Monday, August 31, 2009

Friends on the Beach

This was our first trip in a long time. We visited our long-time friends who live by the sea in tropical Florida. Joe and Glenn were best friends through childhood. They have a hundred and one hilarious stories about growing up in So Cal suburbia in the 50's.

Here they are. These wonderful, generous people are one of our biggest blessings in moving to the East Coast. We get to be a short flight away from them.

A pretty spectacular place to ride bikes, don't you think? We beached it every day and it was really good for our souls to get the change of scenery.

Cooling down with gelato after our ride.

It was a really great time with compassionate, caring friends who understand about grief. We're not as much fun as we used to be and these are the kind of people who understand and love us anyway.

Col 3:12-13

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, Florida

This guy is trying to sneak up on us...

but we're not THAT stupid...we stay behind the fence.

Snakes are slightly more manageable than alligators...even pythons. This one has a black head, so he can hide in holes for a sneak attack. Joe looks as happy as can be holding that thing. Some kind of childhood dream fulfilled, I guess.

A feeding frenzy. Toss a little dog kibble and this is what you get.

Meet Mr. Cuddly. This guy is the only safe alligator at the farm--he's stuffed! All 16 feet of him.

Alive and breathing...jumping for a furry rat snack on a stick.

My personal favorite...Mr. Albino. Looks plastic, but he's real and I bet he'd make a fine pair of cowboy boots.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Space Shuttle Launch

Lift Off
We were sitting at water's edge, as close as allowed, across a river, looking at Cape Canaveral, FL, at midnight last night. Despite nearby lightning, we knew it was a "GO" because the man sitting next to us was getting tweeted by his aeronautics professor inside the Kennedy Space Center.

Blinding the engines propel the shuttle upward...

and an awesome silence because it is moving faster than sound.

Notice the cell phones capturing the sight.

Now as light as day, and we begin to hear the deep rumbling sound of the powerful jets that thunder in the space in front of us and fill it up. We all stand amazed.

High in the sky, with 7 brave people on board and millions of dollars worth of technology--on their way to a space station...
in a galaxy far, far away.
Maybe this is what it looks like from Heaven when anyone of us departs earth on our final journey.
Gen 1:1
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lovely Liza--Joey's Blogger

Liza, the bringer of love and comfort to our family. Here with her little puppy, Sonny.
Joey and Liza were a decade apart in age, but they were friends. One thing that connected them was their mutual interest in blogging. When he ran into her a week before he went to Heaven, he asked her, "How's my blogger doing?" It couldn't have been more prophetic. When he suddenly went to Heaven, Lisa lovingly set up a blog in his honor. (You can see it HERE .)

Each day she posted something beautiful, sensitive and inspirational about Joey and our family and the loss that had befallen us. Other people in our circle left comments--sometimes 20 or 30 of them each day. We read that blog many times every day, and Joey's friends read it too. It sustained us in our shock and was a salve to our broken hearts.

That's when I learned the power of the comforting word. That blog kept Joey with us and kept us connected with the love and compassion of other people. It really got us through those first fragile few weeks, and on through our first year as people continued to give support. It was a link to our son that kept our hearts beating when we were sure we wouldn't survive the loss of him. It was an incredible gift to us from Liza, one we will never forget.
Later, Liza helped me set up this blog, as my own grieving place. It has been some of the best therapy for me. It's a place to pour out my feelings and to meet other moms suffering in a similar way. I continue to be comforted by others here.
So Liza's generosity and kindness have been life-changing for us. Thank you Liza, for loving us and walking beside us through our tragedy. You're beautiful and we love you, and so appreciate you for being so there for us. You bring new depth to the word "friend".

Ecclesiastes 4:10
10 If one falls down, his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

Liza's other blogs:

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What to Say to the Grieving

This is a difficult situation for many people. A fellow grieving mom, Gannet Girl, wrote this on her blog and she gave me permission to reprint it here. It is a very insightful and concrete guide for what to do when encountering a grieving friend. Click on the title of the post below to link to her blog, Desert Year.

What To Say?
What DO you say when you encounter someone who has recently sustained a tremendous loss in the form of the death of a child? Joan Calvin comments below that as a pastor, even she doesn't know. Please allow me to simplify.

First, remind yourself that you are looking at someone who has experienced one of the worst things life has to dish out. One of the very worst, and you have no way of knowing what that means unless you are part of this particular club. You are speaking to someone who may have sat for weeks on end at the bedside of a dying teenager, or may have witnessed or even in some way been involved in a young child's completely accidental death. He may have received the phone call at work, standing at lunchtime amid a sea of empty cubicles. She may have found her child's body. Whatever the situation, it's terrible. And you just need to know that; you don't have to say it.

