Category Archives: Grief

Diagnosis

Last fall, my husband received a devastating diagnosis. He has Stage IV metastasized prostate cancer. Although this news packs a powerful punch, and there is no soft, kind way to share it, I need to let you know about this major change in my life, dear friends. I am sorry for the pain such news causes.

We have had time now to process the initial shock, to learn much more about what happened and is happening to his body, to begin the process of “getting everything in order,” and to start letting people know about it (although he’s a very private person). And in the middle of all the adjustments and doctor appointments, we are living our new life, which now has a one to four year time limit to it.

We have entered a new world — the world of cancer patients, survivors, caretakers, doctors, nurses, technicians, counselors. Cancer has become the kernel of truth within our daily lives now. Ever-present.

Cancer is a tremendous opportunity to have your face pressed right up against the glass of your mortality.” But what patients see through the glass is not a world outside cancer, but a world taken over by it—cancer reflected endlessly around them like a hall of mirrors.

~ from The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee

My husband describes the first months of his disease as “surreal.” Surreal because he felt mostly healthy and normal except for the side effects of his treatment medications, and some pain that came occasionally. His body has been tolerating his treatments well so the cancer has been controlled for the time being. That is slowly changing as this disease finds new ways to get around treatments, but the inevitable decline has not started, yet.

Cancer is an expansionist disease; it invades through tissues, sets up colonies in hostile landscapes, seeking “sanctuary” in one organ and then immigrating to another. It lives desperately, inventively, fiercely, territorially, cannily, and defensively—at times, as if teaching us how to survive. To confront cancer is to encounter a parallel species, one perhaps more adapted to survival than even we are.

~ from The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee

He entered this disease in excellent health, with excellent vital signs for his age, and no “co-morbidities,” using the term we’ve heard so often during this Covid-19 pandemic. He was, and still tries to be, active and fit. He feels his best when he is out on his bicycle. Genetic testing showed no genetic mutations that would have caused this to happen, and that, gratefully, are not something our children and my husband’s brothers need to worry about. It just happened. It is real…but it is not yet “real”. Surreal.

Right now, we are deeply grateful and profoundly sad. Grateful that we have time left to be together, to live life together. Grateful that we can face this disease side by side, as we have faced every other challenge in our 52 years together. Grateful for each day that he wakes up in the morning and is “mostly well.” At the same time, we are both profoundly sad, and the sadness comes in waves between otherwise “mostly normal” days.  We are seeing everything in life now through this new lens of impending loss, and are living each moment with crystal clarity. 

And from this vantage point, with deep feeling, I want to ask you to please cherish those you love. Please cherish yourself. Please cherish the daily-ness of your lives. Please cherish all the little things, because, as they say, those are truly the biggest and most important things. Live your life to its fullest, each day, because “today is all of time,” as my grandmother wrote in one of her poems. Today is all of time.

Crying in H Mart

This week I’ve been listening to the audiobook, Crying in H Mart, by Michelle Zauner, also narrated by the author. It’s been a very moving experience which has touched my heart in many different ways.

It is a memoir of a young woman, a talented musician (her band is called Japanese Breakfast) and the only daughter of a Korean mother and an American father. It is the story of her growing up between two cultures, of her relationship with her mother, and of the loss of her mother to cancer.  It is a very honest and introspective book as she described the struggles between mother and teenage daughter, mother and young adult daughter, and the struggle to establish her own identity. It is a story of growth and grief, and of love and loss.

Her experiences were both unique and universal. I identified with many of the struggles of her teenage years (from my perspective as both a daughter and a mother), and I was fascinated with her cultural and language struggles with extended family. Michelle had just reached young adulthood when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. It was just at the time when her relationship with her mother began to settle into a more adult closeness after the struggles of the teenage years. The descriptions of her mother’s decline and death were heart wrenching, and I found myself in tears numerous times. I couldn’t help but remember and compare my own mother’s death three years ago, and appreciate once again what a kind death my mother had in comparison to the death of Michelle’s mother to the ravages of cancer with it’s prolonged decline. I just wanted to reach out and hug her and tell her how much I admire her honesty and the courage she showed in dealing with that devastating experience.

Michelle’s writing is beautiful. She is not only a talented musician, but is a very talented writer. I am hoping she continues to tell stories because I will look for and read any book she writes. This book is currently on the New York Times best seller list, so there was a long wait for it at the library. But I enjoyed listening to her own voice narrating it, so I highly recommend listening to the audiobook.

