My Hardest Goodbye

These past two years I’ve been unable to maintain this blog. I was going through the hardest thing I have ever faced, and at a loss of what to write that I could share publicly. I’m still processing everything, and have decided that the best way for me to process (other than running) is to write. Many blog posts have floated around in my head over the last two years that I didn’t put into words. Some poetic, some straightforward, some light-hearted and others downright sad. Looking back, I wish I would have been keeping them locked away for sharing one day. Given that didn’t happen, I’m not entirely sure what I’ll be sharing in terms of processing here, but I wanted to get the ball rolling. So, I’ll start with just the facts and end with the hardest goodbye I’ve ever had to say.

Last Picture With Mom

In September 2012, a few months after one of my last personal posts, my mom was diagnosed with early stage four cancer of her ureter, which is the tube that connects the kidney to the bladder. We knew the cancer was aggressive, and despite our best hopes, the odds were more than stacked against my mom whose body was already in a weakened state from two other battles with cancer and a series of other health conditions. My mom held her head high though and went into battle marching as strong as she could. She went into remission in spring of 2013, but the cancer returned with vengeance by summer’s end having spread to her liver, bones and bowel. After I got off the dreaded phone call with my mom last August, I vowed to myself that while I couldn’t control the situation, I could control how I handled it and that I would do everything in my power to come out the other side without regrets.

Less than two weeks ago on June 1, 2014, my mom passed on surrounded by all who loved her more than words can ever express. I might write more about that moment some day, as it was perhaps the most magical yet heartbreaking moment I have ever experienced. My boyfriend said to me before I flew home to be at my mother’s bedside, that over the course of what was to come, people would both disappoint and amaze me. I have to say there has been very little of the disappointment the past few weeks and so much more of the amazement. Not only in the caretaking of my mom in her final days, but also in the outpouring of love and support from too many people to count. I’ve been unable to respond to this outpouring given the amount of work that happens after someone dies, but please know I have read and cherished every text and email and Facebook message and voice mail. Sometimes when I can’t sleep, or the tears just won’t stop, or the silence is too much, I read them until it feels like I can breath again.

I’ll end this first post of processing the loss of my mom, Brenda Kaye Casavant, with the hardest goodbye I’ve had to say; the eulogy I gave for my mom at her funeral last Friday.

Mom’s Eulogy - June 6, 2014

To know my mom was to know laughter.
To know my mom was to know joy.
To know my mom was to know unconditional kindness.
To know my mom was to know strength.

The road my mom was given to walk in life was one that would break the spirits and the faith of most of us. But not my mom. She chugged along that road, battling obstacle after obstacle with a smile almost always on her face, and with laughter that could fill even the darkest hour.

She is a woman who when fighting cancer during her first battle in 1979, remained steadfast that she would bring her child to term no matter the cost. That child is me.

She is a woman who during her second battle with cancer and its after effect in 1994, refused to work anything less than full-time as a surgical nurse at the hospital. She is also the woman who during this time insisted on helping my dad build the patio in our backyard, despite how much pain she might have been in.

She is the woman who during her third and final battle with cancer the last two years, continued to take up new hobbies, insisted on cooking holiday meals for her family, or homemade treats for her grand-dogs. No matter how weak she was, she made sure she was there for myself, my sister Jacki, my brother Brent, her husband Aime, her new daughter-in-law Angie, her grandson Houston, her siblings, her mom, her friends, her in-laws, and whoever else might need her. An eternal optimist, she pushed fear aside and remained steadfast in her hope that this obstacle on the road would also be overcome.

Cancer and the other endless array of illnesses that plagued my mom are not what defines her. It’s the way she approached the fight and her refusal to live life to anything but the fullest.

She never questioned her faith or why God chose this road for her. She always said, “God will never give me more than I can handle.”

Even in my mom’s final days, her will to live was there. About a week before she passed, I laid beside her in bed and she said, “I just don’t know what to do. I don’t want to give up, but I’m so tired and I can’t keep traveling around with doctors all giving me the bad same news.”

I took her hand and I said, “Mom, there’s a difference between giving up and surrendering. To surrender takes more strength than anything else in this world.”

And when my mom did surrender, she still kept her kindness and her sense of humor about her. She may have been too weak to say much in her final days, but somehow she still managed to smile and bring comfort and laughter to family surrounding her bedside.

While my mom may not be of this Earth anymore, her spirit lives on in us through the laughter, kindness and joy we can bring to others.

While watching the movie Sassy Pants, my mind was blown halfway through when it was pointed out that the flamboyant boy toy of the dysfunctional dad was played by Haley Joel Osment. I had to create this side-by-side. The movie is pretty great by the way, so check it out.

While watching the movie Sassy Pants, my mind was blown halfway through when it was pointed out that the flamboyant boy toy of the dysfunctional dad was played by Haley Joel Osment. I had to create this side-by-side. The movie is pretty great by the way, so check it out.

Getting news of Al Neuharth’s death amidst watching amazing reporters, some who started their careers in his journalism programs, cover the breaking news in Boston was a poignant collide of events. If today’s coverage by those reporters is a testament to his life’s work, he has left us in good hands.

I am 100 percent obsessed with this song. Well done on the new album Mumford and Sons. I’ve already listened to it twice through tonight.

Good luck on your run tomorrow! Enjoy it. Think of all the power flowing through your body, clenching and stretching your muscles, and propelling you forward. That incredible feeling when you will your body to do something hard and it responds, drawing on the strength you fed it with every single step of training. Think of that power and think of it again in the moments you feel weak.

– My cousin Kali just sent me this amazing paragraph of awesome as motivation for my 17-mile training run tomorrow. Not for nothing, but my family is the best!
20 points if you can find Ollie’s head in this picture. (Taken with Instagram)

20 points if you can find Ollie’s head in this picture. (Taken with Instagram)