First of all, let me apologize for not updating sooner. I started this up date in September last year and about 10 time since.
Over the last 8 months the boys and I have been learning to adjust to many things. We are not just adjusting to the loss of Jane, but also to the many changes that had occurred over the 8 years that Jane valiantly battled cancer. In the beginning, life went on as normal. We adjusted a little for the initial surgery and treatment, but life continued. Jane was still able to drive, converse and direct day-to-day functions, so the impact was minimal. Once the cancer recurred a year later, things gradually began to change and over the next six years we tailored our lives to face the menace that was slowly eating away at the life we once knew.
It is really interesting to see how we each responded to the impact that the cancer had on our family. We all jumped in to support Jane the best we could. We all sacrificed, put things on hold and worked closely together to ensure that Jane had everything she needed. Many of you came to our aid, you brought us food, you prayed for us and even gave generously of your finances. We couldn’t have done it without you!
Over the last year and a half of Jane’s life, things became more difficult for her. She had brain surgery, she lost the ability to use her left arm and then slowly her motor functions began to deteriorate. Each of these things required a little more from each of us. It was a slow process and I didn’t realize how many things were put on hold, ended or just not done. We were focused on helping Jane get better and believing in God for a miracle. In retrospect, I completely missed the boat that Jane was dying, I wanted to believe that she was going to get better.
Gabriel is highly social and enjoys participating in as many things as he can. The impact on him was giving up participating in extracurricular activities at the level that he would have liked. His life was given to taking care of Jane, picking up the day-to-day things that Jane would do and being the extra set of hands that Jane needed because her left arm did not work. He spent a lot of time with his mom, just loving her and being “cute”, kind of like a stuffed animal. Being “cute” is one of the things that Jane found great joy and comfort in.
Samuel loves to be alone. If he had his choice he would find a quiet place to read, play video games or listen to music. Samuel became, as he likes to call it, “Mom’s primary care provider.” This is pretty much true. During the times when I was working or running errands, he would take care of her, often times walking her to the bathroom, making her food and helping her eat or anything else that she required. He stepped in often to ensure that she was well taken care of, his life pretty much revolved around taking care of his mother while the rest of the family was busy making sure we made end’s meet.
Jane’s sister was an incredible pillar of strength during this time. She was always available to make sure that the boys were able to get to school, stay late with them if she needed to. Linda would often take Jane to the doctors or be at important doctor’s appointments, and she made many trips to the mainland to help Jane get to treatments.
They spent a lot of time at our house. Jane’s mom would come over almost every day, giving Samuel a break during the summer. Her mom and dad would take her to the doctor’s for treatment and for appointments. Her mom would make her food, help clean our house, help Jane take showers and spent most of her days praying for Jane and our family. Jane’s dad would work on the outside of our house.
As for me, I went to work and came home. I spent the nights making dinner and taking care of Jane. I was usually up late with her, she had problems sleeping because of the medication. I often would be up most of the night, taking short naps. I would walk Jane to the bathroom, help her drink or just talk with her. When I got up in the morning, usually pretty early, I would wake up one of the boys to sleep in our room just incase she needed to go to the bathroom or get a drink. I was at home taking care of Jane, going to the doctors, running errands (picking up prescriptions or other things) or trying to work out the schedule of how we were going to take care of her.
Jane loved our church. It was a lot of work to get her ready for church, but she loved it and would push to go no matter how she was feeling. I think we only missed church a couple of time because she couldn’t make it. It was Jane who made sure that in the toughest times that we were in church. I was often worn out and just want down time, but Jane was adamant that we make it and we did.
I don’t know how to best describe the turmoil, pressure or stress of caring for the terminally ill, but I wanted to give you a glimpse of what was required. I am writing this not to draw sympathy or pity from you, but to give you insight into the adjustments that we had to make and the new adjustments that we are learning to make beyond just the loss of someone we love.
To start, we all have our moments. The holidays were not that hard, but each one had moments. Jane’s mom wanted to set a place for Jane at the table for Thanksgiving and we did Christmas a little different this year. I worked hard to ensure that we celebrated in a fashion that Jane would have been proud of. The boys and I got the tree set up early and I got the shopping done early. Gift giving is not my love language, so that part was not easy (love Amazon). I have learned to wrap presents pretty good, not great…but good enough.
I think the loss of Jane is hardest on her parents. This is just my observations, but I cannot imagine losing either one of my boys. They have been dealing with it in their own way, but the pain is still deep. Whether we like it or not life moves on with or without us, and I think Linda and the boys have embraced this and done the best job with moving forward. We each have our moments that are filled with grief and longing, but they get less intense, less often and shorter in duration.
Samuel is focused on finishing school and getting ready for college. He is most practical and seems to have transitioned rather quickly. Samuel really stepped out of his comfort zone and played High School Basketball. It was incredibly fun watching him stretch like that. I know that he still misses his mom, but he is ready to move into the next stage of life. This year he was asked to give a speech in honor of the school’s head master, who is retiring this year. Samuel wrote the speech himself, gave it expertly and showed an amazing amount of respect for Mrs. Shaw. I am so proud of him! Not only has Samuel transitioned into a handsome young man, he has turned into quite the statesman. He will be leaving in August to go to college in Salem, Oregon. He will be getting his degree in teaching and hopes to come back to Hawaii and would like to teach at his current school, Trinity Christian School.
