They Came

I stretched out on a piece of furniture with my eyes closed in a waiting room just down the hall from Ian’s hospital room. From the TV mounted just above my head, I could hear the NBC commentator calling what must have been an exciting swimming event at the Rio Summer Olympics. Our family had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Summer Olympics, a beloved event in the Coronas household.

But now, I didn’t care.

Today, it was simply meaningless.

Surrounded by family members who came (daily) with food, hugs and disbelief, I tried to rest my fatigued body and soul — if even just for a moment.

We were gathered down the hall because Ian’s room was full.  Family and friends came. It seems like they all came…long-time family friends, friends from Maryknoll School, University of Hawaii, T&C Surf, Xerox Hawaii, prayer warriors from church, and, of course, friends from the downhill skate community.

I worried that Ian might be overtaxed by all the visitors. The struggle was absolutely real, as he fought major bouts of nausea and clung to his pink hospital-provided container – just in case. His legs continued to malfunction and a walker was required for a trip to the bathroom located 10 feet away. Still, it appeared that the visits were helping Ian’s spirits. He was touched by each and every family member, friend, and co-worker who came to visit.

Ian was resting quietly on Monday afternoon when world-renowned Big-Wave Rider Aaron Gold and Joel Centeio, one of Hawaii’s most beloved pro surfers, walked into the room. It took just a second to register. Then, Ian’s face lit up. No introductions were required. Ian knew these guys. He maneuvered his bed position and soon they were talking surf – big surf, small surf, surf around the world. And, they were talking about God.

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Our Little Yellow Flower

Dave was walking a bit ahead of me as Rosie pulled him quickly towards the park she enjoyed so much. He was a good 20 to 30 feet ahead, and this provided an opportunity for the emotions that were simmering inside me to explode like a mishandled pressure cooker.

“Why, Lord? Why Ian?” I cried out. Questions I asked often in those very early days.

“Lord help me,” I cried out audibly, but not loud enough for Dave to hear. I wiped away tears that surged and receded violently like tsunami waves.

Rosie stopped to sniff around and soon we were walking as a group again. I’m sure Dave didn’t notice my sad condition because happiness was altogether elusive back then.

We reached the center of the large open field as my thoughts swirled. I had a severe ache inside my soul. I missed our boy so much I thought I might die. As tears began to well up in my eyes again, I diverted them towards the ground hoping to spare Dave the trauma.

When I looked down, at my feet was a little yellow flower. I plucked it from the earth. This was not just any little yellow flower.

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Loving God by Serving Others

Pictured above are: (left to right) Matt, Ian throwing double shakas, Mr. McGivern, Justin and Jake. Also participating in the 2010 Majuro Mission were Cyndi, Danielle, Jan and Quinn. 

This post is dedicated to Ian’s Maryknoll School 2010 Mission Trip compadres and the good people of Majuro.

YOKWEH YOKWEH! Hhaha i was going to try not to use internet on the FIRST DAY up here but since ou wanted me to mom, I will:) The trip was good everything went well and im typing this on an old very laggy computer in the school so sorry about the mistyping hhaa. Anyway its pretty trippy how different it is up here…its super hot and hard to stay not sticky for more than a minute. The room we stayed in the school last night had rats running around and roaches jumping and flying into big holes in the tile, but other than that it was pretty good fun! Haha…plus brushing my teeth and washing my face off this morning was a challenge without any running water and using only my bottle for water hah but it’s a good wake up call to use less water when im at home in the mornings! I’m staying with Matt at the principal’s house for the majority of the time…but one of us might get another host later in the trip. Well hope things are good at home and I miss all of you guys! Ill try to catch up on sleep tonight, despite the stray dogs running around barking at each other all night around here haha bye love you guys! Talk again soon -Ian

It was Ian’s senior-year mission trip to a tiny island in the Marshall Islands called Majuro, where eight Maryknoll School students taught summer classes at the local high school. The living conditions were rough by anyone’s standards. Icy rain water catchment showers, stray dogs and, as Ian described them, radio-active sized critters crawling around his head at night.

