Feed your FAITH and your fears will starve .

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Our Year of Firsts is Over

Last year at this time I was living my worst nightmare.  As I look back at all that we went through from cancer diagnosis to burying my husband I can't believe I lived through it.  I could never have imagined what our family would have to endure and surely would have said we couldn't have done it, we were not strong enough to handle that kind of trial.  But, somehow we did.  In D&C 84:88 it reads: And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face.  I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up."  We have surely been lifted by angels on both sides of the veil for a very long time and the Spirit has been in our hearts, if not we would have broken.  Rasmussens are survivors, and we are doing our best to survive every day.

The days leading up to the one year anniversary were a little sketchy for me.  Most of the sadness would hit at night and leave me with a tear soaked pillow.  Monday morning I woke up feeling kind of crappy about life so I decided to get my tootie in gear and serve someone.  I figured I am the only one who has control over my mood and I had the power to change it.  I got a little help from Megan and Jonny though.  When Jonny came upstairs for breakfast he was sporting this new look...

Jonny and his "nustache and boatee"
Megan had drawn facial hair on his face with a Sharpie marker.  He proudly announced that now he had a "nustache and a boatee like daddy".  At first I was slightly irritated that he had permanent marker all over his face and that my 16 year old had done it.  But he was so excited about it I let him keep it on.  He even wore it when we went to the nursing home that afternoon.  I needed to do something for someone else and music helps my soul so much.  So I took Megan, Jonny, and Ryen (Brad's daughter) to the nursing home so I could play the piano for them.  It was not a big deal, only a few people came to listen.  We had a lot of fun though. Megan and I sang some hymns, and Megan and Ryen sang some primary songs and a few show tunes too.  I played some old Broadway tunes, some arrangements of hymns, and a little Root Beer Rag.  Yeah, we love that song at our house.  Jonny danced like a crazy man the whole time.  I was giggling too much to pay much attention to what I was playing so don't listen to the wrong notes!

After Jonny finished dancing he offered a piece of gum to this sweet little lady.  She politely declined saying she didn't have enough teeth to chew it.  Jonny sat down beside her and held her hand while I played.  He told Megan that he was going to marry her.  Later as we were leaving Jonny said, "I think I will find someone else to marry, her lip looks brown and poisonous!"  What a goofball!  She was the cutest little lady and we had fun talking to her.  As we were leaving she made us promise to come back and bring a whole program with us next time.  
Jonny and his girlfriend
I knew the one year anniversary had potential for complete disaster and I did not want that to happen, especially the day before school started.  I wanted the kids to have a fun day so they could start the school year off with a happy heart.  I had hoped to go fishing and have a picnic lunch with Trent's family yesterday but I wasn't able to pull it all together in time.  So we moved on to plan B.  I took the kids to Walmart and got a whole bunch of bags of Lifesavers.  Trent always sucked on Lifesavers while he got chemo to take away some of the awful taste that chemo gives you.  We put stickers on each bag that said, "In loving memory of the best daddy in the world. Trent Rasmussen 3/20/73-8/21/12."  We then went to the local Huntsman Cancer Treatment Center.  I knew I was not ready to go to the one in Salt Lake.  I love all the nurses and doctors there but I did not think my heart could take seeing them on that specific day. 

The kids were great.  They marched right in a started handing out candy and talking to the patients.  We wished them all good luck in their fight and left before I lost control of my emotions.  We ran into one more patient in the parking lot.  He was receiving his infusion outside so he could smoke.  His IV bag was covered with a cereal box and I knew instantly that it was because he was receiving the "Red Devil".  That drug is sensitive to sunlight and has to remain covered.  I walked up to him and offered him a bag of candy.  I had done really well talking to everyone else but for some reason I lost it with him.  I explained that my husband had passed away from cancer one year prior and we were just trying to pass on the love.  He thanked me over and over and I excused myself quickly.  I was hovering on the edge of completely losing it so I quickly took one more picture and loaded the kids into the burb.  Before we drove away I told the kids how proud I knew that Trent was of them.  I asked them how they felt and they all said they felt really good and wanted to things like that more often.  I am so lucky to have the greatest kids in the world!  

After that we stopped for lunch at the Olive Garden, one of Trent's favorite places to eat.  The manager there just happens to be our new neighbor and he treated us to dessert.  He was super sweet and made sure our waitress was very attentive to us.  

