The Last Time I Held Her Hand

The last time I held my sisters hand was the first time she stood before her God and Maker. 
Without pain or scars of her almost ten year journey with breast cancer. 
Surrounded by her family, she peacefully marched her way into glory. 
I say march because that's exactly what Traci did in those last hours here on earth. 

I was originally going to fly down to Portland Thursday morning, but my flight was cancelled the night before leaving me to drive the next morning. I got to Traci's apartment around 10:30am. Mom had told me about the confirmed liver failure a few days before and the turn of yellow in her skin, but seeing in person was much more prominent then I expected. 
Traci and I joked about how yellow was never her color. She said with her cute smirk, "Yeah, it's not my favorite either. It's not that bad though." She was always reassuring me she was okay. 

{ I'm not sure who looks more tired. Taken minutes after arriving to Portland. }

The car ride to Compass Oncology that afternoon was heavy with emotion, fatigue and the knowing of the reality to come. 
It didn't take long before the air was sucked right out of the room. 
"We're going to be stopping all treatments and transfer you into support care."

My sister has been a valiant fighter for ten years coming face to face with death sentences far too many times in her journey. What started as breast cancer soon raged into bone, lung, liver, brain and eye cancer. Multiple surgeries, not a day without pills or maintenance chemo, loss of hair four times and never a single complaint. She fought with that bright, contagious smile and never lost her sparkle. 
When most people fall into pieces after getting diagnosed with cancer, Traci came to life. 
My sister in her earlier days struggled to find her sense of identity; to know who she was and why she was placed here on earth. She fought with depression some and has said to me, "I felt like a wanderer not knowing what my purpose was." And then she met her diagnosis.
Traci was always passionate about her Jesus and had interest in missionary work growing up. What happened quickly after her first surgery was something magical. The harder cancer fought to take Traci away from us, the more she'd push to let her faith shine more radiantly. Rather than us encouraging her to stay strong, was Traci telling everyone "it's okay, God is in control."
These past few months I shared with my sister how I felt her starting to slip away. She, without hesitating, told me, "Sis, I'm not going anywhere."
When she was given her first timeline just a few months ago, she replied with, "Dr. Look is not in control of my timeline. God is the only one who knows my timeline."
She fought with confidence for a cure. She fought with purpose to share her Jesus with everyone she came into contact with at work, home, on her paddling team and any stranger willing to listen. 
Her fight inspired numbers that we will never see here on this side of earth. 

{ The weight of the world landed on our shoulders in the doctors office. }

We sat in shambles as the staff at Compass came in to say their goodbyes with social workers gathering information to set up hospice up north. The details of making Traci comfortable once we made it home came together easily, but the acceptance of "why" was hard to adjust to. Addison had been in Portland all week and after a few days of seeing her Auntie becoming weaker in strength and more confused in conversation, she finally came to the point where she broke into quiet sobs resting in her Papa's arms. My sister had reached her hand out and invited me to sit next to her. Fingers laced together, we were going to finish this strong. 
"Am I dying? Am I really dying?"
Yes, honey, you're dying. 
"I don't know. I...okay...yeah, I don't know."

You think about this moment happening, but then it's here and nothing prepares you for the rawness of emotions that flood every part of your mind and body. What happened in that doctors office was simple: the man who came up with options for every curve ball this cancer has thrown at us finally had no more tricks, experimental treatments or options to treat the beast that stole a healthy body ten years earlier. In those moments Dr. Look gave Traci's weak, frail body permission to stop fighting. Whether she wanted to or not; her body was worn out from such an intense fight. 
Dr. Look had given her one to two months. She was adamant about going on our family cruise next month. I'm not sure which made her more upset honestly;
stopping treatment or not being able to travel. 

With oxygen by her side, we navigated our way to the pharmacy to gather a few more prescriptions before heading back to the apartment. She had wanted to let her friends know and was asking to post something on Facebook. After making attempts on her phone, I placed her computer in her lap so she could let her supporters know of this news. Unfortunately, in her confusion, she wasn't able to recognize Facebook and saw the computer as just being black which led me to writing what she had earlier expressed and her approving it before posting.
"God was still good."
Later in the evening Pastor Jesse and his wife Crystal came to visit and pray with Traci. 
What astonishes me is how powerful the mind plays a role in our decision making, and our will to live. While visiting with Jesse, I noticed Traci dosing off and her color changing in front of us. Again, she said multiple times, "Yeah, so..I don't know," as we prayed over her, committing her to Jesus and asking boldly for peace. 
It was immediately after, Traci became cold and clammy, yet dripping in sweat. It was as if her spirit fled after Pastor Jesse prayed. Now her body and mind were in agreement.
Because of the liver failure and increasing kidney failure, she felt like using the bathroom every ten to fifteen minutes. We together spent many precious moments with me sitting on the floor resting on her knees telling her I loved her, discussing intimate details and moments of just locking eyes in disbelief. A blessing to us was when a Pink Phoenix team mate stopped by moments after Jesse left. With her knowledge and experience, it was clear that Traci would not make it home the next day. As gently as she could, Sue tenderly told me she may not survive the night. 
Panic. I'm not ready. Fear. Seriously? Is this really happening now?

