Tissues on the Dragon Boat

{ Dr. Look & Traci May 2015 }

My sister was always stubborn and held true to her dutch blood. 
If you wanted to see her fight for something you just had to tell her, 
"No. Don't do that. You can't do that." 
Well, Dr. Look shouldn't have expected anything other than resistance when he told Traci she shouldn't paddle anymore with the fear of her breaking bones due to the cancer that continued to deteriorate her bone strength. Traci refused to accept that reality so she did something about it and created an event which showcased the benefits paddling had to a patients entire being. From physical to emotional, she wanted to prove her point and stay seated in the boat. 
With that, "Paddle with the Pinks" became an every year event where local health care providers who treat patients with BrCa (breast cancer) could experience for themselves the full-body workout and camaraderie of the teammates who meet three times a week for practice. Traci was the first captain of this incredibly special event and outreach program.
This year the team named the Provider Paddle in Traci's name:
2017 Traci Van Dyken Health Care Provider Paddle and Sponsor Recognition

Sue had sent us an invitation and we all had to think about it knowing what that meant by replying yes. 
After Traci passed, Dad had no reason to ever go back to Portland. I was torn as was Mom. The kids still plan to do all school shopping in Portland because it's what we've done every year they've been in school. I knew there would be a first trip back to Portland, but never, NEVER did I think we'd all get in a boat and paddle. 
In my heart I knew what Traci would want us to do. 
We said yes.
The drive down was weird. I say that and hard often because it's just that; weird not having my sister here and hard to accept that reality. 
Never have I not called once I exited I-5 onto 205. Never have I not gotten a call usually by the airport asking how far out or me calling to say, "be there in fifteen."
There were no phone calls this time to answer or to make. 
We stayed near the airport which I thought would be easier as it's not too close to Traci's old place and out of the norm from the usual trips we took south. The kids swam in the pool with Daddy and all had dinner waterside. So strange to not have our Hero there with us. 
Saturday morning I found myself falling apart as we headed towards the river. I miss her so much. 
It was no different that morning. 
Sue and the rest of the team greeted us as we gathered in the usual stretching area. I was amazed how much I felt Traci around these other women. They shared something unique together. They fought together. They overcame together. I felt their strength as I watched many tear up sharing hugs, stories and how it still is so very hard without our, their, Traci. I didn't post the ugly cry photo, but know it's made an imprint on the Internet somewhere unfortunately. We had many tears that morning. 
This was another huge step in our journey of finding our new normal; our path to healing. 
When all was done and the paddles put away, I couldn't help but think about what it takes for each of these ladies to paddle every time on the river. Gives me ginormous inspiration to not find reasons to give up. I honestly don't know how my sister was physically capable of doing this enormously strenuous type of work through all her treatments, surgeries and overall fatigue. 
Gives me all the more reason to still call her My Hero.

Traci, thank you for giving us reason to smile on the river. Thank you for putting together such an event where years later, you would have never expected to see your parents and sister sitting in the boats crying, remembering and laughing all in your memory and honor. 
Your legacy will live on and you continue to inspire and change lives. 

Sue Best (bottom left) was with us when Traci passed. She was the MC for the event and shared some sweet words about Traci before we entered the boats. Needless to say, there was ugly cry happening in public for all to see. Mary, or is this one Meg, (top right in the purple) has a twin who is known as the "Brownie gal" winning Addison's heart over during treatment with a delicious chocolate brownie dessert topped with fresh berries. It was healing to wrap our arms around these amazing women, see their tears and be inspired by what they have overcome. 

 The kids came down to the dock as we loaded up and paddled off into the river. Charlie looked to be deep in thought...a wave of emotion hit me seeing the kids there knowing Auntie would so love to spoil them on our quick trip down south. Tim and the kids found ice cream while we cruised through the water. When our training was done on the river, the two boats lined up side by side and had a little friendly competition...our boat with Sue as the ring leader beat by a few heads. I must say it was pretty exhilarating to put all your energy and muscle into the paddle, digging deeper into the water to surge forward for the win. I see why these ladies love this sport so much!

