Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The dying and the living

A few days ago, Tony placed his hand on my growing belly to feel our baby Caleb moving. His eyes lit up as he whispered to me, "I feel him! He is such a strong boy. I can't wait until he is here." Afterwards, he closed his eyes and slept for a few more hours.

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for our family. Tony slowly began losing the ability to walk or get up without great assistance, his voice became quiet and only whispers came out of his mouth, and his consciousness was beginning to fade. A really hard decision had to be made: do we try to continue these last two treatments until his next MRI, or do we transition now to hospice? Tony was unable to help in the decision, not fully understanding his new deficits and lack of energy. By Monday (just two days ago), I knew it was time and that this would be the best support for him and our family. Talking with our doctor on the phone, he agreed and said the treatments are no longer helping and his significant decline means we are nearing the end. Tony could have anywhere from a few days to six weeks; every patient is so different making it difficult to determine an accurate time frame. My prayer for Tony right now is that he can remain without pain and that he can be at peace with our family.

Hospice arrived yesterday and set up a hospital bed and all the other support we need. Tony had declined so much in one day that he had to be carried downstairs to where we are keeping his hospital bed. He is next to a cozy gas fireplace with his Christmas gift from our kids wrapped around him. He loves his new blanket (pictured above) and enjoys listening to the kids point pictures out and talk about each memory. Tony now sleeps most of the time and is fading quickly. I am so happy that he currently is in no pain and is still aware of us being around him when he is awake. My mom is staying with us to care for the kids 24/7 so that I can sit by Tony's side as often as needed. And Tony's male members of his family have been able to help me care for Tony's physical needs since he can no longer get out of bed. Our needs are being met very well right now.

As Tony placed his hand on my stomach, I watched as he tenderly expressed his love for this baby and our children. Watching my dying husband place his hand near our living, growing baby welled up soft tears in my eyes. Something tender and sweet swelled in my heart while accompanied with grief and sadness. The grief stayed for a short while and then faded as I looked toward heaven thanking for such amazing miracles we have experienced and will continue to experience. If we just look a little further, we will always see how miraculous and wonderful our lives are and how loved we are by our Heavenly Father.

I prayed to God that if we must undergo this deep sadness and loss in order for us to become as He is, than I will do it willingly. I don't want to, it's too painful to look into the future and see an empty space at our table, and to feel half my heart dying with him. But I do trust God with that same heart, and I know that He will help me to heal and that my Savior does understand me completely. I may lose half my heart but the half that is remaining will grow stronger over time. I know we will be okay and that wherever I lack in raising our seven children, God will make up for my inadequacies and mistakes and will be there for our babies every step of the way. He loves us and will never forsake us.

Again, I want to continue to thank you for so much love and support, especially for the power of your prayers. Right now we will be spending every moment we can as a family and will focus on keeping our home as quiet and as sacred as we can in order to help our kids. With Tony's current condition, he can no longer respond to phone calls, texts, or messages but if you would like to share a word with him, please contact me and I will relay your thoughts to him as best I can. For right now, I won't be responding to messages but will do so when I get the time in a later date so please know that I am not ignoring you ;) Time is precious and each day is a gift. We love you all.

Saturday, November 12, 2016


It's moments like this above when one word pops into my head: grateful.

Each of our kiddies gets a turn to sleep between us in our bed each week. I'm so glad I had a quick moment when I woke up after Lily's sleepover in our room to take this picture. It's really priceless to me. They both were really asleep! (Although the flash may have woke Lily up!)

Being November, this is an appropriate post. It wasn't the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday that prompted me to write but instead the incredible outpouring from all of you. After our short clip about the Halloween haunted house fundraiser on the news we have been incredibly blessed by generous donations to our family. With this money, we spent a small portion on some special Christmas gifts for our children and have placed the rest in savings with the intent to use it for continuing medical bills or whatever may seem fit in the future to help our family. This money is very special to our family and we are trying to use it wisely because of the many sacrifices given by others. Tony and I were very touched by the simple coins donated from some families because they had nothing else to give; we were moved to tears from such great love.

There have been several other fundraisers (such as the Fun Run and online accounts) in the past that we just want to say a big heartfelt thank you to each individual who helped in every way. We have had meals brought in, many babysitting hours given, and have been given special opportunities that we may never have received without you thinking of our family. It means so much to us and has made a fun and relaxed atmosphere for our kids-- and that is something so important in our lives right now. Thank you.

*Update on Tony: He is doing well and continues his treatments each week/sometimes every other week. Many have noticed his decreased energy levels recently, which is expected with this disease, but he remains in good spirits as always! Tony is very excited for the upcoming holidays and I have planned a few fun family Christmas activities for him and the kids. His next appointment to check the stability of his tumor is on December 15th; I plan on posting that evening with the results. We are continuing to pray for Tony to get better, and our kids are the biggest advocates. Thank you again for the continued prayers in his behalf. Faith can move mountains if God is willing!*

Talking with a good friend the other day, I was trying to put into words my feelings of deep gratitude for all the help we have received and how I feel undeserving of it all. I feel that my "thank yous" fall short of how I really feel and that I cannot express truly how Tony and I feel toward you all. As I reflect on my imperfect heart, my mind quickly drifts to my Savior. All my life, I have always felt undeserving of His love and His atonement for me. Why did He do this for me? I am nothing special, I have no particular great talents to offer, I am just me, nothing of importance. I am "confused at the grace that so fully He offers me." And then again, why me?

Don't we all feel this way in our lives at some point? We have been blessed with so much yet our contributions are hardly any match to what we have been given. Through this past year, I have often paused to ponder the many blessings our Father has showered upon our little family. Interwoven with all the heartache, tears, questions, and worries are the wonderful things we never knew we could experience. My eyes have been opened to the wonders of heaven that are here on Earth and deep appreciation has grown in my heart, causing it to swell at times.

That burning feeling must be the beginnings to answer my question. Why me? Why are we so blessed? It's because of love. Our Heavenly Father and our Savior love us. Period. It's simple! We don't have to do anything or be anyone special because in their eyes, we already are. So that is what you all must be feeling about our family; you love us just because, even if we have done nothing of importance. You give and love so willingly because you are becoming as we are asked to become. Thank you for teaching me and helping me to better understand such compassionate love. In turn, I am trying to love as my Savior loves, to pray with more intent and think on others and less on my own life, to reach out more. My heart has felt more compassion towards others' situations, and I am finding that I want to be better and that I now know how I can do that. Your service to our family has not only helped us in our time of need but will continue to help us throughout our lives as we in turn "pay it forward" and try to become as our Savior. This is the most incredible gift you have given us. Thank you for buoying us up in all these ways.

And if you have days when you feel like me, undeserving of so much love, remember how God loves you and nothing will ever change that. He will bless you as you need and always beyond your comprehension! I promise that He does and that it will all be worth it, that you are always worth His love and the love anyone gives you.