Gabriel has excelled in a lot of different areas. While he feels the release of the burden for caring for his mom, he still has, what has been termed as a “Sewing Machine” moment*. That is where something reminds you of Jane and you are flooded with emotions. He told me that Facebook recommended “Jane Arney” to be his friend and that caused a moment. He realizes that he will have moments and that he misses his mom. Gabriel played Volleyball and Soccer for his High School this year and is contemplating a Hat Trick of sports next year, volleyball, basketball and soccer. He was incredible on the opening night of his play this year, A Mid Sumer’s Nights Dream. From the time he walked out on the stage the opening night until the curtain dropped he had full control of the audience. I was taken back because I was not expecting that depth of a performance from him. While Gabriel and I are a lot a like, he has set himself apart this year. Gabriel has a certain energy that draws people to him, he walks with the right amount of confidence, he cares for people and has a disdain for drama and gossip. I think he is still trying to understand what God has for him in the future and has begun to look at colleges.
Now as for me, I think this transition is the most complex, which is probably why it has taken me so long to update the blog. The loss of Jane has been painful to say the least. I don’t really understand the grieving process. I have read a few books and I “understand” what the process is, but I don’t really understand it from a practical perspective. I understand it better today then I did 8 months ago, but I feel there is still a long ways to go.
I often get ask how we are doing, more specifically how I am doing. I usually don’t think about how I am doing, until someone asks me. I am usually unprepared to answer the question and I am not sure that I can answer anything other than, “We are doing good.” It often feels awkward, but I try my best, because I know that it is well-meaning and heart-felt. I also know that it does bring a small amount of comfort knowing that we are cared for. So, I will try to give you a little insight in to how I am doing. I get asked it in a lot of different ways so let’s start with this question.
How are you doing? Life often overcomes me. Life is moving fast and I sometime have a hard time keeping up. I found that I had relied on Jane a lot during times when I lacked motivation or direction. This is especially true when I am tired. There are things that need to get done and sometime I just don’t have the energy to do them. Looking back at the last 8 months, the things that I have forgone because I was “tired” Jane would have pushed me to do them.
One of the hardest things to deal with is that I have unannounced moments of sadness and/or loneliness. It can last for a couple of seconds or a couple of hours. It can shape my whole day or parts of my day. There is no rhyme or reason to these moments, they pop-up on their own terms. Sometimes it is a powerful emotional experience, other times it is just sentiment. Either way, my first thought is to take to the Lord and share it with Him. He truly knows the depth of my pain, I don’t understand it, but I know that His comfort is there and it brings me peace. I had a new experience in the last couple of days. Some of my moments have transitioned from bring sadness and loneliness to giving me a sense of joy or happiness. Something will trigger a memory, a smell, a place or a song (usually not a song), and I will remember it as a happy moment.
Don’t you have more time? I have been asked this question a bunch of times. While our time was spent fully engaged in taking care of Jane, my time has not increased. If anything the amount of time that I have has dwindled. The boys lives were put on hold and they did not have the opportunity to do a lot of different things like, school outings, outing with friends and sports. I have tried to get both boys to get their drivers licenses, but as of yet, I am the only licensed driver in the house. This has advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage is that I have become a taxi, I get off work and drive the boys wherever they need to go. Part of this is because of the sacrifices that they made for their mom, I really want them to be able to move on. Driving takes a good portion of my free time. Now, the advantage of driving them, means that I have their undivided attention while they are in the car and I can control where and with whom they can go.
I have started to serve at church again. I don’t feel qualified, but I trust that God will take care of the things that I have been blessed to participate in. I may have taken on too much too soon. I am still evaluating the balance between what I can do, what I should do and what I am responsible for. I know that at this point in my life, my primary responsibility and ministry is my boys. I have less than two years with Gabe and Sam will be out of the house in August. While these are monumental moments and we are all excited for Sam’s new season of life, I know that I will miss him and that it is another change.
I know that life moves on. It is not always to our liking, but we adjust and move on as well. Samuel will go to college, as I have mentioned a couple of times. Gabriel will start his Senior year of High School and I will continue to work and support them.
Gabriel will go with Aunty this summer to visit a few colleges in California and then spend some time in Washington with my sister and her family. He is excited and really looking forward to it.
When Gabe gets back from Washington, Samuel and I will be getting ready to head to Oregon and get him all set up for his freshman year at Corban University. Gabe will stay behind because his school will be starting and he has some leadership commitments.
Following my return from Oregon, Gabriel and I will be going on a missions trip to Tonga. We are really excited and look forward to what God is going to do in and through us. This is the first team that our church will be sending out to Tonga. Our goal is to serve as needed, build relationships and assess the needs of the local Foursquare Church.
What Tomorrow Holds
I am not sure what tomorrow holds for us, but I am assured of God’s grace on us. We will continue to seek Him and what he has in store for the next season of life. I know that without my God this terrible loss would have been beyond devastating. I know that regardless of how I feel, or my lack of understanding, that God’s love (Eph 3:18) is deep enough and wide enough to cover all of my sadness, my hurt and my pain. More than anything, I picture my Savior picking me up, brushing off hurt, telling me it will be okay and then placing me back in life with a new determination to move forward on His behalf!
* A “sewing machine moment” is a phrase that we picked up from an NBC sitcom where a Sports radio talk show host loses his wife in a car accident and how a support group of other people who are struggling with issues get through life together.