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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Wedding Memories

One year ago today, Leroy and I were walking our baby girl down the "aisle."

It was not your traditional wedding... Our wedding "chapel" was miles and miles of blue sky and wide open sea.  Our wedding march on the open deck of a cruise ship.  Our wedding song the laughter of guests and the salty sea breeze whistling through our hair! 

And as untraditional as this ceremony was, the real story is that the wedding was supposed to take place on the balmy beaches of Cozumel!  Obviously, we never made it.  Katie and Jordan learned early that life if full of adversity.

Sometimes you get derailed, despite your best plans.  We are blessed to have a daughter and son-in-law who trusted the goodness of God more than the circumstances that surrounded them.  The smiles are genuine, the joy enormous as Jordan and Katie finally made it to their wedding day.

For months, 8 to be exact, Katie and Jordan had planned a dream Destination Wedding to the beaches of Cozumel.  She wanted to be barefoot in the sand sharing their vows under a tropical sun.  Beautiful, well-orchestrated, planned down to the smallest detail.  So much fun, that planning!

Katie and Jordan had chosen a 5-day cruise out of Galveston that stopped in the port of Cozumel. We had booked the Cozumel Wedding Garden, complete with the canopied tents, beach altar, cake, champagne, and even the Mariachi band!   Not only would all our guests be able to enjoy a tropical wedding, they also got to participate in a 5-day Wedding Extravaganza Vacation.  We boarded the ship in Galveston, all 40 of us, mom included, and prepared for the Fun to start.  Only to be socked in by fog... The Galveston Port Authority closed the port to all ship traffic.  We spent our first night anchored to the dock.  This delay set in motion a chain of events that ended in a total itinerary bust.  By the time we left Galveston the following afternoon, the Captain informed us that we wouldn't be able to make port in Cozumel.  Instead, we would be enjoying a 4-day cruise to the middle of the Gulf of Mexico...

Katie had two choices:  Become an enraged Bridezilla, or accept the upset with as much grace as possible and move on.  Not an easy decision, even for the most grounded of brides.

In that moment, when we watched Katie take in the announcement from the Captain, my heart just broke.  Her eyes widened, tears pooled, but she leaned into Jordan and together they said "it doesn't matter where, it only matters that you're all here."  I just love my baby girl.

And so we went into hyper-wedding-planning mode.  Only 36 hours to prepare a new wedding, which the guests were now fondly calling the Wedding at Sea on the Cruise to No Where. 

The cruise ship bent over backwards to make it right and that's when the Blessings began.

Katie and Jordan were moved to the Penthouse Suite (never knew ships had them, but boy was it amazing!)

Their activity director helped organize a wedding that was uncomparable.  They cleared the back deck of the ship at sunset, arranged for the chairs, the flowers, even a beautiful champagne and cake reception.

They closed the double water slide for the bride and groom to Trash the Wedding Dress in High Sea Style!  This happens to be all the rage for beach weddings nowadays, and our cruise ship wasn't going to be outdone just because we were at sea!!

It truly doesn't matter where...Just as long as we're all together!

Joyful Memories of a Wedding Day filled with Love and Laughter

And best of all, Memories of a Grandmother's Love.
So very grateful for her presence on Katie's Big Day.

We will never know why the wedding plans went awry (fog and all), but, we think God had better plans in store for this wedding couple, as seen only in hindsight:

And perhaps the biggest gift of all was that Mom was able to make the trip.  She was in the middle of radiation therapy when we left for the wedding cruise.  With her doctor's blessing, she took a 5-day break from the radiation treatment and packed for the trip.  She was exhausted, nauseous, frustrated with debilitating mouth sores, and determined to go to her granddaughter's wedding.  We can see now, that the cruise ship wedding was so much easier on her than spending the day on the beach, no matter how beautiful that might have been.  Katie was the first to acknowledge this and I cry to realize how grown-up my little girl has become.  On her wedding day, when she had every right to be distraught at the abrupt rearrangement of her plans, she was thinking of her grandma.