Watching Dad and Mom conquer this huge emotional beast made my heart sore with pride knowing what it took them to decide to drive south and then get in a boat. What changed from tears to laughter was knowing how Traci would be bending over laughing hysterically at us misfits in the boat hitting the paddle in front of us, splashing the person behind us and Dad taking in the sights from the water front perspective. It felt so good to laugh in her memory.

When Traci founded the Provider Paddle Event she created a prescription bottle filled with jelly beans with all the instructions, much like real medication, as a take home favor for the providers that attended. The tradition was continued as Charlie and Addison helped fill the bottles and 
Myriam helping Sue hand them out. 

A hard morning, but we did it.  
Paddles Up. 

A Picture Glimpse to the Tail End of Spring

You know it's spring when the eyes are itching, house is sneezing and the allergy medication is all out. Many of us have been fighting extreme allergies this season, but we hate to complain as the outside comes to life with greenery, color and that dreaded hay bailing in farm country. 
The kids are now all out of school and LOVING IT! 
Our summer list of to do's are still being edited which is always a fun way to prepare for the one day trips and longer ones too.  Earlier in May, Addison went to the Mercy Me concert with her girlfriend Annie. We watched Baylee's 1/2 brother on a Saturday and have already had trips to Edaline Dairy for cones. (That soft serve craving still exists since the cruise...) Baylee had her first dentist appointment and Myriam has been preparing for her first ever tap dance recital. 
It's been busy, but satisfying watching memories being made. 
Here is a picture glimpse to the tail end of Spring...

Ski to Sea May 28th, 2017
The girls and I, plus Annie, decided to hang out in the sun Sunday afternoon while cooling off with gelato, listening to Uncle Jason play his drums and watching the first place team paddle into shore. Fairhaven is Addison's happy place as she loves to walk around and explore. These girls did awesome walking LOTS, even back up the hill to our hot car. 

June 4th, 2017
A couple months back my dear friend Linda confidently ran 17 miles alongside Jackie who was training for another marathon. We, as amazed girlfriends, decided for Linda that she was going to run in her first marathon since she was fully capable of keeping up with pace. That gave her five weeks to properly train for the North Olympic Discovery Marathon; a goal to run since she turned 40. Of course, one cannot run alone so many others signed up and had a gorgeous sunny run alongside the Port Angeles waterfront. Helped that we fueled up well the night before with everything bacon at the Coyote BBQ Pup including the warm peanut butter brownie with real bacon crumbles on top. If you are in the area I highly recommend eating here. 
This was such a worshipful run for me as my running playlist beamed songs of hope and praise every step along the way. I'm sure people thought I was crazy as my hands sometimes went up in the air, my outside singing voice was heard and cheers for other runners most likely belted since 
I couldn't hear anything but my worship. 
Thanks to our official cheerers, Mandi and Melissa, we had encouragement along the way and a few of us ran the last five miles with Linda to keep her spirits up and feet moving. 
Love these ladies!

June 7th, 2017
Charlie had an amazing first year not having Mom barking orders and forcing him to do school work. I can't be more pleased, and shocked really, with how well Chuckles did with both adapting to a new school schedule and keeping up the grades.  He sang beautifully with his class at the last chapel even if him and James had the giggles. On the last day of school he collected all his missing sweatshirts then together we grabbed a Subway lunch celebrating his launch into fourth grade. 

June 8th, 2017
 Oh Nellie, this gal is moving out of Preschool and into full days of Kindergarten. Myriam got to celebrate her last day of school with ice cream sundaes, photo booths and allowing Mommy into her classroom to watch and play. Thank you Teacher Ashley for being a caring, attentive and patient teacher!

 What can I say...Monkey see and why yes, Monkey will do.
These two darlings are starting to grow a playful relationship filled with much curiosity, laughter and of course, naughty no no's. From music hour to getting the wiggles out, Myriam (known as "Mimi") and Baylee have been having lots of fun inside and out. 