When Jonny ordered he asked for "broccoli and lemons".  Ummm, weird.  We all laughed off the lemons thing but he was insistent.  So the waitress brought out a plate of lemons for him.  This was his face with the first bite...

After that he decided it was better to pull out all the seeds so he could take them home to plant a lemon tree. I guess that is like making lemonade out of lemons, right?!

After lunch we went bowling and had so much fun!  None of us are very good...in fact Zach and I tied for the high score of 86.  Dismal, I know.  But we had a lot of fun dancing around and just being nerdy since we were the only ones there for most of the time.  Trent was a fabulous bowler because he could throw that ball so hard!  It was fun remembering the many times we had bowled together and hearing in my mind Trent's laughter as he would bowl strike after strike after strike.  Sweet memories. :)

Da Boys

Da Girls
After bowling we suited up for some lazer tag.  The attendant put all of us on a team against another little family of three.  They didn't stand a chance against us---mostly because of our numbers!  I am not sure how she thought that was going to be fair but we went along with it.  A few times I heard the little boy say, "Stop shooting me! I am already out!" Oh well, we had fun anyway.   

After lazer tag we drove around for a bit while we shared memories of Trent and I showed the kids some of the places he always went.  It was nice to share those moments with the kids and hear the things they remembered about their daddy.  On the way home we stopped to pick a bunch of sunflowers in Trent's honor.  As Megan was cutting them I looked around the suburban and almost everyone had fallen asleep.  It takes a lot of energy to have as much fun as we did!

When we got home I got a phone call from Trent's brother, Troy, saying he was about a half an hour away and he was coming to visit.  I was so glad!  I really needed to connect with someone in Trent's family that day and Troy and I have always gotten along very well.  Trent and Troy are not much alike but they certainly shared a love of politics.  Although I don't follow things as much as Trent did, it was nice to talk shop with Troy for a bit.  It made me smile thinking about how passionate Trent was about politics.  It also made me think the Second Coming has to be right around the corner with how bad our government is. hehehe

Troy treated our family to dinner at Chuck-O-Rama.  We stuffed our faces then rolled home to get ready for the first day of school.  

There is a song by Chris August called "He Will Restore" that I love.  In the chorus it says:

I know you're feeling like it's falling apart and it can't go on anymore
But God is a God who knows how to heal so just give it up to the Lord
And He will restore

Like it was before
You may have strayed off course
But He will restore

I really like this song but have always been just a little miffed because I don't get my old life restored to me in this lifetime.  A big part of me still wants everything the way it was before.  Before Trent had cancer and our lives were turned upside down.  But as I listened to that song as I was getting ready yesterday it dawned on me that I am receiving that restoration already.  As hard as the past year has been without the love of my life, I can see that God has given me the ability to heal.  He has restored my capacity to love and be loved.  He has restored my ability to have joy and find happiness in daily life.  And for that, I am so grateful.  One year closer, My Love.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

August is Tough!

I have anticipated August being a very hard month and I was not wrong.  It started out with mine and Trent's 18th wedding anniversary on August 3.  I spent the day in Boise floating the river with my family.  It was a ton of fun and I kept thinking how much Trent would have loved doing that.  We floated the river together about 10 years ago and had a great time.  I recognized different parts of the river and could remember seeing Trent laughing and having a great time.  They were nice memories and made me feel happy.  I thought I was doing very well with the day until we were driving home.  I was riding in the passenger seat of Brad's van and stumbled on a funeral program for a family member of his who had died from cancer a few years ago.  He was also a young dad and it just kind of hit me.  Shortly after that Brad was tired so I switched him places so I could drive.  It was late and everyone was asleep.  I silently cried and cried and cried.  It was one of those cries that hurts so badly because I was trying so desperately to keep it all inside so I wouldn't wake anyone up.  I just let the tears fall and fall making big wet spots on my shirt and shorts.  I didn't care at all.  There were too many to try to wipe away anyhow.  I was silently gasping for breath while Brad gently stroked my hand.  It was so comforting but surreal in a way too.  I never in a million years thought I would spend my the rest of my anniversaries with another man.

