Friday, April 30, 2010

Even now you give me insight . . . . .Now I know!

So, mom was cleaning out your dresser and found some “cherished gems” that you had kept in your top drawer. Items included cards, pictures, etc from over the years that obviously meant a lot to you. She divided up what came from who and handed us our stack. Imagine my surprise when I saw what was in my stack! You had kept the letter I wrote to the family that donated your second kidney. In that moment, I had the answer to one of the most important questions that have been lingering in my mind the past three months. . . . . . .Did you know how much I really loved you? How much I respected you? How much “being your daughter” is a privilege and an honor for me? I know I irritated you, and heavens knows, you could be equally as infuriating, but it never affected my love and admiration of you.

I know now that if you BELIEVED that was my heart in the words of that letter --- then you truly did have a glimpse of how much I love you and how your life and leadership was the bonding glue of this family. I love you. I miss you so much this week. I think it’s the rain --- but I was getting ready for bed the other night and I told DJ, “I miss his VOICE. I just want to HEAR his VOICE.” It was a voice that commanded attention or compliance. It was a voice was easily decipherable between pleased and “not so pleased.” It was a voice that could be MORE than reassuring --- it was truly a calming element that everything really IS going to be ok. Man, it’d be a nice voice to hear today!! I love you and miss you so.


September 1, 2008

I’m not really sure how to start this except to say from the bottom of my heart Thank You. I am the daughter of the man that received a kidney from your family’s organ donation in May.

It was an amazing experience. I got a call at 4:00 a.m. on Mother’s Day morning from my parents saying that a perfect match had been found and the process was getting started. I was scared, elated, tired and had a whole realm of emotions. You see I had gotten that phone call a year ago. This is the second kidney my dad has received in a year. The first one was a perfect match, would get him off of dialysis, and be the “light at the end of this 3 year tunnel” we all wanted. Well, surgery went great, the kidney had kicked in and two weeks later --- bad news. There’s a 1 in 1,000 chance that a human body will have an adverse reaction to one of the anti-rejection drugs and actually attack the new organ….. well,welcome to the 1 in 1,000. It’s been a heartbreaking year. A perfect kidney, new technology, and we’re the one that doesn’t follow the mold. He was very sick, ended up back on dialysis, emotionally and mentally drained and ready to give up. Going back on the transplant list was a very depressing day. We never in a million years that lightening would hit twice in the same place. He honestly was doing his dialysis to maintain life, but he wasn’t “plugged in” to life anymore.

Then the call!! God is an amazing God and I don’t know why, but He found it in His grand plan to give my dad not a second but a THIRD chance at life. This organ is transplanted and FULLY assimilated to his body. His creatinines level with this new kidney is that of normal humans with two kidneys of their own. It is absolutely amazing and a miracle.

I’d like to take a minute to introduce you to the man that your family has given another 10-15 years of life. He’s an amazing man, my dad. He’s a blue-collar worker who has worked so hard all of his lives to support his family no matter what the hours were or how many were required. At the age of 27 his wife of five years was diagnosed with breast cancer. They fought with all their might the next 10 years to conquer it, but God had a different plan. He was a single dad to my brother and me and then met his next wife --- a wonderful woman who has never left his side through the last 20 years.

He is an outdoorsman. He loves to hunt and fish and loves having a dog by his side. He’s a handyman that can fix almost anything or teach himself how to. He’s spent his life as a mechanic making sure people have dependable, safe, and affordable transportation to equip them with the tools they need to support their family.

He is a man of wisdom, deep love, true compassion and heart and life dedicated to God and helping and serving others. He is an elder in our church and ensures (with his wife) that if someone is in need of something that that need is met. Now that he is retired, he volunteers with his small group from church to help families with sick children, help low income families ith necessities, and makes sure his wife, kids and our families are always taken care of.

He is my sounding board, and one of my chief irritants ;), my mentor, and one of the few people in my life who offers me unconditional, unfailing love no matter what I’ve said, done or not done. I love this man more than anything. I’m not stupid. I know in this life a child’s parents are supposed to pass before them, but I truly can not fathom what my life will be when that day comes. And now, thanks to you and the sacrifice of your family, I have quite a few more years before I have to face that.

