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Olivia is FOUR

You are FOUR!

God has entrusted you to my care for four YEARS. Most days I still cant believe it. Every day I get to spend with you I thank God over and over for blessing me with a daughter as beautiful as you. I am blown away by the things you are learning, how much you are growing, your independence, your sense of humor, and how deeply you love. Yes, 4 is a challenging age and you challenge and test me and your dad in more ways than you will ever know but we wouldn’t change a thing!

At four years old you are:

-32 pounds, size 4T and 10-11 shoes

-done with your first time in preschool for the summer. You really loved preschool and all your friends you made, especially your teacher Ms. Anne.

-doing so well at recognizing all of the letters of the alphabet and writing a bunch of them

-able to trace and almost write your name

-watching Doc McStuffins, Calliou, Sofia the First and Disney princess movies. You seem to have outgrown Mickey’s Clubhouse which is another sign you are growing up but every once in a while I can sneak it in!

-a terrible eater, you rarely eat anything we make for you and we struggle constantly to get you to eat. Our go-to foods right now are fish sticks, strawberries, blueberries, waffles, yogurt and applesauce.

-have a major sweet tooth. Major. You wake up and ask for donuts and cake. You would live on sweets if we let you!

-for the most part get along well with your sister, you have this huge loving side to you that will randomly hug Gianna or help her with whatever it is that she is doing. Most of the time you play really well together and you love that she can actually play with you now. You are a tad bossy but she doesnt seem to mind

-you ask about your grampy all the time and if we can go to heaven to see him

-still love to swim and are taking swim lessons now although you really really dislike them

-love to sing songs. Your favorites right now are ‘Jesus Loves Me,’ ‘Wheels On The Bus,’ and ‘Capri’ by Colbie Caillat

-LOVE to swim, you are a little fish and would swim all day every day if you could

-Love helping mommy and daddy with things around the house, cleaning, cooking, etc.

-really enjoy going to church and being in the kids ministry, you seem to always make a new friend when you go

-are completely finished with naps, as in like at least a year ago. You enjoy quiet time or watching a movie but naps are non-existant. Bedtime is around 7:30 and you are really good at going to sleep in your bed for the most part, but do sneak into our room around 4am to snuggle for a few hours. Some nights our bed gets pretty tight but I wouldnt trade that time with you for anything in the world because I know all too well that it will soon be gone

-a little on the whiney side. You have learned that whining gets you attention whether it be negative or positive and it drives us crazy. Our new method is pretending like we cant hear you until you can talk in a big girl voice

-decided the week of your 4th birthday you no longer need a pull up or diaper at night which just about broke my heart. Made me realize just how big and independent you are really getting :(

-are asking a lot of questions about Jesus, church, and the bible and enjoy reading bible stories before bed. Your favorite thing to pray for right now is for Santa to come, hah!

-are so incredibly loving and sweet and we couldn’t ask for anything more!

I love you so much Olivia and cant wait to continue to watch you grow!

I love you to the moon and back,

Momma

A year

This month is just getting harder and harder as the days are getting closer and closer to the one year anniversary of losing my dad.

I am trying my very best not to focus on the harsh memories and events that happened at the hospital, my dad was so sick and suffered through so much pain it is really difficult to think about. Its also hard to think about the roller coaster of emotions our entire family went through these next few weeks.

This day in particular, I had flew into California with a one way ticket, having no clue what the next weeks would hold for our family. I felt hopeful, thankful to be able to get the time off work to be with my dad, anxious about the what-if’s, determined to advocate for my dad with my nursing knowledge the best I could to ensure he had the very best care possible. I really had no idea what was going to happen from the time my plane landed but prayed my entire flight that God would be by my side.

I remember being so happy to see my sister and nephew. She looked exhausted after the long hours she had spent visiting with my dad and taking care of Asher, emotional and stressed was thrown in the mix too. My nephew made me smile as always and was a great way to take our minds off the anxiety over everything that was going on. We stopped at Starbucks of course and chatted as we drove to the hospital my dad had already been at for a week.

