Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Words I Never Wanted to Say

These are the words I never wanted to write. I’ve delayed saying them. I’ve avoided typing them. I’ve begged God for a miracle. And I’ve prayed they would never be true. 

My friend is dying.

We met in an unlikely place during an unlikely time. But it was an instant bond over our shared faith in God and our love of music. She has a heart of gold and a giving spirit that outshines anyone I have ever known. As I got to know her and we talked endlessly online, I knew we had to meet in person, even though we lived in separate countries miles and miles apart.

That week, those seven days, are treasured memories now. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t remember sharing a Tim Horton’s coffee together. Eating at the Red Top Restaurant. Walking at The Forks and having the best time people watching. Going to a supper club in a historic hotel listening to a piano man and his singer make some sweet jazz sounds. Meeting all of her friends that she loved so dearly and volunteered with weekly. Watching movies and videos of our favorite singer together. 

I could have made a million excuses not to make that trip. But as the time draws closer and I know I won’t hear her voice any more or be able to pray with her over the phone, I’m glad I didn’t use those excuses to stay home. Because that week, that one simple week, will keep me going for the rest of my life until I see her again in heaven. Her kindness, her support during some very scary times health wise, and her unconditional love were priceless. I will hold on to those memories when I feel sad, when she is gone, and when I want to pick up the phone and call her.

We had plans. We were going to meet in Toronto or New York one day. She always loved the big cities, as do I. I guess we will have to meet again in God’s heavenly city. That’s the thing about knowing God—goodbye is not forever when we have Jesus. It’s only a “see you later.”

See you later, Allayne. I love you and I treasure every single moment I had you in my life.

And friends are friends forever
If the Lord's the Lord of them.
And a friend will not say never
'Cause the welcome will not end.
Though it's hard to let you go
In the Father's hands I know
That a lifetime (and an eternity) are not too long
To live as friends.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Disease That Keeps Taking

My heart is broken tonight. I've lost another friend to cancer.

This one was my spiritual daughter. We prayed together, cried together, and walked through some very difficult times in her life. And just when we thought the cancer had been defeated, it came back with a vengeance.

I don't know about you, but I'm sick of this disease taking my family and my friends. I'm sick of how every family has been touched in some way by its power to cut lives short. Even with all the new treatments and drugs, it still keeps cutting us down one by one.

When my father was my age, all he ever talked about were the friends who were sick or had died. At the time, I didn't understand why he would focus on this all the time. But I understand now. When it keeps smacking you in the face, it's hard not to dwell on it.

Rae was the kindest, sweetest, most soft spoken woman. Her desire was to serve God in spite of everything that had happened in her life. She raised two boys on her own, raised grandchildren, unexpectedly lost her spouse, and battled cancer.

I don't think I will ever understand the why or even the how of this disease. I do know that my daughter and I are two of the lucky ones. For whatever reason, we were able to dodge the bullet and live to tell about it. I also know that you never really stop thinking about it and wondering if it's silent for now and hiding to rear its ugly head at some point down the road. It is and always will be a part of you.

While she was on this earth, Rae blessed so many lives, mine included. Her children were blessed to have her as mom and so were her grandchildren. Words are never enough when something like this happens. Even the comfort we get from God often falls short during these times.

I am glad that I will see Rae again someday in heaven and that we will embrace one another like no time has even passed. I'm thankful that both of our bodies will be healed and there will be no more pain or suffering. But most of all, I am thankful that one day this horrible, evil disease will no longer destroy so many lives and families.

Rest in peace, sweet Rae. I was blessed to have known you.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Soul I Will Forever Remember

I met Wendy online about seven years ago. We signed on to collaborate on a parent’s site for college-bound teens. I knew from the start that she was a remarkable woman. I met her in person in July of last year. She was even more remarkable then—fighting ovarian cancer and doing everything she could to stay positive amidst a very devastating prognosis.

We met at Penn Station in New York City. Her smile lit up the train station and I will never forget her red glasses that framed her face. She was a petite woman with a spirit that was larger than life. We had talked on the phone for years, shared medical histories, family joys, and had serious conversations about cancer and how it had touched both of our lives. Since she lived in New York and I lived in Texas, the chance of us meeting in person were slim. But God had a plan and as fate would have it, I was in New York over the summer and we arranged this day.

We walked for miles that day, even though she was weak from chemotherapy treatments and the toll it had taken on her body.  She wasn’t going to let any of that interfere with the day, however, and she never complained for a second. We walked the High Line, had lunch together at Chelsea Market dining on fresh lobster which was a real treat, and splurged on some cheesecake and brownies for desert. We laughed and talked about our lives and futures, and we ended with some somber conversations.

As the day was coming to an end, she invited me to join her and her husband, Mitch, for dinner in Little Italy. We walked about a mile enjoying the New York neighborhoods and talking about her daughter’s wedding which she was so looking forward to attending. During dinner, Mitch attended to her every need and you could tell how much he adored her. He hung on her every word and it was a joy to see the love that they had for one another.