He is a fantastic grandfather. I am the mother to three of his four grandchildren and because of this kidney, he took his seven year old grandson fishing for the first time this summer; he’s taken his five year old grandson to lunch so they can have chicken nuggets and French fries. He has traveled three hours to the home of his son and daughter in law to baby-sit his other grandson for the evening so they can go and enjoy an adult night. And his 22-month-old granddaughter thinks Poppa is the best thing since sliced bread. Thank you for giving us those memories.

We are now 90 days post surgery and he is doing FABULOUS!!!! His creatinines are at 1.0 (the number of a normal person with two functioning kidneys); he has joined a gym and is working out and getting stronger every day. He is taking his son and son in law (my husband) on fishing trip this month.

I’m also very aware that as we are 90 days post transplant and re-acquainting ourselves with life without dialysis or renal disease, your family is facing the first set of holidays without a loved one. We are completely sympathetic and broken hearted to that. As I said earlier, we lost my mom when she was 35 and we all know what it is like to be on the side of losing a dear, irreplaceable loved one. I think that’s what makes our gratitude and sincere empathy so genuine. We know the feelings, thoughts, emotions, etc that you are facing. We’ve been there. I don’t know if, for you, knowing that you’ve saved a family from those emotions for now, is any consolation or helps ease the pain. Please know our hearts, prayers, and thoughts are completely with your family as you deal with this time. We are keenly aware that for our family to rejoice, another family hurts. We do not belittle or ignore that. We care, pray and embrace you for all that you’ve done and all that you are going through.

I cannot say thank you enough. There are no words that will fully relay what my heart is feeling. Your decision, your loss, your selflessness has offered other families a chance at life and time and memories. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I will forever be grateful to you for every single additional moment I and my children have with my dad (their grandpa). I will never forget your sacrifice or forget the anonymous family that made our memories possible.

All our love,

A recipient’s daughter

Monday, April 19, 2010

Normal, not broken!


Oh what a week!!!! You know there’s hours, days, weeks, etc that life is normal. And it’s been that way since Easter. I go about doing the daily tasks needed to make this family run. Work, school, football practice, dinners, homework, laundry, cleaning, buying new cars, etc. I laugh, have fun, get mad, have PMS, sleep, and actually can FEEL again! I can’t say that a day goes by that I don’t think about you or have a moment of loneliness or reflection. However, I am past the point of wondering “how on earth do I wake up in a world that my daddy isn’t in and make life happen without feeling angry, hollow and sad.” And, there’s a part of me that feels guilty that I’m past that.
Oh, I know, time heals, and it’s all part of the grieving process. I recall you telling me in 1986, as we sat in the front seat of the white Oldsmobile, that you had developed feelings for Nancy. You were struggling because there was a large part of you that felt like you were cheating on Mom. I remember a time Nancy and I went out for the day, and we had a great time . . . .. and I kind of liked her. I laid in bed that night crying and asking Mom to forgive me for letting someone else “in” like that. The result was that special dream I had (that I’ve shared with you, but won’t with the world at this time)….. and it made it ok for you to marry her.
That’s how I’ve kind-of felt the last couple weeks. The logical segment of my brain KNOWS it’s HEALTHY and ok to be where I’m at. The heart that is connected to you fears that you’re sad and worrying I’ve “moved on” and “forgotten”. . . . . although we both KNOW that’s not true! And that it IS ok to feel “normal” again! You’d be preaching at me endlessly for the deep retrospect I’ve invested time into. “Michelle, you’ve got kids that need you. I had a good life. I’m at peace. I’m not in pain. Don’t live in the past. Make everyday count.”
I had a really bad day on Thursday. I was in a conversation at work, and a colleague asked me a question. Internally, I thought, “Oh crap, my dad knows that.” I picked up my phone and dialed 616-6408 only to hear “beep beep beep, the number you have dialed is no longer in service.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!?!? I REALLY just did that!!!! I felt like the biggest idiot in the room! I can NOT believe to this day that I made such dull-headed move. I had to leave my office early for lunch. I took a long drive and cried and talked to you and yelled! It drove me back to feeling like it’s February, ( and not April ) and everything is raw! I’m just glad there wasn’t an audience observing! Wow, quite the laugh that would have been!