The one year anniversary of Trent's death is right around the corner.  However, there are so many difficult, horrifying, and heart wrenching dates to mark before that.  For instance, one year ago today we were sent home on hospice.  I remember so many details of that day like it happened yesterday.  I remember all the doctors and nurses filing into our hospital room to tell us how much respect and love they had for Trent.  I remember the looks on their faces as they watched him being wheeled out of the hospital on a gurney headed for the ambulance bay.  I remember Trent blowing me kisses through his pain as we drove over the bumps in the road.  I remember the look of shock and fear as Trent realized that he was going to receive hospice care. I remember the helplessness I felt, knowing he wasn't remembering everything that had happened the day and night before and what his prognosis was.  I remember my tears, the gut-wrenching sobs, the tremendous pain I felt knowing what was to come.  But I also remember the love in Trent's eyes as he looked on each of his kids.  I remember the last time he kissed me and told me how much he loved me.  I remember the peace we felt as I offered a prayer to our Father in Heaven expressing our desires but submitting to His will.

Many of the memories are very difficult.  I have cried myself to sleep for several nights in a row now.  I have good things happening in my life right now but it doesn't erase or take away all the pain I have experienced and still experience.  As the anniversary of Trent's death draws closer I have really pondered what to do on that day. I don't want to always mark anniversaries of awful things that happened to us.  If I did that there would be many more sad days than anyone needs.  I think I will fill the anniversary with things that Trent loved to do and, as a family, find a way to serve someone else.  I need that day to be positive for my kids.  It will always be heartbreaking but I want it to be a day that we really focus on making Trent proud of us and who we are striving to become.

Today Megan and I had the opportunity to support Marc and Aly and many others at an event for Anything For A Friend.  We ran a 5K in honor of Aly's husband Cade, Marc's wife Jan, and of course, Trent.  It was emotional but very healing as well.  We had a great time and attending that event reminded me how much pain there is in this world and how able we are to overcome it as well.  We all have a choice and I choose happiness.
Balloon launch in memory of our loved ones.

At the finish line with Aly and Megan

Me and Marc, chillin'

Me and my besties, Marc and Aly

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Part 2...

Shortly after Brad and I met face to face, my children and I went on a weekend trip with Trent's family. Emotionally that was one of the hardest things I had done up to that point.  Seeing his brothers with similar physical characteristics or mannerisms, being in that comfortable familial atmosphere without Trent, and trying to act like we were okay was just too much for me to handle.  I could feel myself beginning to spiral out of control and all I could think was that I needed to talk to Brad.  I found myself on the phone with him, pacing the halls of the hotel like a caged animal, struggling to keep in the sobs but not succeeding in the least. Brad did his best to calm me down and even offered to drive to the hotel to help me.  Eventually I curled up into a ball in the far end of the hall and listened as Brad reassured me that although life stunk at that point, somehow it would get better.  We talked about the things we missed about our spouses, about married life, and the parts of us that would never be whole again.  I told him one thing I missed the most was having a "safe place to land".  In the middle of one of my crying fits I asked him if he was going to be my "safe place" and he said yes.  I remember feeling the most calming, peaceful feeling at that moment.  It wasn't that I knew I would marry him or anything, just that I really needed a friend that I could trust with anything and I knew that was Brad.

As our phone conversations increased in frequency and duration we got to know each other so well.  We could finish each other's sentences and often knew what the other was thinking without saying a word.  We found that we had so much in common, in fact, there were so many "connections" between us that it was a little creepy sometimes.  It started to look like our paths were bound to cross one way or another and that our friendship was meant to be. I began looking forward to our talks and hoping each time I got a text that it was him. When something funny or exciting happened the first person I thought to share it with was Brad.  It was so nice to have someone to share things with but I was still totally fine with remaining friends and never getting married again.

Over time I began to sense that Brad's feelings were changing but was very hesitant to admit that mine might be too.  It was still too early!  How could I even think about someone else when I love Trent so much?  I felt like it would be such a betrayal to Trent if I began dating before the one year mark.  I wondered if I could even trust my feelings or if I was so hurt and lonely that I was grasping at the hope of companionship before I was ready.

Near the end of January we went on our first date.  It was fun and we enjoyed each other's company but it was a little awkward for both of us.  I hadn't dated anyone besides Trent in over 18 years!  I understood in my head that it was a date and it was okay but in my heart it felt like I shouldn't be out with anyone besides Trent.  The next time we went out we took all of our kids and went tubing in Park City.  It was so fun and all the kids seemed to get along great.  About this time I began praying that I wouldn't hurt Brad.  I just couldn't see that I could let anything happen with him but it seemed like something already had.  I was nervous and unsure but decided to proceed until I got a "stop" answer, instead of stop until I got a "go" answer.  So, with that in mind, we continued to date as much as two single parents can, which was not very much.  I tease him now that somehow he got me to marry him after taking me on only three dates.  Pretty impressive!

