spend this holiday season with the kids.  Someone once said to us, “You know what is just as hard as having cancer?  Having a brother with cancer…”  I believe that is probably true.  My other kids have loved, prayed, and been okay to be quiet supporters in the background for the past 18 months, never complaining about being ignored, with their needs set aside until someone could get to them.  I believe it is time for them to know how much they matter in this family and how much their service mattered to Darren and I – and to Tyler.  I am so grateful for them and for the part each of them plays in our little family.

As we moved into December, I could feel the dread coming.  One of the family said, “It doesn’t feel like there is anything to celebrate this year.”  I get that on so many levels.  I put a Christmas CD in my car the other day – first one of the season.  When I climbed into the car after work and started the car, ‘Silent Night’ began playing with David Archuleta singing a most beautiful arrangement of it.  I felt transported back to last Christmas, listening to this same song, laying next to Tyler in the family room as he struggled to feel well one night.  The lights were off, all but the tree, and I laid next to him all night with the soft light of the Christmas tree, watching him, praying in my own ‘silent night’ that somehow we would get a Christmas miracle.  This year, listening in my car, I felt like my heart might explode into pieces, the pain was that real.  I sobbed all the way home.  It’s so crazy how music can transport one back instantly to another place and time.

So the comment, “It doesn’t feel like there is anything to celebrate this year” I understand.  But, as I thought about that comment through the evening, I realized that this Christmas, there is everything to celebrate.  Because of Christmas and the birth of the Savior, Tyler’s life, and life of each one of us doesn’t end here.  Because He was born and because He lived, we all will live too, not just on this earth, but forever.  We went to The Savior of the World last night at the LDS Conference Center.  It is a play on the birth and the life of Jesus Christ, but I was so focused on Mary, and how she must have felt.  It was a beautiful play with wonderful talents and I truly felt the Spirit as I watched it.  I know that Jesus Christ’s life and death was for my benefit and that because of it, our lives do not end here.  Because of this great plan of happiness, this Christmas means more to me than perhaps any other Christmas before.

Our family has decided that because this season will be hard and different anyway, we are only giving “Gifts of the Heart” – gifts that are of service, or that can help someone else.  I am hoping that the true reason for the season will stay with this family forever.  I am guilty of getting caught up in the commercialization of the holidays, and worrying about money, gifts, making sure everyone gets what they are wishing for.  I am hoping for a change of heart this Christmas for my family, and that they all understand what to truly celebrate this holiday season.

So, this leads me into the ‘Giving Tree’ part of this post.  If there are any looking for families to help this holiday season, I have found several very deserving families.  I watched a story on KSL a few weeks ago that broke my heart and I knew we had to help.  Watch this segment here.  I have contacted Ryan’s mother, and this family could truly use help for Christmas this year.  We will be giving a “Giving Tree” to Ryan on Monday, December 17th.  If you would like to donate to the tree, help assemble the tree, or help to deliver it, please contact me at promconnection@msn.com.  Ryan has an Xbox 360 that he was given.  He has a few games, but loves Lego games (such as Lego Star Wars, Lego Indiana Jones, etc).  He wears a size 7-8 slim clothing.  He has a little sister who is four years old who wears size 4 clothing.  I will probably just put gift cards and cash on the tree, but if anyone would like to add to the donations, we would love to have them.  Thank you, as always, for your giving hearts.  If you cannot add to the tree this time, remember, that those who came to Tyler’s fundraiser in August have already helped to give to this family by attending that evening…you have given already!  Because of the success of that evening, we are able to do these trees.  We have five trees that will be delivered in December.  Thank you for helping to make those possible!

So, and I know this sounds so cliché, because I was on the other end of this post, but as you shop for those you love this Christmas, remember that the true gift of the season has already been given – the life of the Savior for each one of us.  Don’t get caught up in keeping up with what the world may say we need to do for Christmas.  Just love those around you and remember the true ‘Reason for the Season’!  Merry Christmas!

Pomegranates and Kiwis

   I went to the grocery store a few days ago to fill the completely bare cupboards in our house.  My family will all tell you that I don’t go until there is barely a morsel of food left in the house to eat.  Grocery shopping is pretty high on my list of  least favorite things to do.  I procrastinate that chore until the very last moment.  When I finally went a few days ago, I noticed that pomegranates are back on the produce shelves and looking red and delicious.  I felt a pang of sadness so real I thought I was going to break down and cry in the produce department.  It brought back the biggest flood of memories and images of Tyler that I felt actual physical pain in my chest. 

