Friday, October 28, 2011

Of Monuments and Monumental Experiences

If I would update more often, I could devote my posts to a single topic. But such is not the case, so this post includes at least two unrelated events.

Anna's stone was placed at the cemetery last week.  We had been anticipating its arrival for some time.  There wouldn't be any real surprises as to what it would look like, because we had worked and reworked a design we would be "happy" with.  But the knowing it was coming and the knowing what it would look like doesn't mean that I was prepared for its arrival.  It is a mixture of feelings - what isn't? - as I am glad that there is now a permanent marker for where Anna's body rests.  And yet I hate that there needs to be a permanent marker for where Anna's body rests.

This is the front:

 ...and the back:

We know the saying, "It's not as though it's carved in stone," meaning that something can always be changed.  Maybe that's what is difficult about the arrival of this monument.  Anna's death is now carved in stone.  It's real. 

But we did want to be sure that the carved-in-stone record of her death also conveyed the truth that she has life eternal in the arms of Jesus.  She loved to sing the song "I am Jesus' Little Lamb," so it seemed a fitting verse. 

We smile through our tears remembering her singing that she was Jesus' "Wittle Wamb." 

I also want to share another remembrance for Anna.  My brother, Chris, has used his wonderful talent to once again put together a video / slide show of Anna's life.  A portion of that video is on Youtube for anyone who would like to view it.  It is a reminder of God's grace and goodness even during difficult times, and a reminder that though the outcome wasn't exactly what we prayed for, God's promises still hold true.  Here is the video. 

And, on a COMPLETELY different topic, I guess I should give a report of last weekend's half marathon!  Since it was my first (and likely only) half marathon, I wasn't sure what to expect, and I wasn't sure what goals to set.  My main goal was to finish.  If I could finish without walking at all, I'd be very pleased.  And then any time under 2:30 would be fine by me! 

The day or two before the race, I was suddenly feeling very stressed and unprepared.  Though I had never given a whole lot of extra thought to nutrition while I was training, suddenly I panicked  because I felt like I needed to eat the "right" foods in preparation for the race. I hadn't ever run more than 10 miles, how was I going to do 13?  The night before, I felt incapable of deciding what to wear -- shorts or pants?  Long sleeves or short? 

Ready or not, the day of the race arrived, and we were off!  I decided to try to follow the 2:15 pacer, figuring I would fall back after a while.  But before too long I felt like I wanted to go faster than the pacer, and despite being warned NOT TO PASS YOUR PACER, I passed the pacer.  I was advised that it would be very disappointing to pass your pacer only to have them pass you a little later on, so once I passed I was determined to stay ahead of the pacer.  (And by determined, I mean really really hoping, because if the pacer caught me and went on by I was pretty sure there wouldn't be much I'd be able to do about it!) 

A couple of hills provided some extra challenge, but it was a good course to run on a beautiful fall day.  I was pleased to be feeling good at mile 6.  Even miles 7,8 and 9 were going well.  At mile 10 I (thankfully) felt like I had it in me to keep going.  I told myself I "only" had a 5K left to run, and a 5K is a piece of cake!  Of course, a 5K after a ten mile run makes for a bit more of a challenge.  My legs were starting to feel it, and a couple of (very) mild upward elevation changes in the last couple of miles were tough.  But adreneline kicked in as I came down the final stretch and I was able to add a little more speed before crossing the finish line. 

I finished the race!  Goal met!!
I didn't walk!!!!  Goal met!! 
Final time:  2:14:07     Goal surpassed!!!!

It is a great feeling to have accomplished this.  It is proof that with God all things are possible, and I know I couldn't have done it without Him!  And I am thankful for my supportive family members who came to cheer me on, including my guys!

I have said that this would be my only race of that distance.  I think I would like to keep running enough to participate in 10Ks, but I don't know that I would want to devote the time again to training for a long race.  But, almost a week later, as the soreness is wearing off, the thought is already entering my mind that I could maybe do that again...... maybe....... someday...... maybe.......

