We Feel You…

Facebook Post:  March 23, 2017

You bought this longboard very shortly after we got the news about the cancer and the challenging treatment plan you faced. One of the first questions you asked the doctor was if you could still surf. The doctor said there would be times when you probably wouldn’t be up to it because you might be too weak. He said, though, that it would be a good idea to stay active.

Well, that’s all you needed to hear and you made sure that the doctor repeated that statement with me in the room! I told the doctor he should probably define “active.” We all laughed, somehow, on that dreadful day.

Continue reading “We Feel You…”

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.

Continue reading “Loving God by Serving Others”

Grief Stalks Me

The voice over the car radio promotes a Champagne Brunch. The word Champagne sticks. And, it festers. Champagne. Champagne. Champagne Ponds…on the Big Island. Where we took turns swimming to literally keep our sanity while you lay nearby in bed at the naturopathic treatment center – fighting for your life. Fighting for the chance to one day swim in the Champagne Ponds. Our salty tears forever mixed into the Champagne Pond.

Champagne Brunch. I change the channel on the car radio.

I walk by the television and hear World Surf League commentators analyzing the pro-surfers in the line-up. I didn’t even know the contest was “on”. Our lives once revolved around WSL events – like other families’ lives might revolve around baseball or football. And, when John John hit the line-up, it was time to stop the presses. Drop what you’re doing. An adrenaline rush for JJ’s #1 fan. You paced the living room floor and yelled at the TV if the judges didn’t get it right.

I hear the WSL commentators, but I have to keep walking.

I run into the store. Just looking for one thing. A quick in and out. There she is struggling with the zipper on a piece of luggage. Two young sons hover nearby. Actually, they hover right over her. Perhaps trying to be helpful. Perhaps not. She’s engrossed with the suitcase. The boys are being mischievous. Just little boy stuff. She’s oblivious to their wonderful presence. Just caught up in her task. I wish she’d notice how adorable they are. How wonderful. How precious. She continues to struggle with the zipper.

I turn my gaze away from the woman I don’t know; the woman I can’t stop thinking about for hours.

Continue reading “Grief Stalks Me”

A Lasting Legacy in Jeremy

I recently heard the following saying:

They say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.

I don’t know the author of this saying, but I find it to be profound.

I believe in eternal life and wholeheartedly know that life goes far beyond this world. Yet, I get the gist of this saying and, from an earthly perspective, it rings true for me.

I think, in part, it’s what compels me to write this blog, share stories about Ian and speak his name whenever I can. Could there be anything more torturous to a mom and dad’s soul than to think that their child will be forgotten?

A few days ago, we were given a monumental gift.

Our nephew Kellen and his wife, Jazmine, gave their beautiful newborn son a special middle name. Jeremy Ian Kaimana Ventura-Ho. Each part of this great name carries special meaning. Of course, they had me at “Ian.”

Continue reading “A Lasting Legacy in Jeremy”

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.

Continue reading “Old and New Friends”

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.

Continue reading “LIVE!”

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.

Continue reading “The Gift of Lei”

Where I Go…in My Mind

One Sunday, Ian and I listened to our pastor speak on the subject of “Being a friend of God.” Ian was probably about 12 years old at the time. The pastor expounded on a related scripture verse and provided examples of what it means to be a friend. He explained that a friend is someone who wants the best for you. Someone who sees the good in you. Someone who loves you, despite your shortcomings. Someone who understands your moods, quirks and peculiarities. In a nutshell, when you’re with a true friend, you can totally be yourself.

It was at that moment that Ian turned to me and said, “Just like you and me, Mom.”

Some things just stick with you for life, and I will never forget those words.

I felt the same way. There was just something “easy” about our relationship, even during this preteen stage in life. He knew that I did not expect him to conform to society’s expectations nor behave any other way than his natural happy-go-lucky, cheerful and sometimes goofy little self. I utterly loved everything about him. It was true. He could always be himself around me.

So, when I ponder the fact that God considers himself a friend, the way Ian and I were (are) friends, then I know that I am truly blessed. To be a friend of God means that I can be myself and it is enough for God. He will love me just the way I am, despite my shortcomings.

And he still loves me when I’m broken.

Continue reading “Where I Go…in My Mind”

The Yellow Notebook

When Dr. Vassalli told us that malignant tumor cells were found in the biopsied lymph node of Ian’s neck, it seemed that all the world should have stopped at that moment and taken notice. But it did not.

For our family, life was in slow motion for about half a day as we processed the impossibly bad news. Then, just as suddenly as we were given the life-changing information, we were thrust into a whirlwind of appointments, conversations, and decisions.

Within a few days, we found ourselves shuffling through notes written on bits of paper, within the margins of books, on the back of brochures, and on our electronic notepads. It quickly became an overwhelming task to keep track of who was who and what came next.

To keep our sanity, I grabbed a yellow college-ruled notebook that was in my desk drawer and added tabs to segment the pages into sections for “Notes,” “To Do’s,” and “Appointments.” I consolidated all our notes and talked to Ian about the new plan of attack. We agreed that anytime he or I would speak with a doctor, nurse, insurance representative, disability coordinator, or any of the myriad of others now in our life, we would add notes to the notebook.

Continue reading “The Yellow Notebook”

Amazing Race, Amazing Grace

We were sitting on the couch watching The Amazing Race on TV the other night. It’s been a family favorite for many years. Dave and I always thought our sons, Zach and Ian, should enter the race!

“Send in your audition video,” I’d encourage year after year. “You guys should do this! Hey, it’s for a million dollars,” I’d carry on.

We were very serious but the idea never gained traction with either of them. I guess they were just too busy creating their own Amazing Races or they just weren’t that interested in a million dollars. Still, anytime I watched the show, I could envision them navigating foreign streets, launching watermelons with enormous slingshots, scaling the outside of skyscrapers, rock climbing or whatever crazy challenge came their way. Upon being eliminated from the contest, most contestants tearfully admit that it is the incredible journey that is the most valuable part of being on the Race.

This year, two young men have dominated many of the challenges, Redmond and Matt. Matt is a professional snowboarder and Redmond is a motivational speaker who races with a prosthetic leg. Both are very athletic. I don’t know too much about their backgrounds but, of course, when I watch them I think about Zach and Ian running the Race!

But, this can never be.

Continue reading “Amazing Race, Amazing Grace”