I remember walking into his room, determined to have a smile on my face no matter what I saw, and actually being taken back. I remember having to catch my breath. He was sound asleep, the morphine I’m sure, and looked so thin and weak, tired and sick. His skin was yellow from the jaundice and the tube in his nose really bothered me. I knew it was there, I have seen hundreds and in fact inserted many of them myself into my own patients but to see medical equipment on your own family is just a different ballgame. His belly was more swollen than normal from the fluid build up because his liver was sick. He heard us walk in and woke up with a big smile on his face, excited to see me as always. His smile tried so hard to assure me that he was going to be ok but something in my heart just whispered different. I remember biting my lip so I didn’t cry or show him I was upset. I wanted to be strong just like he was being and had been for so long. He got up and we all went for a walk outside, it was such a beautiful day out and the sun starting to set in the sky made me feel hopeful for what the next day would hold. There had to be some answers, it had already been days and days of the same tests, same pain, no solution. He stayed light hearted, laughing and joking with us, enjoying his family and of course Asher like he always did. I cant imagine he must have felt so different though having to be in a hospital gown, attached to an IV pole and heart monitor. I wished for just that afternoon we could have taken all that away.

I remember the doctor coming in when we were all in the room, a doctor I knew from the couple years I had worked at that hospital. He didn’t sound very hopeful at all actually, he explained the problem, all the tests that had been done, ways they had tried aggressively freeing my dads intestines from the obstruction that was causing so much pain. They had been putting off surgery because they knew that it would be too much of a hit on his already sick liver and there would be nothing they could do afterwards to save him. He made mention of him needing to be transferred to a major medical center that did organ transplants because he would need to be worked up immediately so that he could get a liver transplant as soon as possible after the surgery. I knew my dads situation was serious, but it was the first time that I had ever thought he would need something as major as a liver transplant. In order for my dad to survive this ordeal, he would need an organ from someone who is deceased. It just boggled my mind. Before he left, he made a comment that really stung and I will never forget the way it made me feel. He said that he was doubtful any physician at a major medical center would accept my dad because he is so “high risk.” That was the first time that the real severity of his condition set in. What do you mean no one would accept him? He was a normal functioning person three weeks ago, in fact he was on vacation visiting my family and while he wasn’t 100% he by no means was hopeless. This was my dad this man was talking about, my best friend, the worlds greatest grandfather to my two little girls. He was the best husband of 29 years to my mom. The caregiver for my nephew. We all NEEDED him, not to mention wanted him around for many more years. How can you say so casually you aren’t sure if anyone will accept him?? So then what? No one accepts him so we just let him die right here since he is too “high risk” for anyone to do anything? I was crushed. I remember sitting with my aunt that night and actually picturing in my head taking my dad to hospice. Just keeping him comfortable with even more morphine than he was already getting and letting him slip into a coma and die. Based on what that doctor said that was the next steps I was playing through my head.

That night, I stayed with him. I made myself a bed on the chaise/chair that was next to his bed and even though it was miserably uncomfortable it was nothing compared to the pain he was enduring. He would be in agony the hour before his pain medicine was scheduled to be given, deep breathing and grimacing  tossing and turning. That night I will never forget the second time my dad broke down in front of me, the first being the day he lost his own dad. He was sitting on the side of the bed, trying to reposition himself to relieve some of the pain. I was trying to rub his back and give him reassuring words, anything to make him feel better. He just started loudly sobbing and telling me that he couldn’t do this anymore, the pain was just too much. I was speechless, literally no words would even come out no matter how hard I tried to form them. I just prayed quietly while rubbing his back, telling him it would be ok and that the pain would be gone soon. I apologized over and over again, because really what else can you say? The morphine came eventually and he was able to fall back asleep. I prayed that God would use me in some way to be able to comfort or console my dad, begging him to take the feelings of being helpless and hopeless away.

At midnight we got the best news I had ever heard in my life. A physician at USC Medical Center accepted care of my dad and wanted him transferred over as soon as possible. The nurse, Goldie, was working as quickly as possible and would keep us updated as things moved along…

 

renaMay 3, 2013 - 8:14 pm

I wish I could have been there, but no one told me until it was over. I know how you feel and I feel sad too for myself. We were very close. Malcy my sister died May 9, 2008 at 52, she and your dad were such good friends. He came to her memorial service and got down on his knees to put her ashes in the ground with tears washing over his face. The last time I saw your dad was at Dean and Deb’s wedding, the last time I saw you too. I love you alot Andie.