Addison paced the front porch waiting for her baby brother to arrive to the apartment after being flown to Portland by his Grandpa Doug, and transported by Grandpa John to the apartment. There were many moments that evening that broke me, but the one of Addison and Charlie embracing in a tight hug weeping together was definitely one as a parent, that tore me apart. 
Traci didn't have much energy and her level of lucidness was becoming less, but the moment Charlie came to her side she lit up and together they had a moment. 
"Hi pal!"
Charlie knew the seriousness of the moment and laid in bed with his Auntie rubbing her back, reminding her he loved her. 

Tim arrived shortly after followed by Jason who raced down to be with us. We were supposed to be driving home the next day. We were supposed to all go to Charlie's basketball game Saturday and celebrate his birthday on Sunday.
Traci had other plans. 
The hours passed slowly. Mom and I never left her side as I read from her worn out Bible "songs" that she had underlined and known favorites of hers. I had stopped reading at one point and she asked for more songs so I continued to read scripture while Mom rubbed her back and I held her hand. Many times I locked eyes and told her it was okay to go, He's calling your name and you have permission to go. When it was just the two of us, I prayed that prayer with us never closing our eyes, and she in agreement smiled and said, "I know. I love you."

To have one more moment to say that to her, face to face. To hear her laugh just that one more time. To have her tell me she's not going anywhere.
Sister, I need you. 

It was hours later that Mom and I saw the struggle become more present. As a family, we laid hands on our beloved first daughter and big sister as I prayed permission for her to go and released her back into the hands of her Creator. After that, we didn't get many more words or response. Her spirit had left and her body was not far behind. She had calmed some and with the assistance of Hospice and Sue, we were able to rest for a short while. She was very comfortable with the efforts from morphine. Mom continued to hold her baby girl as I laid next to her never wanting to let go. 
The fight was gone. 
In her final moments, there was fear that it was happening, but also honor to be able to speak to her  through emotion as she was standing face to face with her Maker. 
"Honey, you need to go. Just go. You need to go. He's calling your name. It's okay.
We love you. You need to go."

"The Sovereign LORD is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
He enables me to go to the heights."
Habakkuk 3:19

I should never have had to say those words to my big sister. I will never forget what it felt like to feel my big sisters hand go limp in mine knowing her life was gone and her fight was done. Nothing can steal that moment away and I'm still processing exactly what we experienced. 

The flood of emotion can not be explained. There was intense sadness. Relief. Loss. Joy.
I felt sick. I felt weak. I struggled to know what to do and saw my children process as they stood over their Auntie who conquered. The rest of the morning became a blur. 
There is still so much processing that needs to happen and grief that will wake me up at night.

But in the end...
God IS still good. 

{ Traci's first Heavenly sunset. Pink, of course...}

Sweet Hour of Prayer

Sweet sister. You have no idea the hole you left here on earth. I just have no words right now. 
I miss you immensely and it's only been a day. God, this hurts. 

Sweet hour of prayer! Sweet hour of prayer!
That calls me from a world of care,
And bids me at my Father's throne
Make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief,
And oft escaped the temper's snare,
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!

Sweet hour of prayer! Sweet hour of prayer!
The joys I feel, the bliss I share,
Of those whose anxious spirits burn
With strong desires for thy return!
With such I hasten to the place
Where God my Savior shows His face,
And gladly take my station there,
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

Sweet hour of prayer! Sweet hour of prayer!
Thy wings shall my petition bear
To Him whose truth and faithfulness
Engage the waiting soul to bless.
And since He bids me seek His face,
Believe His Word and trust His grace,
I'll cast on Him my every care,
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

150 Times of Intentional Asking

Charlie and his Auntie Traci have a special relationship. One that connects them in a sixth sense. 
When one is having a bad day; so is the other. 
When one is struggling emotionally; so does the other.
There is such love, pride and joy in this relationship shared between these two. 
When Charlie started this school year he was proud to raise his hand on the first day of school asking for his classmates to pray for Auntie Traci. He was bold in his asking and it hasn't stopped. 
Multiple times a day, this third grade class prays for Auntie Traci. 
And how do we know it's been 150 times this nephew has asked for prayer? 
Well, he's kept a running tally at his desk. 