When Ian applied for the privilege to participate that year, he had to address his ability to adapt to unfamiliar and potentially difficult situations. He didn’t lie when he said that he believed he was up to whatever situation arose, but I don’t think any of them could have been completely prepared for the reality of life on this tiny atoll. And, while they did a lot of preparations to be ready for the trip, there was a fair amount of culture shock upon their arrival there.

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Old and New Friends

The Gift of Lorna and Keene

Ian had been diagnosed with a rare cancer a few months before I got a text from my old college friend, Lorna. We had also worked together for several years at the phone company but had lost touch for many years – decades, actually. A mutual friend, however, had heard that Ian was undergoing chemo and radiation treatment and suggested that Lorna contact me since her son, Keene, had recently battled cancer as well.

It was truly good to hear from Lorna after so many years. We texted back and forth, but when I realized that Keene didn’t win his battle, my heart dropped and it broke. Cautiously, I asked Lorna what kind of cancer her son had. A rare cancer she told me: rhabdomyosarcoma.

That’s what our son had.  

I then asked which of the two types of rhabdo – embryonal or alveolar? Lorna said it was alveolar, which is the deadlier of the two.

That’s what our son had.

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Thankful for the years…

One year ago today, we got the best news possible.  The doctors said that Ian’s first evaluations were “remarkable.”  The cancer cells were no longer visible on the MRI. It felt like a miracle, and words can’t express how overjoyed we were with the news.  I can remember Ian’s large, slow-motion fist pump when we got the news over the speaker of my cell phone! The doc advised that he’d have to continue the 10-month chemo treatment plan to be sure we killed every last cell of the aggressive cancer.

While our prayers were not answered the way we wanted them to be last year, I remind myself this morning that our prayers were likely answered about a dozen years before that…

Below is a post that I made on my personal Facebook page a few months ago (before I started this blog) where I shared about the gift of time that I believe Ian was given.

This post and many of my early FB posts were written directly to Ian…

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This is one of my favorite pictures of you. It’s just so … you! You were on a Big Island trip with your classmates – maybe in the 5th or 6th grade. Your extra-large looking forearm makes me think of that funny episode of the King of Queens where Doug and Carrie get that portrait and Carrie’s arm looks enormous and Doug has rabbit-sized front teeth. That was one of your favorite episodes of that sitcom. You would laugh and laugh and laugh, nearly jolting out of your seat.

You had a very sweet childhood filled with lots of laughter. But, at around the age of 10 or 11 we had a quite a scare when a quickly growing lump on the front of your right thigh appeared out of nowhere. It doubled in size in about a month and the doctor decided to have it removed, although he expressed no serious concerns about it initially.

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LIVE!

I understand that some level of grief will likely be a part of my life for – well, forever. So, I do what I can to find a way to move forward as best as I can.

I’ve joined a variety of grief support groups, which have been helpful. I’ve started this blog as an outlet for my thoughts and emotions. And, I’ve connected on a one-to-one basis with others who walk this same painful journey.

Recently, though, I received good counsel from a highly unlikely source:  me.  Rather, the other me … the Sherrie of years ago, the mom before she lost one of her sons to cancer at the age of just 23.

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The Gift of Lei

I know we’re not supposed to “compare” grief and rank them. I know that.

Yet, as I consider the depth of my broken heart, my mind sometimes does exactly that before I can stop it. And, when I believe someone else’s loss could possibly be even greater than my own, I wonder how can they bear it?

In my own life, there is someone whose grief, I believe – in many ways – could outrank mine.

It’s the beautiful, strong, and vibrant love of Ian’s life and fiancé, Lei.

Yes, I am Ian’s momma and it’s easy for me to believe that no one (besides God) could love him more than I do. But, the truth is, if there was such a thing as a loss-meter, I think Lei’s grief would easily measure up to mine (if not surpass it) because her loss comes at such a young age.

Yet, in the months that have passed, I’ve watched Lei handle her grief with strength, grace and wisdom beyond her years.

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