A year gone by

Feeling rather sad today, I opened Facebook and read this post by my sister and it literally knocked the wind out of me.

Exactly one year ago today I rushed my dad to the hospital.There in the emergency room I held his hand and cried with him. I’d never seen my dad in so much pain. My mind immediately thought the worst.. He saw me crying and quickly calmed down, telling me not to cry and he would be ok. I believed him. He’d been in similar situations before and he’d always been ok. I had no idea that just 4 weeks later I would have to say goodbye for the last time. Never in a million years did I think that when we left the house for the hospital that would be the last time he would walk through our front door. My dad had been doing so well the previous 4 months. He’d really taken control of his health. We were doing it together. Because of him I will never take my health for granted, and I will always be in control of what I am putting my body through. Because I can. My health is in MY hands, and I will live for him in the best way that I can. I have no reason not to give life my all everyday. Yes, I am sad beyond words and my heart is broken beyond repair, but as the saying goes- life must go on. I have no choice but to keep living this life and making the most of it. You are on my heart every single day dad. You will always be my best friend. You will always be the coolest guy I’ve ever known. You will always be my reason to push harder. Today and everyday I am going to live for you, because you can’t be here to live this life you so deeply loved. I miss you every second.

I cant believe a year has gone by. While the anniversary of my dads death is not until next month, a year ago today he went to the hospital for abdominal pain, never to see his house again. Our house, our home, the home I spent the majority of my life in, the home my parents raised me and my sister in. He left his toothbrush by the sink, his garden un-watered, his clothes folded next to his bed without a clue that he would never see any of them again.

Its all so hard to comprehend sometimes really. I completely understand the finality and reality of death, I work around it every day actually and in my years of experience have grown to become very comfortable with the process of helping a patient and their family transition from aggressive medical interventions to comfort and allowing natural death. Its a beautiful thing when you can help the person accept that death is inevitable and help ease their fears, and to be able to comfort and hold the hands of the grieving family members not quiet ready to let go brings me great joy. But not my dad. Not my best friend that I was sure I would have another 20 years with.

It all changes the second it hits close to home. The second its your loved one in that bed, wearing that hospital gown, getting that tube or line inserted, suffering through that pain. It all changed for me when that became my dad. I have said this before but I guess I thought I had some free pass, a ‘get out of jail free’ card of sorts. Nothing sad would happen to me. My parents both would live into their 80′s or 90′s and die of old age. They would see their grandchildren graduate high school (that was always my dads life goal), go off to college, even get married and have children of their own. Surely God wouldn’t take MY parents from me too early.

Guess again.

As I am working through my grief, continuing to pray and read Gods word about His plans for my life, I am realizing more and more that God did not ‘take’ my dad from me. While it feels like that sometimes, in those moments where I am so deep in heart wrenching sadness and pain that I feel like one of the most important people in my life has been wrongly ripped out of my arms, I repeat over and over in my head that just like it says in Psalm 139:

And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, before one of them came to be. Psalm 136:16

God clearly knew that at age 59 my dad would go on to live in eternity. He knew that at age 29, with 1 and 3 year old precious little girls who adored their sweet Grampy, that I would temporarily part ways with my earthly father until we are reunited again in heaven. God knew that my sister would painfully say goodbye to her dad before the age of 25. God knew that my mom would be a widow at the early age of 51. God knew that all of those tragedy’s would happen in our lives before they occurred.

Yet, He is still good.

I may not see His plan clearly now, I may not understand why, I may not see or feel any of the good but I trust. I trust Him with every ounce of my being and if I didn’t then I would be in a big heap of a mess right now. If I didn’t trust that God perfectly facilitates our lives while here on earth even when we think He must not be watching over us or must not care about us, I know that He perfectly works out all the details of our lives according to His plan.