It angered me for weeks that pancreatic cancer had tainted my daughter's joy on her wedding day.  I ranted and raged to Leroy that it wasn't fair.  He could only agree.  It isn't fair.  It's not fair to the families that watch in sorrow as their loved one suffers, it's not fair to the cancer sojourner, who has everything to lose, life itself, if this disease wins, and it's not fair to the children, the little ones, the innocent ones, who should be dreaming big dreams, not worrying about their mothers or fathers, or grandmothers and grandfathers.  Pancreatic cancer changes everything.

Katie reminds me that "it doesn't matter where, it only matters that you're all here."  That circle remains unbroken, though eternity veils our time together.   The blessing of a Wedding Miracle fills our hearts today.  Cancer has changed all our priorities, but Love remains the theme.

Happy Anniversary, Katie and Jordan!  May your years be filled with a Love grown ever deeper, a friendship to hold you close, and a Home built on the Grace that never fails.  Love you Always, Mom

P.S.  The Cross-stitch Marathon was a success!  Katie sent me this pic of her wonderful day, complete with flowers, candy, the wedding cake topper(frozen this past year awaiting 1st anniversary celebrations) and the finished cross-stitch.  Hallelujah it's done!


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Spring has Sprung?!

Just kidding...

Got this picture from my cousin in Wisconsin.  Seems that Winter is hanging around!  Well, at least in the northern half of the country.  Texas didn't get the memo!

We're sunny, in the 70's and just a little happy...

Well, Aubree Claire is just a little confused.  Do I take the Winter bonnet off?  Or leave it on?  Decisions, decisions...

I say put on your spring frock and come take a walk with me!

The irises are popping up all over!

And look at this intrepid little blossom.  At the end of February no less!

I do believe I love Texas (remind me come August!)

Spring is coming.  As sure as winter winds bring their chill, the sun will shine again. No matter where you are.  Under a blanket of snow or on a beach in Florida, the flowers are just waiting to show off their resilience and beauty.

Kind of like us, struggling through the dark days of grief, wading through the muck of pancreatic cancer.  Feeling the icy bitterness to our core.  And yet, trusting in the strength and grace of Love to bloom in us again.  Don't know how, or even when... but spring is coming to souls longing for the warmth of new life, born from the seeds buried deep.

Mom would have it no other way.  She urges with memories, an echoing refrain, to embrace the life we're given, each and every moment...

Today, the sun is shining.  Yes, indeed, Spring is coming.

May Blessings be yours this weekend,  Praying Grace over your days, Jane

Monday, February 20, 2012

Wicked Divas

A Sunday afternoon of fun and music, laughter and cupcakes.  It was an afternoon at the Bass!  Truly joyful, even through the tears.  It was another exercise in moving on without mom.  I am so blessed for the legacy she left, a love of family, a love of the arts and a love of music...

And so it was Bass Hall, the Ft. Worth Symphony, Katie, myself and Wicked Divas!

Amazing vocalists, fabulous music and a touch of wicked humor.  Just what I needed on my first trip back to the Pop Series without mom.  So, yes, there were tears, especially when we made it to our seats.  The last time we sat here, mom was nudging my elbow and whispering in my ear through the whole performance, rising to give a standing ovation.  How to make peace with the gut-punch realization that she's gone?   Every now and then it just overwhelms - that missing, that longing to touch, to see, to hear... 

But, I have been blessed with the soulful beauty of a daughter who understands, and was there to walk with me through the minefield.  Hallelujah, we made it out alive, if not a bit tattered emotionally...  And along the way, the music shimmered over us.  The lyrics simply fed a hunger in my soul.  Did they know I'd be there in seat K-1?  Needing to hear just that song, those notes?

