The Signature

There I sat wiping away tears in a crowded restaurant – again.

I gazed down onto the three letters I – A – N … strung together in a manner so that I could pick it out in a line-up of a hundred other “Ian” signatures.  It was his actual signature cast perfectly into a delicate silver ring. The signature looked exactly how I had seen it so very many times before when he signed his name to an important letter, note, and later in life, on a sales contract.

The ring featured the “neat” version, not the signature he used when signing a check or on one of those ridiculous credit card machines. In those cases, you’d only see the “I” and the rest was barely more than a straight line. I remember that I chuckled the first time I saw it. I think he was in middle school and I asked him if he thought he was a doctor or a rock star. Actually, I love that he learned to use the sloppy signature at such a young age, as if he intuitively understood that sometimes it mattered and other times it simply did not. Sometimes you steal away a few seconds to keep for yourself – because seconds add up to minutes, minutes add up to days.

We know — all too well — that every single second matters…

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#18 Months

Is it strange that I count the months you’ve been gone in the same way that parents count the months of an infant child’s life?  Each month, as time slips by, I can’t believe we’ve made it this far without you here.

Yet, if the pattern holds true, I’ll stop counting the months soon.  Just a few more months and we will likely start referencing your absence in years — should anyone ask how long it’s been.

No matter how or if I express the breadth of your absence on any given day, I always know exactly how long it’s been …

because losing a child is nothing like having a child.

To watch your child grow is the ultimate privilege. Fully in awe of the miracle, you instinctively know that he or she is a gift and you celebrate the milestones, month by month, and then year after year.

When there is life, this formula is sustainable.  It propels you forward.

When there is death, this formula is difficult to sustain.

For 18 months, I have quite literally been walking with my head turned in the opposite direction … looking backwards.

If I continue this formula, I fear it will sink me.

So, where do I go from here?

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A Smile to Remember

The hospital bed in the middle of our living room was surrounded by sofas that served as seating for those who came to say goodbye. Hospice workers came and went, addressing Ian’s “comfort” needs that changed drastically with each passing day.

Pastor Glenn arrived on Monday to pray with us, again. This time, he gently told Ian that while we continue to pray for a miracle, it was time to consider that God was preparing a place for him.

But, Ian was not ready…

Even Jesus asked God to “let this cup pass from me” before going to the cross.

Pastor Glenn later reassured us that even if Ian wasn’t ready to leave, God had him – his child – by the hand and would not let go.

Six days after returning home from our Hail Mary attempt at the naturopathic treatment center, the good Lord dispatched his Angels for our precious Ian.

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A Glimpse of Heaven

“Ma, can you show me around?” Ian asked as daybreak arrived.

Grimacing in pain, Ian slowly sat up in bed. I pushed the wheelchair as close as I could to the large king-sized bed. Taking hold of him under booth arms, I moved him onto the wheelchair. I then pushed him very carefully over the sliding-door track so as not to put any more pressure onto his aching neck.

We exited the room onto the grounds of the naturopathic treatment center where we were scheduled to stay for the next 14 days. I wheeled him through the property that featured lush trees, hammocks and a mostly empty lava pond. He soaked in the beauty for about five minutes but suddenly said, “Let’s go back.”

I knew the pain and pressure on his spine had caught up with him. I rushed him back into the room. As I transferred him back into bed, he sweetly thanked me for taking him outside. “I just wanted to be sure I wasn’t going to be stuck in this bed forever,” he added with a small smile.

The very hard truth is that Ian would not leave that bed again under his own power, as paralysis continued to take over.

When we arrived at the treatment center the day before, Ian was too exhausted from the plane ride over to notice the beautiful surroundings. As soon as we arrived, he was placed into a large, quaint room with ample space for us to stay by his side.

My heart surged with hope for the first time in weeks. We made it to the Big Island. The center was beautiful and very unlike the harsh hospitals Ian had come to know all too well that year.

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What Else Can We Do?

One year ago today, on August 5, 2016, (Friday) Lei and I hoisted Ian into my car and drove him to the nearby clinic. His health was deteriorating rapidly. It was an unexpected turn of events after receiving glowing evaluations just two months prior, following three months of chemo and radiation.

However this week, Ian suffered a severe headache, he could barely eat and his legs grew weaker and weaker by the moment. He clutched Lei’s shoulders and coerced each wobbly step out of his reluctant legs. While at the clinic, Ian suddenly lost his ability to speak for a few minutes.

Something was very, very wrong.

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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.

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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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