Mere Intention

be vulnerable

Category: Everything Else

New Marks and Starstuff

As my dad’s quality of life deteriorated, I felt mine becoming more real, like all of the receptors were turned on full-blast to feel everything and anything. Like a high frequency squeal through my body. It has powered me for over a year now; charged me to make hard, big decisions and be confident in them and not look back.

Year one was challenging in a ‘how do I function now that the crazy life of glioblastoma has run its course?’ kind of way. At the one year mark, I said to a friend that I just felt (feel) sad. A whole new experience of sadness. Deeper and stronger than any I’ve ever felt. This sadness literally hurts inside my body. Its like the shock is wearing off and I just have sadness ringing in my ears (chest).

Since Dad died, I’ve been wanting to get a tattoo to commemorate his life, our relationship, the hard road of his illness. Initially, I was going to put his signature on my forearm. After about half a year, that idea was gone. If I would have done it when I felt it, it would have been perfect, but it went away, no biggie.

I’ve spent time here and there looking at tattoo design ideas, and a couple of weeks ago I came across a starburst. I’m not sure where my dad’s spirit is. We had many conversations about what he was looking forward to after his physical life ended, but I’m just not sure. But stars…that’s something I can get behind.

Carl Sagan said in his book Cosmos, “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”

We are made of starstuff. An urn sits in my living room next to a photo of Dad with my kids about three weeks before he died. Ashes. Dust. Starstuff.

I set to work designing a starburst that made sense; paper, pencil, ruler. I liked a particular completed sketch and happened to count the marks I’d made. Fifty-six. Fifty -six years my dad lived before brain cancer, sixteen more months (and two birthdays) made him 58 when he died. Fifty-fucking-eight. I added two more marks to the design. It clicked. This was it.

Yesterday, I went and had the design permanently placed on my body. I now have a visible mark for the deep loss and sadness that will always walk with me. The pain and anxiety that stirred at my core as I sat down in the studio chair made me cry. I just cried. My fourth tattoo, the most painful.

starstuff

5.10.17 – starstuff memorial tattoo, right forearm

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Hysterectomy – night of

Twelve hours ago I was wheeled into the operating room for a hysterectomy. My uterus grew my babies, but otherwise has been a nightmare since I was 13 years old. Endometriosis is horrible. 

In 2003, I had laparoscopic surgery to remove endometriosis adhesions and a dilation and curettage (D&C) of my uterus to remove any fibroids (which were anticipated, but ended up only being one tiny one). Prior to that, at 17, I started taking birth control pills to try and decrease pain and regulate hormone levels. At 21, I began talking the pill continuously in order to maintain a constant hormone level. With the exception of conceiving and having my kids, this is what I’ve been doing since. Sixteen years of a pill every single night.

Life has happened in the midst of all of the pain and tears. I bled and cramped after running, after holding a baby, after intercourse, after being in my feet too long, after sitting too long, after drinking red wine or caffeine. This had been my way of life. A small amount of strain on my body caused bleeding to some degree. 

Twenty six years of menstrating and TWENTY FOUR years of pain…and other nasty uterus related stuff I won’t get into. 

Over these years, I got married, had two babies, lived on both coasts and the upper middle eventually landing here in Colorado within ten years, parents have been ill and had cancers, my dad died, one of my kids is in middle school now, started and stopped church participation, worked jobs that demanded more than I could give, quit said job after much internal turmoil, rested, listened, became an aunt even to kids that aren’t blood, have developed deep friendships, gained 50 lbs since my wedding day, bought three houses…

Today, my uterus was removed. And my Fallopian tubes. And a large, hidden fibroid that had its own blood supply. I have four incisions in my abdomen about an inch long each, my throat hurts from being intubated, I’ve got a catheter and am taking narcotics regularly. I look forward to discussing the surgery details tomorrow morning with my doctor. 


Friends are getting my kids to and from where they need to be. My husband has, and will continue, to just make life happen. He’s the most wonderful partner. I have nothing I need to worry or think about except resting and healing. 