The Ft. Worth Symphony welcomed 2 well-known Broadway Divas to their stage this weekend.  Alli Mauzey and Julia Murney have both played on the long-running Broadway show, Wicked.  Such light and energy, they brought the music to life.  It was simply a pleasure to take in.  The sang a variety of numbers from several well-known classics, from My Fair Lady to Ragtime to Phantom of the Opera.  It was pure escape from the realities of life!

And it wouldn't have been a Wicked Diva show if they hadn't included numbers from that wonderful Broadway musical, Wicked.  Anyone care to join me for a trip to New York City?  Katie and I have vowed to get to Broadway, and soon!

Alli and Julia closed the symphony with the song, "For Good," from Wicked.  I had never really taken in the words before...

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

Because I knew you I have been changed for good....
Oh, words for my aching soul.  Mom, it's true.  Because I knew you, because I was blessed to be your daughter, I have been changed for good.   Yes, tears, but, refreshing still; there's the missing, but the knowing.  Because I knew you I have been changed for good.  I am blessed.

And blessed more with the sparkling eyes of a daughter who spied the new bakery, The Cupcakery, across the street from the Bass Hall.  Oh yes, it's a chocolate cupcake for us!

So delicious!

There's a little Wicked Diva in all of us!  Maybe one cupcake is not enough!

Blessings of Grace to you, Jane

Friday, February 17, 2012

Just Kiddin' Around

Hi-jinks in the Goat Nursery today!  Sun has broken through the soggy, gray skies and everyone is feeling good.  Ready to bust out of the barn and stretch their legs a bit!

We rolled some old cedar logs in for the "babies" to play on.   Such fun...

A little "King of the Mountain" action...

Older brother, Elvis, looks on with disdain.

"Let me show you how the big boys do it!"  He's so full of himself!!  And he just loves all the attention, especially when the girls start talking...

"Psst... Did you see that Elvis?  He's such a bad boy... "

Good ol' Daisy.  Donkey extra-ordinaire.  You can bet she broke up that teenage love tryst faster than scat!  Trusted chaperone, mommas can sleep safe tonight...

"Hi!  You wanna come play?"

Why, yes, little Gretel, I would love to come play for awhile!

Moments of delight for my soul this afternoon...

May your weekend bring you sunshine and smiles,
 friends and loved ones to touch your spirit,
and pocket-sized bits joy to tuck away for days of gray.

Letting the Grace fall softly this day,

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Yellow Rose and Love Always

Mom and Dad
 at their Vow Renewal Ceremony 2 years ago on their 50th Wedding Anniversary

Celebrating a Love that spanned decades,
anchoring our family through all the storms of this life.

Today we celebrate Love in all it's Cupid-Heart-Shaped finery.  Valentine's Day.  A day filled with flowers and chocolates, romantic marriage proposals and candy hearts, candlelit dinners and whispered promises.

It's a day meant for two.

Two hearts, two hands, two lives.  Together. 

But today Dad travels this road alone, sitting in a silent chapel, mourning a loss so deep the soul shudders.  The bearing of the grief is formidable.

A trembling hand reaches to touch the curve of her face only to encounter the glass wall.  She smiles out, the yellow rose a reminder of a day not long ago when she held those same hands and repeated vows renewing the promise made 50 years past, promising a love grown wise and deep through those many years.  A love burnished beautiful through the trials and triumphs of life, always together...

That love still anchors us through the storms of this life.  Even through the bitter tempest of pancreatic cancer.  Death stormed the sanctity of their union, but their Love Always promise has held firm while we have walked this valley road.   It is a legacy given to us by experience not just words or vows.

It is Love with feet and hands and hugs and laughter.  

It is Love that bore the family traditions which now give us comfort and hope.

It is Love that gives Dad strength to visit a sacred place this day...

Love Always...
              An Anchor in the Storm.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Story Behind "Blessings"

Sometimes a song just resonates. Laura Story's "Blessings" is one.  I have listened to it for weeks on the radio, and just happened to stumble on this interview today.  Laura is sharing the inspiration behind the song.  If you have time, it is worth a listen.