So today, while I am allowing myself a day of sadness and grieving, I am letting the tears flow freely and flipping through the photos, I just trust.

These were taken by my dad on his last trip to our house. This was the last time he took the girls for their morning walk to Dunkin Donuts and to watch the school bus’s drive by. I know these sweet faces are the images that were ingrained in his memory when he thought about them in his last days with us. 

This picture was at Simi Valley Hospital. Seeing my nephew here and his lack of hair makes me realize how much time has really passed. Asher was my dads pride and greatest joy, he treasured every second spent with him and made the most of every single day they had together. 

9 months

Dear Dad,

I cant believe its been 9 months since the last time I saw you. I know I have pictures but they are just not the same. As I am just barely starting to type this my heart is heavy, my throat feels tight and my chin is quivering. It is just still so painful. Dad, I am scared that I am forgetting you. I am forgetting what it was like to have you in my life. I am forgetting all the things I used to call you for or text about. I havent heard the sound of your voice in ages because it is too painful to listen to my saved voicemails or watch a video. Just simply saying your name hurts so much.

I just still cant even believe it.

Most days this last month I have actually been ok. Most days I can think about you with happiness in my heart. Most days I am not breaking down multiple times throughout the day, getting myself into sobbing fits that are so bad I can barely breathe. Occasionally tears will fall but they are in few and in a bittersweet way sort of healing tears. Does this mean I am “moving on”? I really hate that figure of speech. I will never “get over” or have “moved on” from what you were in my life and what you still mean to me. I have to remind myself that just because I am not in hysterics does not lessen the love I have for you nor does it erase the huge void that is in my life. I am learning to lean on God, to fill that painful hole with prayers and reading scripture. I know you werent a church going guy but I do know for certain you are in our eternal home. I keep reminding myself that our heavenly Father is all of our first Fathers and truly he is the greatest of all. Growing in my relationship with Him will only benefit me when it is my turn to be called home, whenever that may be. Remembering to have an eternal perspective on my life really helps on those days that all-consuming grief sneaks in. I know that I was so blessed to have you as my dad for 29 years but that is just a speck of dust compared to eternity in the same place. I am sure you are up there probably gardening and watching all of your favorite sports games.

I just wanted you to know how much I miss you.

I love you forever.

I realize that it may seem weird to write a letter to my deceased dad but this is all a part of my healing and grieving and its just been on my heart. I will never be ashamed of my feelings.

gianna 18-20 months

Written December 28th, 2012.

Sweet Gianna,

You are 4 months away from being 2, I cant even believe it! Seriously time just goes by so quickly. You are becoming so much more fun as you grow and your spunky personality comes out more and more.

At 20 months you are:

-Wearing 24 months/2T clothes, you are basically the same size as your sister just shorter. We mix your clothes up all the time!

-Boycotting food. You rarely eat anything and your always throwing whatever we give you on the floor

-Growing your vocabulary by leaps and bounds. You will repeat anything we say and your favorite words right now are baby, momma, sissy, dada, no, and out

-Love playing with baby dolls and wrapping them up in blankies

-Still drinking your milk at bedtime

-Fell out of your crib. Major mom FAIL. After you fell we turned your crib into a toddler bed and for 3 nights all you would do is walk around, play, go in the closet, open drawers, and yell at the baby gate. Needless to say we found a different solution and you are back safely in your crib. I think we will keep you there until your feet stick out the ends

-Are loving your new daycare and have so much fun playing. You are Miss Keri’s buddy and she just adores you

-Are obsessed with socks and still love shoes. You will take the same pair off and on 50 times

-Still climb all over everything and are very accident/fall prone. We have had to baby-proof our house all over again even though your almost 2!

-Love to color and will lay on your tummy on the floor and color with crayons. Just about the cutest thing I have ever seen

-Had a fun time celebrating Christmas even though you are still a little bit young to understand. Your most favorite thing is a book from your cousin Dana called ‘No David!’ You will sit in our laps and have us read it to you a million times. You also act out all the things david does and love to point and shake your finger saying “no no!”

-Are such a sweet snuggly little girl and daddy and I couldnt love you more!

To the moon and back baby girl,

Momma