This is the course of knowing Auntie Traci. She's contagious in her faith, inspiring in her fight and always has her arms opened wide to love those around her. 
These kids have met Traci once, but have not let that stop their faith from asking bold prayers like Charlie's praying. 
Faith like a child...
I can promise you this...
These children will not stop praying. 

{ Not only have they prayed but they sent Valentine's encouragement too. }

Will you join them in prayer?

Snowmageddon Lost the Scooper

The first snow fell and Charlie was out with the attempts of building an igloo right away. What he forget to do was bring the snow shovel back to the carport before the skies opened up and dumped a foot of snow covering the ground. Needless to say...we lost the shovel and my hopes of finding it by scooting my feet around the so thought area it was last seen in came up empty. It wasn't until Neighbor Rich came and plowed our driveway once the thaw out started that he scooped it up and found it. 

{ Shovel in a snow storm...where are you? }

{ Frozen happiness. }

{ Chuckles busy building whatever he could and loving it. }

{ Our Snow Queens. }

{ Snow before the ice and few more inches. }

{ An afternoon of sledding with the Ellis Family. }

{ Neighbors tree buckled with the weight and took out our power. }

Due to the power outage, I had one large jar candle burning on our kitchen table. Thinking a simple activity of coloring and tracing letters would be a time sapper, I let Myriam loose with many options to color. After coming back inside from taking the trash out (chores don't stop with snow days) I found Myriam sitting in her chair with an extremely guilt-ridden face and smoke coming from her lap. I decided to go extreme in the potential lesson laid before me showing her pictures of house fires and burn victims. Time to invest in the flameless candles. And if you're curious, this is what a dry erase marker looks like after curiosity hits the flame. 

{ These icicles are nothing compared to what was at the hotel. Some feet long and deadly. }

The ice was beautiful; dangerous, but in it's own frozen state...stunning. The blueberry fields south of Lynden had over an inch of ice incasing them. The cedar trees hung low to the ground some resting flat on the ground. The brief glimpse of spring stood still in it's looking glass. I found it beautiful...from the view inside of course!

{ All practices and games were cancelled. Someone wasn't happy about that. }

{ A & A decorating cookies and having fun. }

These two have had sleepovers, snacks, giggles, projects and games that have kept them busy during the unexpected winter break. 

Until next year Snowmageddon. My daffodils needs to breath so you can go now. 

Happy Birthday Super Papa

With a double excuse to celebrate, we took to the roads and tackled the ride to 
Papa and Nana's for our Birthday Super Bowl Party. 
With all things coconut and carrot cake themed along with wings and bean dip, we had plenty to munch on while Lady Gaga flew through the air and the game got underway. Thinking the game was a given win, we headed home after half-time making it home before trees fell across the Hannegan due to the ice storm and wind. Papa was thrilled to have the hours spent in the afternoon with the kids and the adults were happy to get out of the house...even though we'd be stuck inside for the next week due to the snow storm of 2017. 
Papa, we wish you the happiest of birthday's and we thank Jesus for the most 
awesome Papa a kid could have. 

A Day of Play

A year ago Addison began her journey with orthodontics. 
She started with top braces and the Herbst Appliance which Daddy felt terribly guilty for her having to endure. Addi quickly became squeaky every time she opened her mouth and found many foods unable to eat because of the new jewelry. Somewhere in this process, Tim made a deal that in a year when it is removed, the two of them would take a day trip to Disneyland. No where in the paperwork did I sign up for that agreement, but with these two big kids, it was going to be impossible to stop them. 
Last week the day came when the Herbst came out and bottom braces were glued on. 
Done. Flights booked and bags packed.
Off they went for a day of Daddy-Daughter play. What Tim didn't think about was this was the first of four kids that will most likely all need the same orthodontic for one; do for all.
Have fun kids...

The Mill Inn

I was going to do a 2016 recap, but there is only one main event that deserves its own recap. There were many other amazing things that happened, people we met, places we went or little ones that joined our family, but this, this I am so proud of for many reasons. 
Let me explain and be the first to introduce...
(Well, I'm not really the first as this is months late past the formal introduction.)