She understands the heartache of cancer.  The lyrics speak to the soul who is suffering through the anguish of unanswered prayer, the promise of healing, the reality of tears.  We wrestle with the implications.  We struggle to believe.  Laura reminds gently that God can move mountains and is truly loving us through the valley.  Could God possibly be blessing us by not giving us the very thing we ask for?   Is this journey calling us closer to the One who longs for our very heart, promising eternal healing even as we cry out? 

The words flow from a heart that has hurt. Has struggled.  Has found a foothold of faith...

Monday, February 6, 2012

Carrying On...

We are home.  And it's back to reality!!  No more room stewards and towel animals,

 prime rib and lobster,

 deck chairs with spectacular views,

 or tropical breezes and aquamarine waves....

What a lovely cruise we had.  Despite Dad developing shingles!  Thankfully it has been a mild case, but the stress of the last weeks and the grieving process undoubtably opened the door to this "uncomfortable" development.  The doctor okayed our travel plans and Dad spent much of the time resting and eating, the true luxuries of cruise travel!

And this cruise was so important to Dad, for many reasons.  But mostly because it was one of those mountains he had to face.  The last cruise we had planned was just a few short months ago to celebrate mom's 1st Year Canciversary.  Mom and Dad have always loved cruising and have been on more than 20 cruises to points all around the globe.  We had planned an easy cruise for mom this time, out of the Galveston port to the sunny shores of Cozumel, but Pneumonia beat us out, and mom was in the hospital  the week we were scheduled to depart.  More than once that week, she murmured her regrets that we couldn't make the cruise, no matter how often we assured her it didn't matter.  But it mattered to her.  And to Dad.  I know he wanted to take her on one last cruise.  Maybe as a way to say goodbye, or maybe as a way to spend time with her in a place that held so many joyful memories, far, far from the world of cancer and its stranglehold.

That trip never happened.  She passed away December 4th, the day we would have arrived back home.

And so we have grieved...  Dad, especially has grieved a loss we can only imagine.  A wife, a companion, his best friend of 51 years.  The emptiness in his life now is vast... Each day is a study in loss, from the moment he wakes, alone in the bed they shared, to the dinner for one he eats alone in his study.  The grieving at times is monumental...

Thus we search for ways to walk through the grief to a new normal, a way to find joy in our shared memories, ways to find new meaning in a life altered beyond recognition.

It was Dad who suggested this cruise.  With great trepidation, but also a steely determination.  He needed to face that fear, wanted to continue on as mom had wished.  My brother, Steve, readily agreed to be his "roomy."  And Katie, my daughter, happily agreed to be mine!  No one else in the family could get vacation so quickly, and actually this smaller group was probably a blessing we hadn't considered.  Since none of us was there with our spouse, Dad didn't have to face the journey as the "5th wheel", the newly widowed.  He was just a part of our rag-tag family unit.  Perfect solution to easing into this new stage in his life, traveling solo, without mom...

And the week was marvelous.  Mom would have been so proud of him, after she scolded him for getting the shingles right before the cruise!  We all had our moments, tears were just as much a part of our day as was the laughter.  But the closeness, the sharing was all very much a part of the healing.  This cruise gave promise to better days ahead, not perfect days, but better days.  We saw glimpses of the Dad we thought we had lost when we lost Mom.  And we captured it in pictures - another delightful family vacation!

Lounging on the Beach

Seaside Lunches

Souvenir Shopping

Up Close with the Local Wildlife... Yes, those are Live Iguanas!!!

Exploring Ancient Mayan Ruins

Conquering the Pyramid!  Cue the "Rocky" music...

Charmed by the spring-fed cenote.  Absolutely pristine!

Food, Glorious, Food!  My, oh my, meals were culinary works of art!!

Birthday Shenanigans were all part of the fun...

Our carriage awaits, taking us to beaches of unspoiled beauty...

Opening our hearts to the possibilities of joy beyond the grief...