So, it’s tax week. I’m the tax lady. I find it ironic the items you can prepare for mentally and emotionally and those you can’t. Oh, I knew Easter would be hard. I’m dreading my birthday, Nancy’s birthday and Father’s Day in the next couple of months --- but I’m mentally preparing for them to be tough! It’s the elements that you don’t know will “catch you” that you can’t prepare for. Might be a song, might be a smell . . . . .but who in heck would have thought it’d be your signature!!! I was finishing your taxes this week, and going through the papers you’d saved throughout the year. There was a copy of a check ---- in your handwriting and signature --- and it affected me in a way I could haven’t predicted. I don’t know why. It broke my heart for a period of time! Maybe it’s because you won’t sign anything again? Maybe because I was organizing the last year of your life? I don’t know --- even to this day ---- but I know that day it bothered me and made me sad.

Mom and I were talking --- we all have different triggers. For her, it’s Sundays, and I understand why! She says she’s sadder and lonelier on Sundays. That makes perfect sense. Your world revolved around your church and others, your love for God and your family. It was the day that you’d force yourself to feel good (on the tough weeks) because you WANTED to go!!! It was the day you talked to both of your kids and you and mom did something special --- church, breakfast, ride on the Harley, visit friends, etc. She misses you most on Sundays. Maybe you could reach down from wherever you are and give her an extra special hug so she can feel you!

Speaking of mom …. It’s also been a very educational week! I had an “ah-ha” moment this week, and it was confirmed on Friday. Mom and I had happy hour together and an amazing talk. You know what? I’m tired of feeling guilty for the way I feel; and, I’m tired of everyone trying to fix me. I’m NOT broken!!! I have spent so much of my life suppressing my feelings and dealing with business items!! How many times have you told me, “You have to deal with it. You can’t just push it away. It’ll show up anyway.” So…. I’m not! I’m a pro at suppression, being “fine”, and moving forward. This time … I’m letting my emotions out a little at a time --- and what do I get? “Oh, Michelle is struggling. Is she going to be ok?” Yes, I’m going to be ok!! I AM OK! I may cry more, be honest and raw, admit things openly! But, others are missing you too and think the same the things but choose to keep it in and that’s fine!!! However, that does NOT make me broken or crazy! It means I’m dealing with it in my way. There are self-help books, but there is not a one size fits all guideline to life without a loved one. And, no, I’ve never dealt with something like this without just pushing it down and dealing with it a decade later. This is all new to me …. but it doesn’t make me broken. …. Novice, maybe? Helpless – NO!

Just because I don’t want to go to church or don’t believe in God anymore --- just makes me a ‘question-er’, it doesn’t make me bad! Just because I’m “fine” one day and ready to talk another ---- just makes me normal! I have to believe many people think and feel this – there are just few that would say it out loud for fear of what others would think. So . .. … I’m trying …. trying to “not worry”, not fake it, not pretend. Lately in my life --- you encouraged me to talk – to REALLY talk – and I never would. You commented many times that that was one of the things that frustrated you most about me. I’m talking now. I hope you can hear me. I’d love for a small sign that would show me you’re proud of my miniscule progress. I love you!!!!! Thanks for loving me and working so hard the last few years to try and get me to “see” things now that eluded you til later in life. I’m trying. I swear I am! X0XOXOXO

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter 2010 ... the first of many "first holidays without"


Well . . . we made it through a first. . . the first big holiday and family gathering without you here. It was odd. An oddness I can’t adequately describe. I kept talking myself through it at different points throughout the week. “It’ll be ok. Enjoy your kids. Enjoy your brother and his family. Cook a nice meal. Keep the conversation light. Have fun - - hunt eggs --- play games and avoid ‘memory lane’.” You know, no matter how hard we tried to do ALL of that --- it was so evident a portion of it was forced.

Nancy actually cried a bit after lunch and Curtis’ voice cracked while he was saying grace. As hard as it was to hear and see, it was also comforting. They are so strong. Minus the last day in the hospital, I haven’t seen Curtis not be “ok”. Nancy is always going and doing and moving - - - - she just has it all under control. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think any of us should be sitting around curled up in a ball, not going on with life. But, it’s been two months, and every once in a while, I still get those “everything is fine and then it’s not moments”. It might be a smell, a sound, a flashback, my sitting down to write in this journal, and then I cry. Sometimes for 30 seconds, sometimes it lingers throughout the day.