   Last Fall, when the doctors told us that chemotherapy was doing nothing to Tyler’s tumors and it was probably best to discontinue treatment and let the cancer run its course, I began my search to ‘cure’ Tyler on my own.  I am sure those reading this have varying opinions on this, but if you have a loved-one with cancer, you know that desperation.  I spent hours and hours on the internet (usually in the middle of the night) searching ‘natural’ cures for cancer.  I met with countless doctors and specialists in alternative medicine, who had some success with alternative cancer treatments.  We even took Tyler out of the country for treatment there.  I bought so many herbs, vitamins, drinks, and ‘you-name-it’ - trying to shrink the tumors.  We tried going vegetarian, raw foods, juicing, and every other diet out there that claimed to help with cancer.  After a while, with Tyler’s nausea and weight loss, we decided that no diet was going to work if he couldn’t eat – we were eventually happy if we could get anything down him, even if it was an ‘Otter Pop’ – something with absolutely no nutritional value at all! 

   One theory was that pomegranates and kiwis were  great food in cancer treatment.  They are so high in antioxidants and other disease fighting ingredients that they have been shown to prevent some diseases and ailments.  Tyler loved both – I think for three or four months we had at least two pomegranates a day.  Imagine how fun they were to peel and extract the seeds from!  I did learn a faster way to do it though – thanks to the internet!  In my mind’s eye, I could almost see his cancer disappearing as he ate all those pomegranates and kiwis.  I would run to the store anytime, day or night, if we were out and he felt like he could eat one and I would be so pleased when he could keep it down and it satisfied his hunger for a bit.  Pomegranates aren’t in season for more than a few months sadly, and about February, they became harder and harder to find.  I would buy the juice for him, but it just wasn’t the same.  

   Looking back, I know that the things that we did couldn’t cure the cancer, but I also feel like they didn’t hurt either.  They may have helped keep him here for the extra time that doctors didn’t believe he had – who knows?  I also wonder what would have happened if we had never done chemotherapy on him either – that was what ravaged his GI track and took away his hearing.  But then, if we hadn’t done it and still lost him, we would have regretted that decision also.  It never helps to have ‘what if’s’. 

   I just know that I can’t look at those two fruits without remembering Tyler savoring those pomegranate seeds and me peeling them every day with satisfaction, sure I was doing something that was helping him to get better.  The pain is still pretty fresh – probably even more so than the month after his death.  I don’t think five minutes ever goes by that he doesn’t come into my mind.   Our family longs for the day when we can be with him again.

   We are slowly learning how to focus on living life here the best we can and moving forward without Tyler here on this earth.  We know he is near us when he can be.  We have had some very special experiences where we know that Tyler is here with us - tender mercies from a loving Heavenly Father who is helping us to know that He is aware of us and our pain and gives us small moments to feel Tyler close.

   One such tender moment was the talk in General Conference by Elder Shane Bowen.  For me, he said so many things I felt but could not put into words.  I was grateful that he was so candid about sacred feelings and helped every parent who has lost a child validate what they feel also.   I was also so grateful for his powerful testimony of the plan of happiness for each of us, and that FAMILIES CAN BE TOGETHER FOREVER.  I am so grateful for all of my children and grandchildren, and that knowledge is what helps me to keep pressing forward with as much faith as I can muster. 

   If you have a few minutes, this talk is well worth the time.  Click here to listen.  And if you have time, go get a few pomegranates while they’re in season!

True Warriors

   I said I would post soon about our latest Giving Tree – the story will both break and warm your heart.  I belong to a blog with a special group of women who are all mothers of cancer-fighting cuties.  Even though my cancer fighter is not here, I still like to get on the blog occasionally and see how these sweet children, most of whom I have never met – only read about – are doing.  It’s crazy, because I love each of these kids, know them by name, and worry about them each time their mother posts about an upcoming scan, an emergency admit because of a fever, an unexplained pain etc.  I try to get off the blog, because it sometimes puts me in such a sad mood, but I feel such a connection to these kids.