Having this surgery has been so long anticipated. Decades of analyzing the best time to pull the trigger. The anticipation felt like the first few weeks of pregnancy when you know you’re pregnant but nothing is happening to you as far as you can tell, but a life changing event is in the works. Nothing will be the same as it was. Change is happening. 

Permanent life changes for me – having two kids, dad dying, hysterectomy. Life altering to the core of my being and have and will continue to chip away the learned behaviors of life and sculpt myself, ever evolving. 

I am so grateful for a doctor to trust, for health insurance through the corporation my husband works for, nurses who are good at their job and like their job, for the science of robotics blended with surgery. 

Oh! And for a night nurse named David. 💜

Ashes 

I just poured some of Dad’s ashes into a tiny ziplock bag. Tomorrow morning we are taking them with us in a hike to one of the last places we took him the last time he visited.  

 

Protected: First family reality

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The night before

I’m standing in FedEx Office (fka Kinkos) while my dads funeral pamphlets print at 11pm. Alone. Beautifully designed by CJ over the last months with the intention of being printed on cardstock. The lovely employee, Elle, printed up multiple samples for me on different papers and the stock is very heavy and cracks badly when folded. And it’s hard to fold well. 

I sent a few photos to CJ and her response was simply ‘do whatever is best’ and she means it. 

The last few days are a blur. Funeral home, church, catering, flower shop, clothes shopping, travelers, slide shows, family relations. 

I’m exhausted. I’m emotional. I’m sad. I’m blessed. I’m grateful. I’m trying so hard to be intentional with my energy, to take care of me and how I want to remember and grieve this time. I don’t want it to be too blurry or too busy or to distracted. 

This has come off as selfish. That’s a misinterpretation of self-care at a very deep level. Of protecting myself and my heart and emotions. Of choosing me and not spending energy on what isn’t mine. 

My only exception is CJ. We’re in this together. We have been the whole time. That’s not changing now. So it’s really not an exception – it’s part of my intention. 

Day Three – Morning

I said to my stepdad on Saturday that I suspect my then feelings of okay-ness would be temporary. Maybe like having a baby – you’re euphoric and the adrenaline carries you for a day or so, maybe two, then you crash and are completely exhausted and emotional. 

Well, late last night I started feeling a shift. From just pure relief and ability to breath, to sad. The heaviest sadness I’ve ever felt. My eyes burn, my chest hurts. I don’t want to move. 
Being here at the house, just CJ and me, has been amazing. To be in a home that is honest and true, with no unspoken expectations, and quiet. It is exactly perfect for this transition. 

Day Two

This morning we went to church. Where my dad played drums in the praise band until he couldn’t. With the people who have loved on my family through this whole ordeal. With people that my dad has directly impacted. 

Then a visit to the funeral home to finalize casket and cremation and viewing and cost details. 

I went shopping for a bit. Alone for the first time. 

When I got back, I offered to fill out the last of the paperwork for the funeral home. Information for my dads death certificate.  

 
And now I’m trying to find a song for the short video of photos that will be played during the service. It’s been years since I’ve been around church music. I’ve listened to dozens…then I played one and lost it. Sobbing. I could remember Dad playing drums for it at church. 

I’ll offer that one.  

 
You see him there in the background watching me? That’s my dad. Always attentive to me. Always engaged.

6:34a

I took another light snooze. At 6a was woken up. Breathing changes. Words to Dad. Songs – 10,000 Reasons and American Pie. 

Deep inhale at the end of American Pie. 

One more inhale at 6:34a. 

That was the last. 

Love. 

Hearing someone you love sob for the one they’re losing is shaking.

Small hours

I slept from 2-3a sitting in a recliner at the corner of dad’s room. When I awoke and went to his bedside, his feet and hands were much cooler than prior to my nap. 

His rattle seems to have ceased and he’s breathing very regularly, though quicker and more shallow than before. 

His heart rate is high. 

Before I slept, I read a prayer aloud and anointed his forehead with oil.