A few years ago Tim drove down Front Street, pulled up into the parking lot across the street from The Dutch Village Mall and said, "I need to tell you something. I'm going to buy that hotel." Needless to say, I was a little nervous. I could tell by the look in his eyes this was going to be exciting and he was very serious. My husband is one to always have his wheels spinning with ideas, ways to make things better or plans for the next business adventure. This idea caught me off guard from the sheer mess it was about to unearth, but now, several years later, Tim has done what he told me he was going to do. 
Elements renovated most of the square footage in the mall while other store fronts moved in and quickly became known with the locals. Cheeks established itself as the place to buy higher end jeans and adorable tops with extremely helpful employees. These girls will have you looking great in no time at all. Works out to my benefit too when someone needs to soften his entrance home...helps to have a Cheek's bag in hand! The Hen House moved in as well along with Chandara House which offers authentic Thai cuisine. 
Once the focus of the renovation switched to the hotel, it became clear that it was going to be owned privately. Brian Davidson has been a long time friend as history had him living across the street from me while growing up with his three gorgeous daughters. Somehow his business knowledge and Tim's passion for advancing in business meshed together in what you now have as the ownership team for The Mill Inn. These two have done missions together to Cambodia for the past few years and also do their fair share of playing together too. 
Brian and Tim balance each other out really well in this adventure. Chelsea, Brian's oldest daughter, is the face of this entire hotel as she greets all our guests making each stay personalized and special. She even organized a horse drawn carriage ride through the snowy streets of Lynden for a family staying over Christmas. Our own kids were able to get some sweat equity in the project helping Daddy clean, put together furniture, run hotel errands and when the phone rings with a last minute check-in, the oldest even helps to prepare the room and clean. 
The Mill Inn opened up mid September with a successful open house and since then, has been occupying hotel rooms and making memories for all of our hotel guests. Please take the mini tour below and then book a room and step into your local boutique hotel; the only hotel in a functioning windmill. 

{ Celebrating at the open house. }

I am blessed to have a husband with vision, drive and passion all in what he calls work. It is because of his efforts our family is blessed. I am so very proud of the renovations of the entire property and we thank Greg Neufeldt and the Elements Team for making this happen. 
Brian, you are the perfect partner and I'm excited to see what's next. 

{ The Lobby & Entrance to The Mill Bistro }

At The Mill Inn Gift Shop you will find many Delft printed items (the commonly thought of dutch decor with it's blue and white prints) along with some popular Dutch food items. Chelsea Davidson, The Mill Inn's manager, has filled the shelves with beautiful hand-crafted jewelry, locally home-made decor and other items that you don't want to miss out on. A perfect stop for a gift or souvenir. 
And after you get done purchasing your gift items, walk across the lobby and enjoy a cheese plate from The Mill Bistro located in the base of the windmill or sit outside on a sunny day in the gated patio area. 

{ Room 1 }

At the very top of the stairs you'll find the bathroom decorated in Delft wall paper and matching Delft coffee cups giving the top of windmill a very dutch, romantic atmosphere. With a queen size bed and view of both directions, north and south, this room comes at high demands. 

{ Room 2 }

Room Two is found with a king size bed to rest in. It is beautifully decorated with wood paneled walls and a deep red wallpaper print. It's angled walls reminds you that indeed you are sleeping in the windmill stack. 

{ Room 3 }

Room Three is the first of three rooms in the actual windmill. This room comes with a wet bar and lounge space to relax at with a bottle of wine from downstairs or read your next novel from Katz Coffee down the street from the hotel. 

{ Room 4...or also known as The Farm Room }

The Farm Room has a mini kitchen and upstairs king bed and bathroom. Perfect for a longer stay or weekend away with the girlfriends. Sit in the bay window and watch downtown come to life or cozy up on the comfy hide-a-bed couch while enjoying a meal from The Mill Bistro & Lounge. 

{ Room 5 }

Two queen beds greet you in this beautifully decorated larger hotel room. The details are accented in this blue and gray color schemed room with historic pictures to bring the dutch heritage to life. 

{ Room 6 }

Room Six has an outside entrance at the top of the balcony. It has a king size bed and full size bed este to rest your head on. It's look is similar to Room Two with the deep red walls and darker wood finishes. 

{ Room 7 }

Room Seven also has an outside entrance with a king size bed and full size bed este. You'll find the treats to greet you and want to grab more from the Gift Shop in the Lobby. 

There's your mini tour and our grand recap from 2016.