GuysPlaque2aWe recently attended a ceremony where our son, firefighter Guy Smith, officially received his title of Captain. He was promoted to full captain a year ago and has now completed his probationary period. He manages a great crew of firefighters and is lauded by the upper management. Mom and I are so proud of the man our little boy turned out to be. Last year was a crazy year for Guy. He was promoted to the new position at work, ran his electrical business, remodeled their house, and their baby Kristjan was born.  Sarah, Guy’s wife, is an amazing woman. Guy had to put in long hours and she supported him all the way. Way to go you two.

I want to write a note to the spouses, partners, parents, siblings, and children who live with, care for, and love us.

It’s true we live with the possibility of death, but you are facing the possibility of loss. Some of us will beat Leuk and some won’t. Death is frightening but at least it has an ending. Losing the one you love is not so easily blotted out.

Some of my readers, like Darla (she sometimes makes comments on this blog), don’t have leukemia but are the loved ones of someone who does. It’s not quite correct to say they don’t have the disease because when Leuk is in the home he, in some ways, infects everyone in it.

Their white blood cells and bone marrow remain healthy, but their souls are fighting for sanity. Their hearts are beating for answers. They struggle to make sense of a senseless situation.

We carry the disease, but our loved ones carry us.

So I hope we would all say this to our lovers and family:

It is okay to tell me you are afraid. You might be holding back, stoically thinking you have to be strong for me. But, my love, I won’t break. I won’t get more sick if you cry in front of me. I know you are even more afraid than I am. You have a right to be afraid.

You are doing so much, giving so much, and I feel like I give so little back. Yes, I’m sick, but I am still in love. In love with you. I know how hard this is for you and I love you all the more for sticking with me.

But go and take some time off for yourself. Find moments away from the house. Unload your burdens to a friend. Breathe fresh air so you can come back to me all the stronger.

I know you pray for me. What you may not know is I am praying for you.

PearlHarbor2web  We took our grandkids to Pioneer Park in Ferndale, WA where you can see several renovated buildings from the early 19th and 20th centuries. We saw homes, an old postoffice, a store, and a printshop. But there was one building I lingered in much longer than the rest of my family. The VFW had filled the building with displays of relics from WWI and WWII. There were German, Japanese, and American rifles. Canteens, uniforms, helmets, Nazi arm bands and so much more.VEpaper2web

This building was an emotional experience for me. During WWII, my father was a prisoner of war in Germany for over 2 years. Most of that time was spent in Stalag 17b. [Note: a movie about the Stalag was made in 1953.] Dad told us about the few funny things that happened, but he seldom spoke of the sicknesses and deaths and deprivation he’d seen.

Hitlerpaper2webNow, in this room, surrounded by the tools of war, I felt like Dad was somehow there with me. I could almost feel the fear, courage, loneliness, and loss his generation experienced. So many never came home. So many came home broken.

My Dad nearly died over there. The man who would eventually adopt me might never have been a part of my life.JapanSurrender2web

He has passed now, but I will never forget what he and his generation did for us. They were a special breed.

She is my cousin, but because of our age difference I’ve always thought of her as my aunt. Last Saturday Alma celebrated her 90th birthday.

I missed it. Not feeling well, I couldn’t make the 80 mile drive. But my better 3/4’s, my wife, daughter, and son (with wife and child) attended.

Every family has a center; a person who, without knowing it, helps glue the rest of us together. For my immediate family it was my mother. But for the whole extended family it is Alma.

This wonderful, unassuming woman quietly sees to the small details that make a person feel loved. For as long as I can remember Alma has sent me birthday cards. And a couple times she and her now belated husband sent hand-made Christmas gifts. Once it was a beautiful clock built into a varnished alder round. Another time it was a huge cribbage board. (It was 3 feet long and on legs like a table.) I’m also the proud owner of a book she wrote.

In her usual giving way, Alma turned the birthday party on it’s head – giving instead of receiving. She gave everyone a home-made jar of blueberry jam with a thank you note on top of the jar.

Alma, if you’re reading this, I want you to know how much I appreciate and love you. I am shamed by the realization that this is the first time I’ve said so.

Our entire family is blessed to have you.

Thanks.

I just heard that a childhood friend, Shelly, passed away. She had cancer. I’m not sure which kind.

I haven’t seen Shelly since we were kids; her daughter wrote me with the news.

I remember Shelly as a happy girl. Not the kind of silly giddy happy of most teenagers, but a calm, peaceful happy. I don’t know if that calm happiness carried into her adult years. I hope so.

My parents had a resort when I was a kid and her parents would rent a summer cottage from us every year.  I have good memories of playing with her and her brother.

She was taken too soon. Way too soon.

It hits home pretty hard when someone near your own age dies. It makes the whole dying thing more real. I’m reassessing my life and how I’m living it. It’s time for some changes. I don’t know what they will be yet, but I can sense the need for adjustments.

I’m not feeling down or afraid, and I’m not whining. I’m just introspective right now.

Last week I had an ‘episode’ from another health issue I have unrelated to leukemia. It wasn’t life threatening, but it was serious enough to grab my attention.

Some of my priorities need shifting.

If you’re one of my readers who lives with Leuk I hope you aren’t afraid of him. Don’t forget that you have strong allies in Hope and Faith.

Oddly enough, I’m finding that Leuk can be helpful too He helps me focus on making my life worthwhile. I hope he’s doing the same for you.