June 12th, 2017
I seriously can't believe Teacher Jeff stuck it out this long with us!?? When we started Mp3 Addison was going into Kindergarten. She was not talking to very many people, if talking at all, which presented itself the opportunity to teach in a safe environment at home. Those first few years we were completely off campus with our school work having weekly phone calls to check in with Jeff.  Teacher Jeff was so incredibly patient with Addison when he would ask about what she was learning and get nothing but breathing back in the headset. Eventually, she began to use few words to now seeing Teacher Jeff on campus and in his classroom having purposeful conversations. Addison had three years on campus where she had her weekly contacts in person and even having Jeff as a teacher for a couple classes.
Jeff has become somewhat like a family member as he followed our adoption with Myriam, was apart of Traci's cancer journey allowing us to teach from Portland and recently, staying in touch through our foster journey. Homeschooling was never my first choice; was never my desire. But, for every kid you teach, train and parent differently. Tim and I always agreed that it would be year by year in this teaching agreement. Charlie joined Mp3 and for that time was exactly what he needed. Homeschooling gave us precious time packing up in minutes to visit Auntie in Portland. If the kids would have been anywhere else for school it would not have been as easy as it has been over the last seven years. The flexibility was a gift to our family.
Addison and I brought Jeff a gift this Monday afternoon. It felt like we were breaking up. We had group hugs and shared memories of the earlier days. Doesn't take much to get me crying and yes, the tears were present Monday, but to Teacher Jeff and all the staff at Mp3, we said/say thank you. The grace you showed our family and patience with me getting the monthly reviews in "on time" truly were blessings to us. It will be weird not seeing you all next year, but for us, the homeschooling season had it's purpose and now is done.

There goes Spring and here comes Summer. The bike tires are pumped up and ready for causing the streets, the swimsuits already worn to splash in the creek. We are ready for some downtime and playtime!

It's a Wrap. School is Done.

I can't believe Addison is moving into 7th grade next year. By the picture alone you are able to tell how much this sweet, compassionate, thoughtful and servant-minded daughter of ours has grown. She often will rummage through my closet and we almost wear the same size shoe (she grew two shoe sizes this past year). She essentially taught herself this past year with determination to conquer the hard stuff. (Math is neither of our favorites.) This was Addison's last year of homeschooling through Mp3 and we are both sad and excited for the next adventure. Teacher Jeff has been our Student Learning Plan Coordinator since Kindergarten. Our weekly contact started with phone calls of him talking and Addi listening, slowly graduating to her giving a non-verbal yes or no and then taking on full conversations in person and over the phone. Addi overcame many fears this year giving a stellar TED talk about fostering and adopting in front of her class and creating some fantastic friendships. 
She will be joining her little brother at Ebenezer next fall.

There are not enough words of gratitude for what this past year has been for our son. Chuckles thrived in his new school environment. Last summer we had Charlie get some tutoring with my fear of him not testing into third grade levels. He finished this year with amazing grades, being a math teacher to his peers and is ready to conquer 4th grade with confidence. We are so proud of Charlie for the hard work, diligence and ability to adapt to new surroundings. When I asked him yesterday what his biggest accomplishments were for the past year it was the friendships he built and the hard work he did in school. 
Looking back, we clearly see why homeschooling was the right fit for us in the seasons we kept the kids home. The ability to send Charlie to almost every treatment with his Auntie was a gift of precious time and memories that we would otherwise not have had given we put the kids in traditional schools. The support our family, primarily Charlie, received from his classmates was out of this world awesome. One of his favorite memories was having Auntie Traci come for lunch and reading all the notes of encouragement from his friends. I can't say enough good things about our choice in sending Charlie to Ebenezer. Huge blessing to our son and family!