Like other "big" events, it seems like a bigger deal before you do it.  But, hey, if I could run a half-marathon it can't be that dififcult!  If I can do it, anyone can!  But I don't blame anyone for not wanting to!

Now onto my next big goal......

Monday, October 17, 2011

Another month, continuing sadness, happy remembering, added busy-ness, another death, not enough training, and always hope in Christ!

I’ve been away for too long, so there is much to catch up on! 

October 12 marked another month that we have lived without Anna’s physical presence.  That makes 10 months now.  The weird thing (one of the weird things) about grief and missing is that it doesn’t follow any logic or set pattern.  You might imagine that the process could be pictured as following a straight line, and even if you realize that no person progresses from one point to the next at the same rate, it would make sense that you still go continually forward from one point to the next.  In actuality, though, the process follows a zigzag line, or loops forwards and backwards, or makes heart-stopping twists, turns and drops.

You would think that a person could get used to living without their daughter eventually, and that each day would be just a bit easier than the one before it.  Sometimes that seems to be the case, and then suddenly there are days when it truly seems like I should be picking out clothes for Anna along with those I set out for Luke and Isaiah each morning. One day it seems like I’m only just discovering that her bed hasn’t been slept in.  I have to stop myself when I think I heard her call for me...Her presence at times seems so real, so recent, even more than it did a couple of months ago.  I walk into the room where the boys are playing and expect her to be there, too.  I am sometimes caught so off-guard, because even I thought I had gone on to the next point on the line, only to discover that I’ve been thrown for a loop and have regressed in some ways.  There just isn’t any logic or predictability, and that is hard to deal with. 

We have been talking about life exactly one year ago.  It was this week in 2010 that we had “run away” from doctors and real life to spend time as a family in Florida.  We look at pictures like these, taken that week, and have such a hard time believing that one year ago Anna was with us and happy and we were so hopeful – and still whole. 

How thankful we are to have these photos, these memories, which I think will always be the most vivid, happy final memories we have of our Anna and our family of five. 

Life feels very different now, one year later.  Yes, life continues to move forward, and always at such a rapid rate!  This has been a busy month, to say the least.  For one thing, my Kindergarten aide position developed into an every day job.  Though I had doubts about working this many hours, I am glad that I can be of use in the classroom and I do enjoy what I do, plus I have the availability to be doing it right now. 

The CureSearch Walk, a bereaved mother’s retreat, and a cousin's wedding have kept us busy for the past several weekends, and of course we have been busy with harvest, so it’s been a rather crazy time of year.  Gorgeous fall weather has made the busy-ness more enjoyable though! 

We did have some more sadness recently, as our dog, Rex, was hit on the road and killed.   He had only been with us since April, but how quickly we develop attachments to our pets!  We know that he was “just a dog,” and yet for our boys was another difficult loss to deal with, especially for Luke.  There has been mention of getting another dog, but time will tell if we are ready for that. 

I guess we can be thankful for the reminders that this life is temporary, that this is not our true home, and that we have so much to look forward to!  A song I rediscovered that says so much...  ..... so much about the reason for the hope that we have, the sure hope that one day we will be home at last!

The month of September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, has passed.  Even though September has passed, Childhood Cancer remains very much in the present.  Every day in October, and November, and December, and…… 46 children, on average, will be diagnosed with cancer, and each day 7 will die.  Year-round efforts are needed.  As I mentioned, we participated in the CureSearch Walk in Minneapolis at the end of September, and our team, Anna’s Army, raised over $3,800 to contribute to an event total of over $88,000.  Thank you to everyone who contributed!! I hope we will see the discovery of a cure, the sooner the better! 

In the middle of all this busy-ness, I continue with my half-marathon training, though not as often as I should.  I am now five days away from the big day, and though I wish I were a little more prepared, I think I can get it done!  I am ready for the day to come and be done with, as I don’t believe that this training has turned me into a “real” runner.  I think this will be my one and only big race.

There are a few things I plan to update about very soon, so hopefully I will be able to find the time to do that!