After dinner, we walked to the subway taking pictures of the neighborhood streets along the way. Wendy loved the city and was fascinated with everything it had to offer. They both escorted me back to the train station, made sure I was on the right one, and waved goodbye, smiling.

It’s rare in this world that you meet someone like Wendy. She was kind, compassionate, focused, sincere and positive. She had a knack for words, moving me with her words that she willingly shared with her colleagues and parents, and had a great sense of humor. In the college prep world, she was a giant. Her book, giving a humorous parent perspective of college prep life, left me in stitches. She loved a good joke, telling them and hearing them. And in the last several years, she was a fearless, determined, committed advocate for ovarian cancer prevention and treatment.

I will remember Wendy for all these things, but most of all for her unconditional friendship and support. She left this world too soon, but she left it leaving me and so many others with the best of memories and the desire to be like her—a lover of life and a fighter to the very end.

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you”. Philippians 1:3

If you want to honor Wendy's memory, join me in donating to ovarian cancer research so that others will not have to endure this horrible disease.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It's Not Solely About Gay Marriage

Since last Friday, I have been reading all the posts on Facebook coming through my feed and seeing the tweets on Twitter about the recent Supreme Court decision to sanction same sex marriage for all 50 states. It's a highly volatile issue and one I planned to keep quiet on. But I just can't do it any more. 

There’s a blurred line today between right and wrong. What used to be considered evil is no longer evil--it’s progressive, free-thinking, and open-minded. What people called good, representing moral values and beliefs, is now call judgmental, backward, closed minded and often racist. It’s acceptable to voice an opinion if it goes along with the mainstream of thought, and when you do voice an opposite opinion you are blasted for being filled with hate and prejudice. 

I've read Christians being bashed on Facebook and Twitter for disagreeing with the decision. I've heard of Christians writing and sending hateful posts and comments to those who agreed with the decision. I don't condone either side--both are wrong. 

What most people don't understand is that it's not solely about gay marriage. Yes, we believe that God created man and woman and that he ordained marriage to be between a man and a woman. That doesn't mean we don't love everyone equally as God does; but it does mean we will disagree when those decisions go against what we believe is God's guidebook for us--the Bible. But it's even deeper because we are concerned for our religious liberties. 

Why were Christians so upset on Friday? It was the straw that broke the camel's back. It was the final nail in the coffin of years of having our beliefs stepped on, ridiculed, and destroyed based on what is "politically correct" and what the court believes is the will of the people in this country. It's what corporations believe they must support in order to stay in business and when other companies vow to stand with their beliefs, like Chic-fil-a and Hobby Lobby, they are ridiculed and maligned. Bruce Jenner is proclaimed a hero and elevated to a place of worship when soldiers are fighting for our freedom every day and their valor goes unnoticed and unappreciated. The tide has turned against the Christian community in this country and Friday's decision made it supremely clear that our voice as a moral, God fearing people is no longer valuable. And an even greater problem, is that the moral fiber in this country has deteriorated so much that we fear our nation will no longer have God's hand of blessing on it as it has in the past.

In the past few decades Christianity has come under attack. First, prayer and the Bible were removed from schools in 1962. Then in 1973 came the Roe vs Wade decision legalizing abortion. Next, all public displays of religion were attacked--no 10 Commandments in or near government buildings and no manger scenes on public property. Our kids can't celebrate Christmas in school any more; instead they have "holiday" parties. Companies have been pressured to remove the word "Christmas" from all advertising and employees instructed to say "Happy Holidays" instead. The media has blasted companies like Chic-fil-a, Hobby Lobby and others for expressing their religious views and convictions. Other companies have been sued for refusing to make wedding cakes for gay couples. And these are just the tip of the iceberg. Everything we believe and hold dear is being challenged and whether you agree with us or not, freedom of religion gives us the right to express those concerns.

So please, don't call us judgmental or narrow minded or hateful. We wish no harm on any of the gay community. We love them. We will however, stand firm in our beliefs and believe the constitution gives us that right and freedom. We will continue to pray for our nation and its leaders. We do believe that a "nation is blessed whose God is the Lord". There will always be those who claim to be Christians but are filled with hatred. There will always be the extreme who condemn anyone to hell that disagrees with them. It is not our job as Christians to do that. God is the final judge. All we can do as believers in Christ is follow him and "love one another" and stand firm in our beliefs. The rest is entirely up to God.

If you disagree with me it doesn't mean I won't entertain your thoughts and comments. I will, however, not stand for vicious attacks or hateful speak toward me or my belief in Christ. Please feel free to comment and I will post it and respond. 
  1. "Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Missing the Ta-Tas

It's breast cancer awareness month. Everywhere you look you see pink. At the mall. On Facebook. On the news. It's unavoidable. For those of us who are personally acquainted with the disease, it's a harsh reminder of how it's affected us personally.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all about promoting awareness. But it's painful on so many levels for those of us who have lost loved ones, been physically deformed by the cancer, and who will always live with the "threat" of recurrence.