  A few weeks ago, I read about a sweet little boy from Wyoming who has been fighting leukemia and is in treatment at Primary Children’s Medical Center.  His name is Hunter, and his mother was here with him, while his father was back home in Wyoming taking care of his big brother, Buster.  Hunter’s mother unexpectedly passed away of a heart attack on September 18th while in Salt Lake with him.  When I read about her, my heart was broken for this amazing boy and the pain and confusion he must have been feeling.  My mind was on him constantly the next few weeks.  Only three weeks later, I read on the blog that Hunter’s cancer had returned, even after a bone marrow transplant, and there was nothing more the doctors could do to save his life.  They were suggesting to Hunter’s father that he take him home and live out the time he had left in the love and company of friends and family.  My heart was broken.  I knew that conversation – I knew those words.  But Hunter had lost his mother just three weeks earlier, and his father had just buried his wife and was now facing doing the same thing with his son. 

   I called Tiffany, another amazing mother of a cancer-fighting warrior, Tristan.  I have watched Tristan for months and have loved this boy and his spirit from afar, only meeting him a few months ago.  Tristan is another one of my heroes – smiling through things that most kids, or adults for that matter, will never experience.  Tristan lost his leg a few months ago to Ewing Sarcoma.  The first time I read about Tristan, it was with a picture of him insisting on walking, not riding the gurney to the operating room.  Tristan would make this last walk on that leg himself.  I was smitten – this boy had a spirit like Tyler!

   Tristan wanted to help Hunter and his family, so Tiffany and I began the workings of the Giving Tree for him.  People came out of the woodwork to help this boy and his family.  Tristan and Tiffany raised over $1000 themselves for the tree, and we on our side were able to contribute and raise over $450.  Read these sweet words Hunter himself (age 9) wrote on his blog when he learned there was nothing more medically the doctors could do for him:

It hurt me to know that I may not live to be old and experience what my dad and mom did.  I was scared until I had a really good talk with my dad.  I know that my mom will be there to get me, but not until I have had my fun here first.  I have so many things I want to do with my brother and my dad. Dad is going to take me fishing this weekend if the weather is good. I haven’t been fishing for a very long time and I can’t wait.   I know that my Heavenly Father has a plan for me but I hope he will grant me some extra time to do all the things I want to do.

   This boy is nine years old – yet has the wisdom of a grown man.  One thing I see as I meet all these fighters, is the same strength and wisdom.  I have to wonder if they are given glimpses, or maybe just the blessing of peace, knowing that they have completed their mission, just as it was planned to be.  Please keep Hunter, his brother Buster, and his father in your thoughts and prayers.  They need the blessing of strength and comfort to get through what the upcoming future holds for them all. 

Tristan and his brother getting ready to deliver the tree to Hunter

Sweet Hunter and Buster and the Giving Tree

The Giving Tree Update

Since the ‘Giving Tree’ fundraiser, we have been busy getting trees ready and have delivered five more trees since my last ‘Giving Tree’ post!  This has been such a tender opportunity for me – seeing these sweet people struggle with cancer hurts my heart so much, especially when I understand the pain and uncertainty they feel.  But, seeing a glimmer of hope and maybe a few minutes of forgetting the sorrow to feel others love for them helps fill an empty place in my heart.  I have had several people tell me that they wonder if it is a good thing for me to be involved in – that it is like rubbing salt in a fresh wound.  I have thought about this a lot the last few weeks.  I have come to the conclusion that yes, while this hurts and brings back many painful memories, I do know that this is what Tyler expects us to do.  He would want us to continue serving and helping others feel happiness and hope.  In some measure, that is when I feel closest to Tyler…I cannot say I have seen him or heard him, but I have had some tender mercies and feelings where I know he is near and please with what is happening.  That is a pretty big return for me!

I want you to meet these amazing cancer warriors that we have learned to love the last few weeks – this post is full of pictures, but I hope you will feel their valiant spirits and strength through this post.  Please remember each of them in your prayers.

Brandy is a true hero in so many ways.  Brandy and her husband had been  married only a couple of years when he was electrocuted while sailing.  He was pronounced dead at the scene. Through excellent medical care and his strong will to live, he was brought back to life and was in intensive care for months.  The electricity caused severe nerve damage and pain and “split” open both his arms and legs. Through Nolan’s years of recuperation, Brandy was his uncomplaining help-meet.  She pushed him in the wheel chair, took care of him, and provided for the family.  Gone were both their dreams of Nolan becoming a Jet Fighter Pilot with the air force.  They now have two young girls who are both kind and optimistic, just like their parents.  A few months ago, Brandy was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.  She has responded with such faith, stating that she learned long ago that Heavenly Father is truly in control, so just have peace and do your best and He will control the outcome.