Second, and I am going to switch to the feminine pronoun here, because I am the writer and I am female: walk right up to her, RIGHT UP TO HER ~ THIS IS NO TIME FOR COWARDLY PUSSYFOOTING AROUND ~ and say and acknowledge whatever is appropriate to your knowledge and the time span, anywhere from "I just heard about your son's death and I am so terribly sorry" to "I am so glad to see you; you are never far from my thoughts."

Third, if you can because you know something, offer a kind and specific remark or memory about her child. "I will never forget his speed on the soccer field." "I hadn't seen her since she was in kindergarten, but I heard she was really enjoying her job." And then pause. Give her time to respond. You are contributing to a mother's narrative of her child's life by reminding her that others remember, and want to remember. You are doing one of the very best things you could possibly do. Better than a lifetime's delivery of chicken soup.

And finally, ask something specific about how she is doing. One of my best friends tells me that the best advice I gave her came from a story I related, either here on on my other blog, about running into a friend at Borders and his asking me how I was that morning. As I recall, I was in bad shape due to an earlier telephone call, and could not have offered any rationale whatsoever for my presence in a bookstore. "How is your morning/afternoon/evening going?" will do just fine. It sounds as if you really care, and it limits the answer to a manageable parameter.

And yes, you should try your best to interject yourself into someone's life. Call and then stop by, stop by for five minutes on your way to somewhere else, email and make a specific suggestion for a meeting time and place. Risk the rejection that you may well experience, perhaps even several times over, and realize that you are dealing with someone who on some days finds that it takes too much energy to hit "Reply."

So: this is not a situation which requires imagination or creativity. This is a situation which requires courage and fortitude. And if you think that you are somehow lacking in either of those qualities, take a cue from the mother you are approaching. She needs them just to open her eyes in the morning.

Written by Gannet Girl

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sweeping Up the Heart

The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon earth---

The Sweeping up the Heart
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
Until Eternity.

--- Emily Dickinson

Psalm 147:3
He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.

Friday, August 21, 2009

In Loving Memory of George

Our precious friend, Crystal, with her beloved nephew,
George Nelson Kuualoha Oana II

A bright light left this world and cancer behind yesterday, and entered into the glorious presence of Jesus and his dear Nana.

We love you, George. You will be forever missed and never forgotten.

Beautiful Crystal, our hearts surround you and your family with love and prayers for peace and comfort. We love you, sweet girl.

Let the world stop turning, let the sun stop burning.
Let them tell me love's not worth the going through.
When it all falls apart, I will know deep in my heart
The only dream that mattered has come true-
In this life I was loved by you.
Bruddah Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

Aloha Nui Loa

John 16:33
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Horse camp. A barn with dogs, goats, smells...and best of all, horses.

Taking a slow lazy walk around the ring. Hmmm...

Giddy-up. Move. Come on, get going! Let's trot. Please?

Oh yeah, I'm the boss! TROT!!

Okay, you worked hard enough. Have a drink on me!

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Dancing Queen

Get your dancing shoes on, girl!

Swing that tail!

Over those rails!

I think we're getting do we look?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Stormy Seas

Anniversary days are so very difficult. They knock us out of numbness and kick us squarely back into our loss. It feels again as if it just happened. We are plunged into the tide of pain and longing and feel that we will drown in our sorrow. There is a sense of loneliness and abandonment and hopelessness and incredible missing of Joey and our old life. The only thing to do is to tie ourselves to the mast and hold on during the pitching storm, hoping it will subside before we perish.

Words of comfort from friends help so much on these days. It's like receiving a telegraph from shore reassuring us that calmer seas are ahead and that we are not alone. We grasp on to your love and care and they give us hope that we will make it through. Every word and every prayer matters to us.

So thank you for your words and thoughts the past couple of days. Your love has surrounded us in the stormy seas of grief.

Jonah 1:6
So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Joey and Aidan Blowing Out the Candles

Our last birthday with Joey.
We love you and miss you today with all our hearts.

My Beautiful Boy

The Dance

Looking back on the memory of
The dance we shared 'neath the stars above
For a moment all the world was right
How could I have known that you'd ever say goodbye

And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I'd have had to miss the dance...
Garth Brooks

Remembering Joey

Joey's 30th birthday remembrance.

Red roses, a cake, an angel, a USC hat, Shaun White guitar picks, Joey's picture.
Crystal and Brian bring love and comfort.