A favorite quote from the book:

I’ve just never met someone like you,” as if I were a stranger from another town or an eccentric guest accompanying a mutual friend to a dinner party. It was a strange thought to hear from the mouth of the woman who had birthed and raised me, with whom I shared a home for eighteen years, someone who was half me. My mother had struggled to understand me just as I struggled to understand her. Thrown as we were on opposite sides of a fault line—generational, cultural, linguistic—we wandered lost without a reference point, each of us unintelligible to the other’s expectations, until these past few years when we had just begun to unlock the mystery, carve the psychic space to accommodate each other, appreciate the differences between us, linger in our refracted commonalities. Then, what would have been the most fruitful years of understanding were cut violently short, and I was left alone to decipher the secrets of inheritance without its key.

An after-reading-the-book experience:

Food was a huge part of her relationship with her mother, so H Mart was an important part of this book. I had never heard of H Mart before, but since the author grew up in Eugene, Oregon, and the H Mart there is the one she wrote about, I thought it would be interesting to perhaps visit that particular store. In searching for it on the internet, I discovered that there are numerous stores even closer to home, so my sweet husband and I drove to Tigard yesterday morning for our first-ever shopping trip to H Mart. Yesterday’s pilgrimage won’t be our last, though, because we were thrilled with the produce and enjoyed shopping there. We came home with some wonderful baby bok choy, a fine looking napa cabbage, a variety of wonderful greens, some new instant noodles to try out, and all the regular weekly items on our shopping list.  And since Korean food was such an important part of the book, I picked up the ingredients to try a new recipe I found for Korean Noodles with Black Bean Sauce. Yum!

Wise Words About The People Who Are Gone

Thinking of my Mom and Dad this week… My Dad passed away 26 years ago today, just two days before his 74th birthday. I lost my Mom almost two years ago. Missing them is timeless and a constant. But they are in my heart and always with me. The memory of them both, and their lives of integrity and kindness, still guide me in my daily life.

Goodbye, Mary

Mary Oliver

It is with great sadness this morning that I say goodbye to one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver. I heard the news of her passing just a moment ago, and I can’t believe her voice is now silent. We will miss you terribly, Mary, but your poems will live on in our hearts. Thank you for what you did with your one wild and precious life, and for all the beautiful poetry you shared with us.

The Best of the Best 2018

I miss you, Mom!

In 2018, I read 97 books. That’s pretty good for me in a year of change and loss. My reading has been a real solace after losing my Mom in July. Dedicating some time each afternoon for some quiet reading was magical and helped to fill the silence of those times when I used to talk with her on the phone each day.

There were some terrific books among those 97 that I read. So I’ve picked out my Best Nine to put together in a collage…And then a photo of the cover of my Number One favorite of the year. Each of those “best of the best” books was a wonderful experience for me. The stories captured me, the writing deeply impressed me, or they were just plain fun to read. Or all of the above!

2018 was also a year I returned to reading challenges. I used to join so many different ones, and loved the variety of reading they introduced into my life. I haven’t participated in as many in recent years, but I enjoyed getting back to some very nice ones this year.  I am loving being part of The Classics Club! My 50-books-in-five-years goal is a lot of fun for me. I’m happy to say that since I started the challenge in March 2017, I have read 21 books from my list, although I haven’t finished posting reviews for some of them yet.

I also participated in The Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge hosted for the eighth year by Adam (@roofbeamreader). Out of my list of 12 books that have been sitting on my shelves for years and years, I managed to read four of them. I’m happy about that even though it may look like another challenge fail for me. It IS four books that would probably still be sitting there, unread, so I consider it a success! I’ve signed up to continue on with this challenge in 2019!

In 2018, I returned to the Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge which I hadn’t participated in for a number of years. It was so much fun this time! I do love reading mysteries, so this turned out to be a terrific way to spend the Fall months. For that challenge I read ten books and completely enjoyed every one of them! I’m looking forward to doing that challenge again in 2019.

The Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thons in April and October were highlights of this reading year for me, and I look forward to repeating those experiences in 2019 along with my other challenges!

My Best Nine of 2018:

 

And my NUMBER ONE favorite book read in 2018:

…was Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming!  I listened to her narrate it on audiobook and loved it. It was a book of hope and dignity, the story of her life so far. For me it was a breath of fresh air, and it renewed my spirit and gave me hope that we can become better individuals, better people, and a better nation. She didn’t preach, she just very honestly shared with us how she became the person she is today. And I admire that person more than ever because of her honesty and integrity.