Miss hot, sassy pants comes with endless attitude and energy. I never know if it will be a thumbs up or thumbs down kind of day when the bus drops her off, but regardless of the attitude, I want to tell you how much this girl has worked at making better choices over the past year. Myriam makes friends easily and did just that this past year. She had her eyes sold out for one of the little boys with whom both got in trouble often because of their chit chat during school. I would often times hear about her friend doing something mean to her and they would break up or decide not to get married because one of them did something wrong. Myriam is quite smart and has surprised us with how much she really can obtain if given the attention to focus, not to mention how improved her handwriting has become over the past year.  
Teacher Ashley is a saint, as are all the others in her classroom, guiding our little one around and assisting in her choices. 
Next year Myriam will be going to Fisher for Kindergarten. She thinks the new school is being built just for her. I'm nervous, excited and so blessed knowing that already her learning plan is being reviewed. I have such respect for our teachers and can't thank them enough for helping shape our Myriam into what God designed her to be. 

So with that, school is done. 
Summer has begun. 
Mommy and Daddy are so proud of all the hard work and learning you kiddos did this past year!

A Milestone to Celebrate

We were young and full of dreams.
We had set ideas and motivation to meet our goals. 
We were in love and crazy about each other. 
We still love to travel together exploring new countries, small towns and meeting people along the way. We still have the ability to sit in a quiet car and be okay with it or lay in bed and have pillow talk until we fall asleep. 
We push each other to be the best. We hold each other accountable and call out faults when needed. We love the same cheesy shows, don't mind a simple street taco dinner and have the talented capability of plowing through a pint of ice cream...each. 
My Love has been my rock not just over the past few months, but from the beginning. I would be lost without him by my side working diligently to provide for our tribe and wanting the best for his bride.
It's no secret we've had our ups and downs, but they have made us the couple we are today. We have more intention of continuing to make us the best us for each other and our family then we did at our "I do's."

Dated for 3 years
Married for 15 years
4 kids total
God is good.

Last week we were able to fly south to Costa Rica where we celebrated our anniversary. If we've learned anything over the years it's this:
Don't stop investing in each other. Keep learning and growing your marriage to be deeper while falling more madly in love with each other.
The kids will survive.
As Charlie plainly told my brother last week after asking where we were,
"Mom and Dad went on a date."
I will go on a date every day of the week just so I can show our son and daughters the importance of investing in your marriage... But not all dates will involve an airplane and passport!

Happy Anniversary.

{ Our date to Costa Rica. }

The Realities of Grief

The realities of my grief have been as opposite as the east to the west. 
In one moment you can have clear blue, sunny, happy skies over to the West hovering over the islands and to the East, the darkest, meanest black skies coming down in vertical stripes as the clouds open flood gates across the mountains. There is an actual line drawn in the weather pattern that separates the two skies. 
Grief is, and can be, as tumultuous as the stormy skies or as hopeful as a clear blue sunset to the West. 
Because many have asked how my family and I are doing, I thought I'd let you into my world for a brief moment and tell you what the past three months have looked like for us. 
In one word, I'd say it's been 

The first month after Traci passed was busy making sure the services were handled per her requests, getting her apartment cleared out, managing final accounts and trying to prepare for our pre-planned family trip. The second month was all about finding a routine once again and making it through a day in one piece. We now passed the three month marker since she left this earth and I find some days harder then those in the beginning. Suffocating really.
Finding the motivation to do anything more then meeting everyone's basic needs was, and still can be, an exhausting task. Some days I find myself walking in circles not knowing what to do. Other days my one task is getting to the gym for class so I can at least keep moving. 
There is an unsaid expectation that the first year after someone passes is the hardest simply because of all the firsts you have to emotionally manage. That can't be more true.