It's been over 25 years since my mom died from metastic breast cancer. It's been over 14 years since I found my lump and had a lumpectomy, radiation and chemotherapy. It's been over 5 years since I learned I was a carrier of the BRCA gene. It's been over two years since my daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer and made the difficult decision to take preventative measures against recurrence. It's been a year since I lost my ta-tas. All the pink awareness in the world can't take away the pain of how this disease has touched every aspect of my life.

Lately, I've been missing the ta-tas. I never thought I would say that. I never thought I would miss those cumbersome appendages on my chest, that were always "too large' for everything. But I miss them. It's a grief process and since I made the decision (partly because of my heart issues) not to have reconstruction, it's a constant reminder every day when I look in the mirror that this disease has damaged and deformed not only my body, but my life.

I'm not really a "breast cancer survivor". I'm a wounded warrior with the physical and emotional scars of the battle. A fellow breast cancer victim and Facebook friend, Julie Goodale, put it quite simply (read her entire post):

Breast cancer is not a pink ribbon. It’s a disease. It’s a really sucky disease. There is no cure. Let me repeat that: there is no cure. This is not the “good” kind of cancer. Early detection does not mean that it can be cured. We are all forever at risk of recurrence. Over time, the risk does go down, but it never disappears. While there are some cancers that doctors consider “cured” if it hasn’t returned in 5 years, breast cancer is not one of those. Breast cancer can and does return – the original cancer – years later. Twelve years, 15, 27 years later.

Maybe it’s just that after 13 years, I’m tired of losing friends and acquaintances to breast cancer. I’m tired of hearing about how this is the “good” kind of cancer – I mean, if you have to get cancer…. I’m tired of hearing how it’s all behind me. I’m tired of welcoming more friends into this community. And I’m really tired of saying goodbye.

Yes. I miss the ta-tas. But it's so much more than that. I miss what life was like before cancer reared its ugly head in my life. I miss what I used to call "normal" and what my Mom said would never be again. So for those of you fellow wounded warriors out there, don't forget that even though it's "pink" month, the only real awareness is the one that comes from knowing that breast cancer kills, mames, and destroys lives. It's not about wearing a pink ribbon. Have a conversation with someone who has been through it--it's a sucky disease.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Getting old

getting old

Getting old sucks. At least part of the time. I remember listening to my Dad talk about all his ailments and wonder why he couldn't simply enjoy life. But now I know. It's difficult. The problem is my body is getting older but I feel young inside. There's a constant battle because I want to do the things I did at 25 but I'm not able to anymore. It's frustrating and often annoying.

But it's not that way for everyone. I remember my aunt who lived to be 96. She never seemed old or frustrated with her limitations. She embraced every day with a positive outlook. I wish I was more like her.

Don't get me wrong. There are days when I'm thankful for every day I'm still here, especially when I look into my grandkids eyes or I get to spend time with my kids. My Mom died when she was 55. I know she would have given anything to still be here enjoying her kids and grandkids. Thinking about that makes me feel ungrateful.

Aging is the hardest part of life. When you're young you can't wait to get older, graduate from high school, go to college, get married and have kids. Then your kids start having kids and you realize just how quickly the time passes. That means you should be grateful for every day; at least that's the proper response. But it's not always the easy one.

When I think back on my life, I feel like I've only begun to live. There are so many places I want to see--see Francisco, go back to Paris, visit Italy, hike part of the Appalachian Trail, There are so many milestones I want to be here for--E's and W's graduations, weddings and great grandchildren. It's looking forward that makes the here and now more bearable.

If you concentrate on the past, the ailments, and the struggles, you miss out on the joys of the here and now. That's the key to growing old--embrace the joy, look toward the future, and cherish the memories. There is no pain great enough to overcome those blessings in life.

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, May 16, 2014

Having a Mother's Heart

It's 11:14PM on a Friday night and I'm watching a live feed from a graduation in Hawaii. No, it's not one of my children. At least it's not one of my "blood" children. She's one of my adopted daughters. And yes, I have many.

During high school, my daughter's friends used to call me Mommy Shaffer. When she went to college they did the same. I have watched all these girls grow into women, some of them are mothers themselves. I've been to their weddings, sat by them in the hospital, and helped them welcome their own children into the world. Some have graduated from college, graduate school, and gotten a Ph.D. I couldn't be prouder of them.

You see, my heart is big enough to love all of them. I've watched them struggle. I've watched them go through horrible pain. I held them when they cried. And I've been able to share in some of their proudest moments--graduating from college.

Even though they might say that I've been a blessing in their lives, I am the one who has been blessed. It's like I had 20 more children and I've gotten to be a part of their lives, just as they have mine.

So tonight, while they are on the M's I'll finish this up by saying: Congratulations Cassie. Of all my adopted daughters you have grown the most. You have become a loving, kind, compassionate young woman, wife and mother. You've pushed yourself to overcome much adversity and accomplished more than I bet you even thought was possible.

And to all those other "daughters" of mine: Cara, Rose, Renee, Tamara, Candice, Rosa, Jen, and so many others that have come in and out of my life, I'm proud of all of you.