Brandy and her family!

 

Sweet Lexe is fighting a hard battle with leukemia.  She has been very, very sick and in ICU literally fighting for her life.  She was not able to attend the event where the giving tree was presented, but her dad, Mark was there to accept it and take it to her.  I have to share the story of how this tree came to fruition.  The Anything for a Friend organization held an amazing fundraiser for Porter, who just lost his leg, due to Ewing Sarcoma.  Sweet Porter wanted to share his blessing and help someone else like he was being helped.  He helped to raise additional money for the Giving Tree by emailing his neighbors and friends and having them donate gift cards and cash to add to Lexe’s tree.  He presented this tree to Lexe’s father at his own fundraiser.

 

Porter and his family presenting Lexe's tree

The next tree was especially dear to my heart.  Braeden has been diagnosed with Medullblastoma, a brain tumor.  Braeden reminded me so much of Tyler.   He is an athlete – loves and excels at many sports – and has that ‘swagger’ that Tyler had.  I see the same fighting spirit in Braeden that I experienced with Tyler.  Braeden told me that he had received a FaceBook message from Tyler right before Tyler passed away.  He sent me that message – it read,

That is so precious to me.  Braeden was in the hospital when he received the message – when he came home on Monday, before he had a chance to respond, he learned Tyler had passed away. It’s been a while since I felt that close to Tyler like I did when I drove home from Braeden’s house.  What a gift to me!  These sweet families all helped to add generous amounts to this tree and we had a great time decorating his tree before delivering it:

Taylor, Parsons, Armenderiz, and Kohl families decorating the tree!

Braeden and his family

This next tree was an exciting, touching experience for me as well.  My wonderful brother and his family, who live in Virginia, have loved and supported Tyler and our family through our cancer journey, praying, fasting, and supporting us from across the country.  They have shared Tyler’s message and this blog with their friends and neighbors there, and we have felt love and care from many back in Virginia!  Ron and Debbie wanted to get involved in the Giving Tree experience as well, and knew of another warrior, Brian Collister, a boy from their local high school. Brian is 18 and has rare T-cell lymphoma. There are only 50 cases diagnosed annually in the world so there are no specialists. It is a super rare type of cancer and to make things more difficult he has a rare blood type. The school did a search trying to help them find a bone marrow donor.  They did a nationwide search, found a donor for his transplant and he is doing well (relatively). He has been at Sloan Kettering Hospital since May 18th recovering and is slated to come home soon! He is staying in Hope Lodge which requires a 24/7 caregiver. His mother cannot provide it because she has MS so relatives have been trading off.

Debbie, in typical ‘Debbie’ fashion, took it upon herself to do a giving tree – and so much more!  The two high schools in the area played their rivalry game a few weekends ago.  Debbie figured this was the perfect night for the fundraiser, being as both schools knew of Brian and his plight.  Check out these pictures from the game!  My heart was so touched when I saw these amazing kids serving and raising money for Brian.  They raised $3400 for this great family!

My awesome brother Ron posing with my favorite shirt - "Cancer does indeed suck!"

 

Love this...

 

My darling niece, Camry, posing with the Mascot at the football game!

Warrior Brian - with friends, family, and the Giving Tree (Virginia Style!)

The last tree to date is still in the works…just thought I’d add a sneak peak of my new amazing friend Tristan, who is a cancer cutie himself, actively fighting Ewing Sarcoma.  Tristan lost his leg a few months ago, but still felt a strong need to help Hunter, whose story will break your heart.  Here’s Tristan preparing the tree – it is scheduled to be delivered tonight.  I will post Hunter’s story and his amazing strength and courage in my next post…

 

Getting ready to deliver the tree to Hunter

Thank you for helping make these possible!

Happy Birthday Tyler

Next Monday, October 15th, would have been Tyler’s 16th birthday.  He couldn’t wait to turn 16.  He and his friends had big plans for high school, their 16th birthdays, dating, going to dances, and driving.  I remember several times Tyler telling me how he and Braden were going to go to Homecoming if it was after their birthdays and how much fun it would be.  He could not wait to be in high school.  He had so many friends already there and couldn’t wait to wear ‘regular’ clothes instead of a uniform!