April 30th, Traci would have celebrated her 38th birthday. The entire weekend felt heavy, burdened and caught me off guard in many ways. I found myself wrestling with moments of extreme sadness coupled with components of undeniable joy and peace. I'm so thankful for my stable husband who has been my rock because honestly folks, I seem a bit bipolar these days with my happy/sad tears. 
The day started with church. What a mess I was. We've started this new sermon series about Heaven. You'd think it was a funny joke, but it's not and probably is good timing once I can get past the topic word Heaven. My third row family are familiar with my tears as they usually start during worship. I'm easily moved these days and tissues go with me wherever I go. That particular Sunday I was deeply touched by Pastor Kurt's words and was wrecked all service long. 
We packed up our tribe and went to visit Auntie's resting place on our way to my parents place. Myriam and Addison drew some pictures which we secured in Ziploc bags and placed by her spot under the maple tree. Charlie's flower still stood tall and bright in it's cheerful teal vase.  Myriam insisted on singing 'Happy Birthday' which she did beautifully. 
It was a moment of pause, reflection, remembrance and utter grief that I could not put my arms around her to wish her the best damn birthday a girl could have. 
As perfect timing would have it, Jason and his family along with Melissa and Mickey showed up as we were about to leave. A party in a cemetery. This should not be.
That afternoon I took the girls shopping as Auntie so loved to do, grabbed coffee drinks which she spoiled us with often and played by the Marina as the sun beat down our backs. We then surrounded Papa and Nana with a family dinner and just being with each other. Myriam once again insisted we celebrate with cake which she and Papa picked out together.
"I'm getting a birthday cake for my Auntie!" she cheerfully explained to the cashier at Haggen's.
Friends in Portland took to Traci's favorite hiking spots and the Pink's remembered her on the water.
The first birthday was met with complete honesty in our emotions. 

 { New birthday traditions; do things Auntie loved to do. }

Some of the other realities of grief I've experienced was exposed at the dentist office. 
Yep. That explains the jaw pain, ear pain and fatigued mornings when I wake up. Now that I'm aware of it, I've been catching myself lock down and hopefully, not causing permanent damage. I fight back tears clenching my jaw. I fall asleep to images of the last few hours and minutes bearing down on my jaw. I drive tense and feel the knots form all over my body from sore muscles. 
I have no shame telling you I probably have, as do others, PTSD from being with my sister in her final fight. 
I hate being sad. It's not like me. My Cheer Doterra oils are not doing their job well. I started taking St. John's Wart as an herbal anti-depressant. I have no shame and will tell you I think after a month of popping Mr. John's I can feel a difference. 
I drove my sisters car and smelled the steering wheel in attempts to gain one last scent of her presence. Her sunglasses stared at me from the dash. Hanging from her rear view mirror a necklace with the words: 

Grief is hard on kids. 
This month marks a year since my Grandma Van Dyken passed away. Our kids were very close to Gigi and were present up to the day she passed visiting her, kissing her and telling her they loved her. Addi and I sat with Aunt Betty after she passed and watched hospice gently wash Grandma with lavender before they took her body. 
We made the conscience decision to fly Charlie down to be with Auntie those last few hours. Addison spent Auntie's last week here with us, and with Nana, in Portland, playing card games, taking naps together and just being in each others presence. Charlie witnessed his Auntie march into Heaven. Our kids were present in her passing and we don't regret having them there, but it does affect them. There are high highs and low lows. Random temperaments, anger outbursts, lying, tears listening to worship songs and on the other side beaming smiles remembering a funny moment together. Auntie's paddling medals hang directly above Charlie's pillow. Some of her blankets continue to tuck us in at night as we climb in bed. 
I find that I get angry when the kids snip at each other in a flash of jealousy and longing to be able to have that still with my sister. A few times I have reminded them that you never know when your sibling will leave this earth so appreciate and use wisely the time you have with them. 
Cleaning our rooms we'll all come across something that was gifted to us by our spoiling Auntie and instantly be brought back to that celebration, or for what ever reason why, she blessed us with a card, a toy or simple note to say she loved us. 
Grief is present as it faces you daily.

When Mom went to buy her summer patio flowers there was no choice in the color; pink. A few weeks ago we planted the dogwood tree purchased in memory of my sister and I stood watching from the living room with tears and anger thinking how no little sister should have to go on without her big sister or worse yet, remember her with a tree. There are many tokens of pink in our yard that will only grow to bigger sizes as a memory, reminder and sweet scent of my big sister.
When Mom plays on Sunday's it's a given the box of tissues will be used. Dad looks at the clock every night at 5:15pm expecting his daughter to call and let him know about her day. The door to Traci's bedroom at home stays shut; the bed with new bedding and position not being used.
There is an almost unsaid identity crisis as my parents for ten years were Mom and Dad plus doctor and nurse. Thursday's are for driving to Portland; Friday's for treatment;
Saturday's for cleaning and driving back home.