I just keep thinking “How come they are ok and I’m not. What is wrong with me?” If his own wife doesn’t have those moments, then why the heck should I? “ Yesterday showed me that maybe they have those too still. As I thought about it, possibly it’s circular support. We all tell ourselves we have to be strong for the other two (Curtis for Nancy and I, I for Nancy and Curtis and Nancy for the kids), that none of us allow each other to see the moments that we aren’t. OR, maybe it’s because we are each too proud for the others to think we’re not strong enough to handle it --- even though we each are. OR, maybe it’s just I’m the emotional one and I’m looking for a reason to not be alone in my thinking. I don’t know. I just know for a brief time yesterday, I felt connected to them in missing you and knowing you SHOULD HAVE BEEN there celebrating Easter with us.

So, not having you here this year spurned a memory I hadn’t recalled in years! It was one of the things you did each year while I was growing up. You weren’t (until later years) the grab your wife and kids and love and hug on them all the time type person. Oh, we knew you loved us --- it was just portrayed in how you provided for us and raised us to be strong disciplined individuals. However, every Easter, you couldn’t wait to show off your family at church…..and you always made sure the girls in your life had a special “extra.” The Easter Corsage. Whether you hid it in the back of refrigerator, or out in the garage, it showed up every year. I remember knowing Mom was going to get one and just anticipating you bringing it out and her smile. I’d snoop (much like I did and possibly still do at Christmas) to see if I could find it before you brought it out.

I remember vividly the year I found it AND THERE WERE TWO BOXES!!!! It was the first year I got one too!!! I still remember the dress it went with. Mom always sewed me a new dress for Easter each year --- this one was white eyelet sleeveless dress with blue flowers and a blue satin bow….. and it was the year I GOT TO WEAR A CORSAGE to church TOO!!!!! I felt so special and grown up! I’m not really sure when the tradition stopped --- I just know that recalling it this week brought a huge smile and some tears. You loved your family so very much and showed it in such unique and special ways. Thank you. And we love you!

So --- I know I said I wasn’t going to, but I went to church yesterday. I knew in my heart that it meant a lot to Mom to have her whole family there yesterday, and I knew you’d want me there. My kids also asked me to go, and I didn’t want to hurt their memory of Easter Sunday. I would have much rather stayed at home and cooked and gotten the house ready for everyone to come over and eat, talk and play. It took everything in me to not walk out during “Amazing Grace” screaming this is all a huge bunch of crap!! I know, I know that it would break your heart if you ever thought that one of your kids lost their faith over all of this, and I’m not saying I have – I just DON’T KNOW anymore. It was always such a paramount element in life for you. I know you prayed for us, led us, and ran the family in a Godly manner. I know you believed. Well….here’s the deal ….. I’m not so sure I do anymore!

It’s so much more than just being mad at God. I truly don’t know if I believe it anymore. I don’t know that I’m convinced it’s not all been a 36 year time waster I’ve been involved in. I’m not buying into the “it’s all part of the bigger plan” gig --- I’ve seen too many people lose too much after hours and months and years of prayer to believe that God hears them yet still loves them enough to say, “No, I’m going to answer it my way.” It’s going to take a “big benefit in the bigger plan” this time to convince me. It really is. I’m sorry if it’s selfish and rude, but it’s me.

This event has truly rocked me to the core of what I thought I knew my whole life - - - I’m not sure WHAT I believe about a higher being, afterlife, and spiritual intervention in the physical world anymore. I don’t even know where to start to find the answer. “Just believe” or “hold onto to your faith” isn’t cutting it for me!!! There’s a part of me that wants to believe we’ve not all been fooled -- for a multitude of reasons --- I just don’t have that “assurance” inside of me anymore…’s gone.

I can hear your voice and lecturing and all of your examples as to why I’m wrong --- it’s just where I’m at --- and it’s hard! At a time my kids are becoming MORE involved in church and asking for Bibles, communion, etc --- I’m wondering if I’ve led them down the wrong path. I’ll arrive at a direction at some point --- I’m just confused right now about what’s true and not.

We missed you yesterday. We miss you today. We love you! But damn it I could really use one of your hugs right now --- it’d go a long way to fixing my heart right now.