The first day of school, I just didn’t think I could bear being here while kids were going to school, and watching kids wait for the bus – just knowing that Ty was looking forward to this day so much.  Erika and I decided to ‘disappear’ and go to Salt Lake for the day, where we could forget that it was the first day of school.  We went to Primary Children’s Hospital and took F2TF shirts to be passed out to kids.  Then, we went to Cheesecake Factory for lunch, our favorite place to eat!

I don’t expect that next Monday will be any easier of a day for us.  We have been trying to decide how we can make this day special, instead of feeling worse that Tyler isn’t here with us on such an important day.  Tyler would not want anyone to be sad, or feeling sorry for themselves this day.  He would be happiest, I am sure, if we were doing something here to try and make the world a better place to live.

So, for Tyler’s 16th birthday, we are going to have a ‘party’ for Tyler and bring gifts – gifts of our heart.  We would like you to join in this day with our family.  We will have a wrapped giftbox at his grave that morning.  We would like anyone who would  like to participate with us to come down and add your gift to Tyler as well.  If there is something in your life that you would like to change, or a way you can change your attitude to make yourself, your family, and the world a better place, write it down on the paper there, and put it in Tyler’s gift box.  I would love to fill his birthday with the things that he cares about now.  He would want each of us to work to become the person we are capable of becoming – giving up something that may be holding us back from what we could be.  We won’t open the box – this will be between you personally and Tyler – your gift just to him.

If you don’t live around here and cannot get to his grave, we still invite you to give him this gift, and make this change in your own lives.  After listening to the LDS General Conference this weekend, I know of plenty of things I would like to change in my life to help to make me a better person.  I have plenty that I can offer to Tyler for his birthday.  And although I am heartbroken that I won’t be able to watch him drive, go to his first school dance, bless the sacrament, and do all those things 16-year-old boys do, I will try to make him proud of his family and prepare to see his amazing smile when we meet again.  I would love for everyone else he loved to make the same effort for him.  Thanks for loving him and our family through this past year and a half.

We love and miss you Ty Ty

Looking up…

This past Saturday, Darren and I found ourselves alone in the house, and decided it wasn’t how we wanted to spend our holiday weekend, so we packed up the car and decided to go for a ‘little hike’.  Well, we started at Fernwood Park in Layton and somehow decided it wouldn’t be so bad if we hiked on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and then up to Adams Falls.  (My ankles are still screaming at me for that little decision!)  We definitely realized we are not the ‘young-uns’ we thought we were!  As we began trudging up some of the steeper terrain towards the falls, I found myself looking down a lot to avoid twisting my ankle or falling into little holes that were all along the way.  There was more than one occasion where I ended up a hundred yards away from Darren to either the right or the left because I’d been so busy looking down at my feet, avoiding traps that way, that I’d forgotten to look up and follow his lead.  Kind of embarrassing to have to hike down and catch up to him again as I’d realized my mistake, only after I’d been talking to myself for a few minutes, thinking he was in front of me!  Poor Darren, having to stop and look back and realize his wife had strayed again…he’d just smile and wait for me to catch up to him again…

We kept thinking it was too hard and we should just turn and head back to the car…then we saw a couple – probably 80 years old, trudge up the hill and onto the waterfall.  That was the kicker.  There was no way we weren’t going all the way up then – we could have been bleeding and gasping for air.  We weren’t going to let a couple of senior citizens show us up!  We’re pathetic, I know!!! :)

Well, I learned a few things this weekend:  Number One – I’m still in lousy shape…even after I’ve been out exercising five or six days a week for a month or so now.  It’s not going to come back easy, and I’m looking forward to the day when I don’t ache after a ‘not-so-hard’ workout.  Number Two – I need to look upward more often…and more than just literally.  I am so busy looking down and trying to avoid the pitfalls and traps that lie and wait for me here, that I forget to look up often enough and remember where it really is that I am going.  While it’s important to keep an eye to the ground and avoid what is down there, the ultimate goal is to follow my leader (in Saturday’s case – Darren…in life’s case – my Savior), who can safely take me where I want to be, if I’m looking ahead enough to follow him.

The end result was beautiful!  I hadn’t hiked up Adams Canyon for years and I forgot the hike was worth the effort.  It was crowded and noisy up there, but the falls were beautiful and it was full of happy souls who has just met their goal like we did (including the senior citizens couple!)  I was so glad we didn’t turn around and give up.  So, my analogy for life this week is to look down to stay safe and keep your footing, but don’t let that be the main focus.  The goal is upward, the leader is upward, and the reward is definitely at the top.  It’s all worth the hard work (and sore muscles) at the end!