There are moments where I have guilt for not thinking about Traci and then moments I long to not have her death consume me as it seems all that passes my thoughts are about my sister. Her computer sits under my prayer chair as I still need to deal with it and all her journals are in the bag off to the side of my safe place. I catch myself sending her text messages, dialing to Face Time or talk on the phone. I hear the word Portland and think to myself, "I should plan a trip to visit...."
Accepting the reality is part of this grief process.
There are no more phone calls, Face Time laughter's and kisses from the kids or sleep overs at Auntie's place in the summer to splash in her pool.
There was a page in her story that wrote:
The End.

On our way home a couple weekends ago, we saw grief displayed in the most beautiful way. Out to the East, the rain was falling vertically, the sun rays from a small white patch of clouds were attempting to break through at a diagonal while the clouds were horizontal and in one area twirling in a spinning motion. 
And yet, when you looked closer in the depressing skies you saw a beautiful rainbow from the couple of rays that were trying to press through the weather pattern. 
It was a circle of color that reminded us that there is hope through the grief and despair.
Broken but hopeful.
We'll all get there eventually, but for now time is our gift in this process because no one needs to rush it and we all process at a different pace. The hole in our hearts both here and in Portland are wide open and we continue to thank you for the prayers as we heal, move forward and remember our sweet sister, daughter and amazing friend.

Move On Over Showers

The amount of rain we've had so far this spring is down right crazy. My fingers and toes are constantly in a state of looking like raisins from the dampness in the air. 
(Not really; possibly an over exaggeration.) 
You can walk anywhere on our lawn and the sounds of a wet sponge echo back at you.  There's really no point in washing your car because you know within a few hours nature will wash it again for you. This has been on record a wet season. 
Thankfully, we've managed to find a few bright spots during the wet weeks and I've found some moments to soak up with the kids during spring break. 
Here's a glimpse through the clouds of what's been going at our home...

 A double date to REI ended with a dinner date at Menchies. Not the best choice, but there was talk of sushi, ribs and Jimmy Johns before we landed with sweets. I love having the one on one time with this dude.

 If you live by a baker, you can expect donuts for dinner. Yes, no shame. These tasty tiger tails and twists were dinner, breakfast and even a donut was placed in Charlie's lunch box. Thanks Julie for the sweet delivery right at 5:30pm! 

Charlie and his friend Damion found a struggling Sterling that needed some TLC. The little tweety bird had no reservations of Charlie picking him up, petting him and honestly clung to his finger for quite sometime. The boys made a twiggy bird house in a box and after awhile were able to transfer Tweety into his recovery home. It wasn't more than a few hours later Tweety felt rested and hopped along somewhere after his caring encounter with the Bird Man. 
(side note: I made Charlie wash his hands multiple times after touching 
Tweety and pulling the stick out of his eye.)

Spring Break was filled with sleep overs, play dates and a few outings keeping the kids busy as the weather didn't agree with school days off. Charlie and James have become best of buds at school and bounced their sweaty self's for two hours at the Trampoline Zone. Love seeing the new friendships blossom and grow. 

 We are blessed to have communication with Myriam's Bio-Auntie Nadene and occasionally she treats us with gift cards to Menchies. This sweet trip was thanks to her! 
Thank you Nadene!

Addison has always had an artistic approach to life. Painting, drawing or doodling comes naturally to her. Lately, sneaking my camera and going for nature walks with her girlfriend Annie has become something often that happens after school. I am AMAZED at the raw talent Addi has behind the lens. Her ability to use the camera correctly and snap the angle giving life to simple moss, 
maple starts or cherry blossoms astonishes me. 
Theses are just a few of her shots...there is no editing done to these pictures. 