December Reflections 2018

December was … fun, tenderhearted, busy, and full of books!  It was a time of holiday and birthday fun. Our son and grandson both have birthdays between Christmas and New Year’s Day, so we have a week of celebrations each year!  December was also “tenderhearted” because it was the first Christmas without my Mom. Of course it is always completely busy with holiday preparations and last minute gift shopping. And this holiday was full of books for each family member!

Despite the busy-ness of the month, I loved my reading and finished thirteen books (and am about halfway through my Classics Club “spin” book, Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche). The December book I enjoyed the most was The Outermost House, by Henry Beston. A close second was Zora and Me, by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon. It’s a fictional account of the childhood of Zora Neale Hurston for middle grade students. A Literary Christmas, full of delightful traditional holiday stories, was a fun audiobook to listen to while running all those errands. All in all, it was a very nice reading month.

I hope you all had a warm and book-filled December, too, my friends!

 

Reflections: September 2018

Reflections on the Columbia River, September 2018…

September was both a busy reading month and a busy family month! At the first of the month, I  happily joined the Readers Imbibing Peril XIII challenge, hosted by Heather (@Capricious Reader) and Andi (@Estella’s Revenge) and got right to the job of reading from the list of genres that make up the focus of this challenge. It continues until the end of October, which is great because I’m really enjoying reading the books I chose.

I took a reading and blogging break in the middle of the month to travel to Salt Lake City for my mother’s Celebration of Life. It was a beautiful celebration of a life well-lived. My husband and I enjoyed the road trip, being with family, and spending time in the beautiful Rose Garden at Red Butte Garden where we have my parents’ memorial bench. Both my parents donated their bodies to the University of Utah Medical School, so the Garden and the bench are extra special to us, and the bench is a cherished place we visit a often as we can. The bench itself sits in the Rose Garden surrounded by beautiful roses, which they both loved, and is a happy, peaceful place for us to spend time.

My reading has been a great solace to me in the last two months. My extra hour of reading in the afternoon, dedicated to my Mom, has been wonderful! So despite the long-distance road trip, and all the planning that took up so much time, I was able to enjoy 7 books in September. It really should be 8 books, because I am almost finished with Rosamunde Pilcher’s, September, but, unfortunately, I won’t finish it before midnight tonight.

My September reads:

 

 

A New Release

My audiobook pre-order of Doris Kearns Goodwin‘s new book, Leadership in Turbulent Times, arrived in the wee hours of this morning. It’s arrival is well-timed for me. We are leaving tomorrow for a week of travel and family. My mother’s Celebration of Life is on Saturday, and we are all gathering to honor and celebrate a life well lived.

Mom would have wanted to read or listen to this book and add it to the list of other DKG’s books she enjoyed. So in her memory and in honor of her passion for history, I will listen to this book for her.

August Reflections 2018

We lose ourselves in books, we find ourselves there too.

My reading in August was both pleasure and solace. The silence left after my Mom’s passing in July was deafening, but I know she would be pleased that I am filling our daily phone conversation time with books!  It’s easy to stop everything you are doing when the phone rings and allow yourself an hour of talking about all sorts of things (especially books). So now I allow myself that daily time to read, and it is pure pleasure!

Here are the books I read in August. My favorite was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, but I also loved listening to the very creative Ready Player One.  I had set aside The Silkworm  for awhile and then decided to finish it for the upcoming RIP-XIII reading challenge.  (I started the challenge a week early because I have no self-control!)

August was an enjoyable reading month.

 

Happy Birthday to my Mom

I am missing my Mom today…it’s her birthday and she would have been 99 years old! We lost her just three weeks ago, so celebrating her birthday today is a mixture of sadness and joy–she  lived life to the fullest and left us with so many joyful memories!

After my Father passed away twenty-four years ago, I started a list of “Would Haves” because there were so many times when my brothers and I would say, “He would have loved this…or that.” I haven’t started a similar list for my Mother yet, but I will need to soon because there are already things happening that she would have liked! One thing for sure that will be on that list is  the upcoming September release of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s new book, Leadership in Turbulent Times. That one would have been number one on her TBR list!

Happy birthday to my beautiful Mom, my special friend. I miss you!