 

The Old Folks Made It!

He conquers who endures – Persius

The Giving Tree Legacy

These posts are very bittersweet to write for me.  I absolutely LOVE what we are able to do in Tyler, Dylan, Josh, and Brandon’s honor in preparing and delivering these wonderful trees to other cancer victims whose hearts are hurting and afraid – on the other hand, sometimes it feels like salt in a very deep, fresh wound each time I get a tree ready, and even more so to deliver them and meet another warrior. I have had more sadness and anxiety the past few weeks, coupled with happiness and satisfaction for ‘doing the right thing’.  It’s an interesting place to be.

Two weeks ago, the first tree was delivered by Dylan’s sweet family to Cade and Aly Wyatt.  Cade is 25 years old and was diagnosed in February 2011 with an inoperable brain tumor.  Cade and Aly were blessed with their first sweet little baby boy in December 2011.  Cade has had some radiation treatments, with little success, and had recently moved to Mantua with his parents, where they could give him as much care as he was requiring.  Mandy, Chelsea, and Lindsey (Dylan’s mom and aunts), took Cade and Aly a giving tree.  Pictures are worth a thousand words:

You can read about this amazing little family here.  I am so sad to say that sweet Cade returned to the loving arms of his Heavenly Father on Sunday, August 26th.  I’m sure it was a bittersweet moment for their family…I know that feeling.  Watching the suffering is unbearable, but not having them here is just as unbearable.  It really is all about ‘letting go of it all’ and submitting our will to the Father.  I do believe it is a lesson we will all have to learn before we leave this earth – whatever the struggle will be with.  Please pray for Cade’s family to feel the peace that only the Savior can bring them.

Last Thursday we took another tree to a family we learned about a few weeks ago.  The Noble’s are a beautiful family fighting another vicious cancer battle.  Kenny was diagnosed with lung cancer not even two months ago.  He has rapidly declined and his sweet wife and three daughters have kept a vigil by his side, keeping his spirits up and making sure he knows he is loved and cared for.  My heart was so warmed as I met this wonderful family and watched their interactions with each other.  They were so gracious and kind when we intruded on them in the hospital to bring the tree.  I’m not sure I would have been as welcoming as they were!  We heard Kenny was not well enough to come home any time soon, so we decided to bring the tree right to his room!  Please remember Kenny and his family in your prayers as well – they need the blessings of comfort and peace also.  Here are another thousand words:

 

Getting the tree ready!

The Amazing Noble Family

Thank you to all those who have contributed in so many ways to make these amazing gifts possible – from money, to volunteering at the event, to helping put these trees together.  They are making a difference, and they are bringing hope and smiles into the lives of families who feel much unrest and uncertainty.  We have received many requests for trees, actually from all over the country!  We will be setting up a few guidelines for how the recipients will be chosen.  Watch for these on the www.anythingforafriend.com website or here for information coming soon.  And thank you for your help in helping others F2TF!

 

Wow!

Not even sure how to begin this post – I think the title says it all.  I can’t say enough ‘thank you’s’ for the help we received to pull off the First Annual F2TF Benefit Dinner and Concert.  It was amazing…that’s all I can say!  I don’t have an exact count of how many attended, but I know there were well over 700 in attendance.  This could never have been accomplished if we didn’t have the help we did.  It is said that many hands make light work, and you proved this to be true for me.  So many generous souls in this world – don’t ever forget that.  When you watch the news and see that bad things happen in this world, think of a night like tonight, and remember that the good will always win!

As I watched the kids wearing F2TF shirts and coming early and asking ‘What can I do?  Where can I help?’ my heart was so full – this is one reason we wanted this night to happen.  Serving others helps us forget our own problems for a while and makes us focus on others.  These pictures say it all here:

 

Cute Morgan and Braden rockin' the slushies!

 

At your service!

Love these faces!

F2TF!

Tyler's B-ball Buddies!

'Kiss the Cooks!'

Dana on Drink Duty!

We had an awesome dinner (Thanks McDonalds!) and an awesome concert that night!  I don’t think the entertainment could have gotten any better – from Nate Davis of Lokalgrown, and Michael Dowdle, Marvin Goldstein, and Jason Hewlett!  Who gets that in one evening??!!! I hope all those who were able to come enjoyed every second of it.  I felt like I laughed hard, cried hard, and felt comforted all in one night!