 Come sunshine; come bubbles. Chalk art and bikes to follow. Myriam was loving the challenge of blowing the biggest BuBbLe possible and trying to catch it back on the stick. Kept us busy for a little while!

Yeah. It finally happened. The egg hunt was over, tummies full of yummy food. This was happening. I must say, it was pretty sweet to watch Myriam listen to Daddy explain all the rules of riding on his bike. 
The girl has no fear. None. Zilch. Nada. 
There may have been some nipple pinching as her arms wrapped around clinging to Daddy and also possibly some misplaced hands in his lap, but overall she did great and stayed on the bike. I'll make sure the kids' seat is on next time so no hand grabbing happens! The little stinker even let go to wave at me as they came back from their trip around the block. 

Happy Easter. Happy Spring. 
Move on over showers; May will be dry as April has been washed away. 
We're ready for sunshine!
(I have no explanation for Charlie's face. It appears to be a new reaction 
when it comes time for family photos.)

These Four Words

April has been a month of reflection.
A reconciliation of what Jesus did for us on the cross. A reminder of anniversaries and birthdays. A reminder that eight years ago our marriage came to life. 
I find myself getting lost in thought going back ten years when we wheeled my sister into the operating room for her first surgery a week after receiving her cancer diagnoses. I can hear the words she spoke to me as I told her I loved her. I can see Tim with open arms ready to catch his bride as he surprised me at the hospital in Portland, I remember the first moments after surgery quickly brushing Traci's teeth before visitors came and can smell the Olive Garden dinner that fed the waiting room of friends and family. 
I look back at the first moments in the Mission House post surgery as Mom and I got Traci comfortable before I needed to head back home.

I think about my parents as they celebrate their 39th wedding anniversary this month with one less child verbally telling them, "Happy Anniversary." What was it like when they got married? What were the political news stories at that time? Did they have dreams and vision for themselves and how have they met those dreams years later? Did they ever think for a second they'd bury a child before themselves? Did they ever talk about what it would be like if one of their children got sick and how they would deal with that news? For better or worse; through sickness and health.
How did Dad's cancer change the dynamic of their relationship?

April second will forever be etched in my memory as it's the day Tim confessed to me about the sin he had been struggling with in his life. It's a day that changed the course of our marriage and family. It's the day our marriage was given meaning and purpose. Recently, Tim cleaned out his closet donating the exact fleece he wore the night he confessed. It instantly placed me on our leather couch in the living room. I can remember the exact clothes we wore, the dinner I was cooking in the Wok and what the weather was like that evening. How was that a part of my life and purpose God had for me? How did that fit in with my parents marriage and sisters health? Why do some people have trials and others seem to have none?
How is there enough space in our memories to place these details?
It's sad knowing too many people have no faith to fall back on when these question come up and life changing diagnoses fall into their laps. I struggle to answer the whys when honestly we don't need to know the why, but rather how will you handle what's given to you. Why do some people have such loss and torment in their lives and others seems to dance daily in fields of daisies and roses?
It's been a time of reflection these past few weeks especially as I sift through my sisters journals. I find resolve reading through them. I find her faith bouncing off the pages even though they are riddled with seeds of deep rooted depression and anxiety. I talk with other women who have been through betrayal and hear hope, restoration and individual hearts growing stronger in their vertical relationship with Jesus.

Last weekend Myriam and I had to drive to Burlington for a few things and listened to Traci's service both there and back. I knew it would wreck me, but Myriam was asking about Auntie. We chose for her not to be at the service that day so this presented to be a good time to listen to the service together. I explained what was happening and then she tells me to be quiet because she wanted to sing. What I saw next was Myriam, hands folded praying in her seat as the worship began to play. When I asked her what she was doing she rather calmly stated, "You said if we want to talk to Jesus we pray. I wanted to talk to Auntie so I'm praying because she's with Jesus." 
A moment of reflection through a child's eye.
This lasted for two entire songs. When we made it to our first destination, we both wept together listening to Daddy and Auntie Becky sing. This was Myriam's time to celebrate Auntie, but also a reminder that she's not here with us and we miss her greatly. 
As a mom, it's hard to know if we're allowing our kids to grieve properly. I don't question anything we have done, but I pray we're giving them the right opportunities to remember.
Yesterday the kids and I brought flowers to the cemetery. It was the kids' first time visiting the grave. A physical place to remember the person who meant the world to many of us.