Unkie JJ's legendary smelted gold. We picked these up after his memorial service in Hollywood and gave them to the kids last night. They say "Best Niece", "Best Nephew". Chase is wearing Joey's t-shirt and a Red Bull cap in remembrance.

Ending our evening with sharing and s'mores by the fire.
We miss you so much it aches.
We love you Joey, and look to the Day.

I Thess. 4:13
But we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve like other people who have no hope.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Big Birthday

Joey's 30th birthday is on Monday, and we are gathering on Sunday --to what? celebrate? honor him? grieve together? I'm not sure. For the past week, every time I think of that birthday, I mentally run and hide. It feels how I feel when I see violence on the 6:00 News and quickly turn the channel. I just don't want to think about it.

In losing Joey, I also lost myself. I lost my ability to function at capacity; my ability to enjoy life; my ability to engage with the people and events around me. Now I often just feel like a body going through the motions of life without the e-motions. If I were hooked up to one of those hospital machines that reads heart beats, I think it would register an emotional flatline.

I can't bring Joey back, but I'm trying really hard to bring myself back. For my grandchildren. So they can have their Nana back. So life isn't so sad and grim for them. So their hopes and dreams don't die under the weight of sorrow, before they've even emerged. We've all lost our sparkle. I look into the faces of every family member, from the oldest to the youngest, and there is something gone there. Something's missing from the little faces that I hope will one day re-light.

So I'm trying for them. And I do okay on a day-to-day basis, though sometimes it feels like I'm just barely on my feet, pushing myself to walk. But with any big Joey anniversary coming, it knocks me off my path. I go a little crazy inside trying to find a resting place. I lean on my faith that God has Joey and he's safe. I remind myself that there's a new world coming where we will truly celebrate again. I thank Jesus that he is the Resurrection and the Life. That gives a bit of rest. Thankfully.

But I can't help but think about what would have been. Certainly my son's 30th birthday would have been a big deal. After all, he was our baby. We always knew that after everybody else had celebrated a milestone, Joey's were still to come. That was exciting for us and kept us young. We know his 30th would have, at the very least, entailed a poker table. Maybe even a trip to Vegas with Rachel and JR and Theo and the Abrahams. Maybe Kevin and Molly and his whole Second Family would have joined us, and Uncle Don and Auntie Viv. Maybe bigger than that: a family trip to Italy. All I know is, it would have been big... and fun... because he was the master of fun.

So now it's neither big nor fun. It's an obstacle to get over. I desperately search for a way to redeem these days for something good, but I haven't found the way to do that yet. I guess for now, I will have to be content to just survive them.

Psalm 139:11,12
If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,"
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day
Darkness and light are alike to You.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Reasons Why We Love Rachel

She's got her mom's strength, character and faith...

She's a really good surfer girl...

She loves to cook delicious things, and (more importantly) eat them...

She loves us!!
Proverbs 31:30
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Thank You Rachel

At the memorial service in the lobby of the church you two attended.

I love the beautiful pictures you made for the light cases. You put his brochure together in the midst of excruciating grief. It is a treasure we hold till we see him again.

Saying your good-byes.

How did you find the strength? It was almost impossible to collect thoughts and put them into words, but you did it so beautifully and from the heart. Your character shines in the darkness, Rachel.

In his emptied bedroom.
A shell of sorrow without him and his things in it. The end of a dream you had shared and a future we had hoped for. So sad for all of us to not see that future unfold. We are so sorry for your loss, Rachel. We wanted you to be our son's wife and our daughter- and-sister-in-law/auntie/and wonderful mother of our grandchildren. You will always be that person in our hearts, dear Daughter-in-love.

With Joey in Australia.
I love that snuggly hug and the contented looks on your faces. I love how your head fit into the curve of his neck. I love the way you held him, the way you loved him.

Setting out for uncharted adventures in Gunther, your transportation and home for a year. What a daring girl you are, Rachel. And you made such a nice, cozy little home inside. Thank you for taking such good care of my son.

Where are you? The Northwest? Alaska? You have your ANWR t-shirt on. Joey's wearing his spoons shirt. That's just the way I remember you two together so often.
High mountains. Happy faces. Carefree days.

Thank you for joining him in the adventure of a lifetime.
Such a beautiful friend to our beautiful son. On his 30th birthday, we thank you for loving Joey in his life and in his death. We also thank you for loving us and sticking with us in our best and worst moments. You are a wonder. We will love you forever.

Ruth 1:16
But Ruth said, "... where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.