 

Nate from Lokalgrown serenading the crowd!

Brooke Walker from Studio 5 - my new friend!

The amazing guitarist Michael Dowdle!

Pianist extraordinaire - Marvin Goldstein!

...and the hilarious Jason Hewlett!

...as Diana Ross...

...as Stevie Wonder...

...as Elton John...

 

...as Robert Plant...

...as 'child-friendly' Lady Ga Ga!

...and finally, as the 'Raptor'! (Ty's favorite!)

After the amazing entertainment, we were able to present the Giving Trees to two outstanding people, Brielle, who has been diagnosed with CML, a chronic leukemia, for which there is no cure.  And, to Chad, one of Tyler’s favorite ‘uncles’, who was diagnosed only a few weeks after his funeral.  The cancer world is a small one, and I dare say there aren’t many who haven’t had someone they love be touched by this devastating disease.  I am grateful to help in a small way to bring a little hope and a smile to a few who are staring this disease in the face right now.  And you helped make this possible!

Sweet Brielle and her family

Chad's wife, Wendi and their boys

Sara Larsen singing 'Find a Grove'

And to end the night, sweet Maddie, whom I love with all my heart for her courage and spirit, released a balloon in honor of each of the Giving Tree kids who cancer has taken from us this past year.  It was a very emotional moment for all.  I loved how reverent the amphitheater became and how I could feel those kids close.  People left the place quietly and thoughtfully, and I think the emotion of the evening was that of love.  Thank you for helping make this night a great success…we were able to raise $12,000 – that’s 24 Giving Trees we will be able to give in the next year, until we have another event!  We would love to utilize the youth in taking these trees around – so if you would like to be involved in helping to make and deliver these trees, please contact me!  It’s a special experience to be part of!

My hero getting ready to release the balloons

When you dig another out of their troubles, you find a place to bury your own.  ~Author Unknown

THANK YOU TO ALL FOR A SUCCESSFUL EVENING!  MAY WE ALWAYS REMEMBER TO F2TF!

It’s ‘Time’!

‘Time’ is quickly moving and it’s almost ‘time’ for our 1st annual ‘F2TF’ Benefit Night!  Tuesday, August 7th is our big night and I think if you’re not there, you’re going to miss something amazing! :) If you’re still thinking you can make it but have not purchased tickets, you can get on www.anythingforafriend.com and go to the F2TF event, click on ‘donations’ and any amount in $15 increments will automatically put tickets in will call for you at the amphitheater ticket table.  Remember, it is ‘festival seating’, which means ‘first come – first served’.  There are 500 seats in the amphitheater and room on the grass for 1000.  You may want to bring a lawn chair and a blanket, just in case.  We have pre-sold over 500 tickets, so plan on a crowd!

I am excited, nervous, stressed, and extremely emotional about this Tuesday.  A big part of me wonders what in the world I was thinking by trying to do this so soon after Tyler’s death.  After he left us, I felt like the only way I could cope was to stay busy and to keep my mind occupied with other things.  As a little ‘time’ has gone by, I wonder if what I need is ‘time’ to just stay home, not have any commitments or responsibilities and face grief head on.  Becky Anderson, my sweet friend and hero, said something to me last night that made so much sense to me.  She said some of us like our peanut butter thick and heavy on a spoon with some bread, others like it spread thin over their slice – either way it’s the same amount of peanut butter, just served a different way. I’m trying to decide which way I want my ‘peanut butter’, because either way it’s the same amount of hurt.  I’m just learning which way is the best way for me to deal with it.  I think some ‘time’ here to go through his things, maybe make memory books of Tyler, remember all the good ‘times’, not just the cancer, and just ‘being’ for a bit may be a way to deal.  I don’t know – this is all new territory for of us.

But, in the mean ‘time’, we will go forward with this amazing night!  We have amazing performers, special tributes, and a touching way to finish out the night, so come ready to enjoy great entertainment and honor those who fought a brave battle!  I hope it will bring healing to all who are fighting battles, whether it be with health or whatever lives throws at us. It is said that ‘time’ heals all wounds.  That one is hard for me to believe, but I suppose that the only way to prove that true is to move forward with faith and make Tyler proud of us!  I believe Tuesday night is a pretty good way to start!

“Time is a healing place, one in which you can grow” – Denise Tanner

 

 

 

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