And then Good Friday. 
That brings me to the cross.
Pondering the cross brings me great sorrow and joy. Sadness for the why and joy for the triumph.
Mary shared in this grief we have been navigating over the past two months. She understands a mothers heart as you watch your child take their last breath. She feels the pain of seeing your child suffer. 
Regardless of knowing the purpose for her Son's life; the weight He carried for all our sins, she was human and had the same emotions we struggle with today.
I often ask why my mother was chosen to watch her child suffer; an emotion I never prepared myself to experience. 
I think about what it was like for Jesus to look down at His mother from a child's perspective. Set aside the fact that He's Jesus, knows all things and is King of all Nations...He had a mother. I wonder if it changed things? What did Traci think as she heard the words our Mom spoke to her in those last twelve hours? If she had the strength to speak, what would she have said? Did she feel betrayed when we told her to go, when Mom repeatedly said, "Honey, you can let go. It's okay. Stop fighting." Was her spirit already two feet into Heaven that she didn't even hear our pleas and feel our emotions over the worship from the angels?
Jesus knew His path. He knew the purpose in His death.
Traci knew her diagnoses. She was told she was dying. Her faith had no doubt where she was going.
My parents promised each other 'till death due us part' and have been wading through extremely challenging diagnoses over half of their marriage. Never did they know the outcome, but always trusting that through treatment and prayer diseases would be healed.
I still stand in awe that Tim and I are more united than when we said our 'I do's' and can only testify that it's by the grace of God and our faith, that we have overcome a potential devastating confession.
I found myself with bipolar tears last night as our Good Friday service came to conclusion. Tears of anguish contemplating what Jesus did for me and tears of mourning for the sweet sister I miss terribly.
We ended by singing a classic hymn and never before has it hit me like it did last night...

What can wash away my sin? 
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus. 

Oh! Precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

This is all my hope and peace, 
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
This is all my righteousness,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Now by this I'll overcome-
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Now by this I'll reach my home-
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

By the time we were done singing there were tears of joy for what is to come.
For two months, I have been tossing around these four words and find myself in deep conversation with God asking why, how, when and finally reaching the point where tears become silent questions. I've scoured the pages of my sisters journals, read pages of notes from Bible studies and sat with the Bible open begging for a simple answer to the grief I wake up to in the morning. I look over years of pictures and repeat conversations in my head.
The only conclusion I come up with, the only words that seems to settle all my lingering questions and put pause into my thoughts are these...

It was and is God's will that Jesus died on the cross because now, more than ever, does it bring purpose to our story; to your story.
Traci is white as snow; she has overcome and her victory came through the cross. It's not our place to understand God's will and timing, but it's through our obedience that we trust in His plan.
She has reached her home.
We celebrate my parents marriage because of the hope and peace God
has given them through difficult situations.
Tim and I have overcome and our marriage is what it is today only by the blood of Jesus.
It's not God's will for people to choose sin; for health to derail us, but it's His will that we trust and follow because He trusted and followed in God's will for His life.

Tomorrow we wake up and celebrate an empty tomb.
We celebrate because in His perfect will, for our imperfect and broken lives,
He gives us reason to rejoice and be joyful.
It still hurts, the questions will still find me.
But I know that in the end it was God's will for Traci to find life through her cancer and her journey home to be quicker then the rest of ours.
It was through obedience that my husband and I are deeply in love.
It is God's will that we have a second chance and that should be good enough reason to celebrate.

He Is Risen Indeed.
Can't even fantasize what Easter is like for you this year sister.