After Brad and I had been together a couple of times I took the kids out for ice cream for FHE.  We drove to the parking lot of the temple and ate.  I told them that I loved their Dad more than anything in the entire world and that nothing would ever change that.  We were sealed for eternity and our family was going to be together forever.  Then I told them that I was going to start dating Brad.  It was completely silent as I stared at four shocked faces and one that was still happily eating his ice cream cone.  I told them that I needed them to let me know how they were feeling and if they ever felt uncomfortable with anything they needed to tell me.  Megan and Zach kind of fumbled around saying that if it made me happy they were okay with it.  Jarom wanted to know if dating meant I was getting married and Mallory was reeling.  In the months afterward she made sure to let me know several times that she was "uncomfortable with this".

I was so torn between my happiness and putting the kids in a situation that would be difficult for them to understand and accept.  I always felt good when I was with Brad but often feelings of doubt and uncertainty would creep in when we were apart.  In February I went to St. George with Brad for the weekend.  While we were there we attended a session at the St. George Temple.  As we sat in the Celestial room the feeling that came over me was absolutely undeniable.  It was so warm and peaceful and felt so good that I wanted to stay there forever and soak it all up.  It was wonderful to feel good again!  It was then that I understood that Trent and Linda (Brad's wife) were working really hard to put our two families together.  I knew I needed to trust in the Lord and His plan even if I didn't understand why or how it would all work out.
Brad and I in St. George on Dixie Rock

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Little Backstory...Part 1

I realize my last post was a big surprise for many so I will give a little backstory...

After Trent passed away last summer I was completely lost.  I felt like my world had shattered into a million pieces and I had no idea what piece to try to pick up first.  I knew I could live through it because people do it all the time but I wanted an instruction list.  You know, do this first and when that is done move on to step two, etc.  About three weeks later I received a message on Facebook from someone I did not know.  She had heard of Trent's passing on an internet news site.  A story had been printed because he had served as a Providence City Councilman and it referenced this blog.  She then went back and read my entire blog.  She explained to me that she had a neighbor, Brad, who had lost his spouse the year before and much of what she read on my blog was what she had heard him say.  She thought that maybe we could help each other.  I emailed him and asked him how to even begin coping with my new reality.  He responded with a very sincere and sympathetic email and told me that if I ever needed to talk I could call him as that would be easier than typing.  I immediately told him that I did not want that kind of contact and I was not ready to do talk to anyone and that he didn't need to contact me anymore.  Kind of a knee-jerk reaction, I know.

One of the struggles I was dealing with at that point was the nagging feeling that I would get remarried. The thought made my stomach turn!  I was sure I loved Trent enough that I didn't need anyone else and to even think of it felt like such a betrayal!  But the thought persisted and made me feel miserable.  I even spoke to Angelique, the social worker from the Hunstman, about it.  She gave me some really great advice and said, "Holly, you can't worry about that right now...take it off your plate completely."  That helped and I think I was able to do that.

To be completely honest, the reason I did not want to correspond with Brad was because when I read his email I had the feeling that there was potential for a relationship with him and it scared me to death!  I wanted nothing to do with him at all.  About one month later I got another email from Brad asking if I was okay and how I was dealing with everything.  I didn't respond and didn't plan to.  However, that weekend I took the kids on our Fall Break outing to Thanksgiving Point.  We had a great time playing all day and then I would spend every night bawling in my bed.  Brad's name kept popping into my head and I knew I needed to talk to him.  When we got home I texted Brad and asked if he had a minute to talk to me.  I got the kids in bed and then I called him.  I remember saying 'hello' and then breaking down and sobbing.  When he spoke I could hear the compassion and concern in his voice.  He was very kind and completely understanding of what I was going through.  We spoke, well he spoke and I mostly cried, for a couple of hours that night.  He later told me that speaking to me brought him right back to the pain he experienced and he had a bit of a meltdown the next day.

After that initial phone call we spoke about once a week and it was such great therapy for both of us.  We were able to share very personal things about our loss that are not easy to share with anyone who has not 'been there'.  We were both very vulnerable and built a relationship of trust because of the feelings we shared.  I knew it was safe for me to talk to Brad because at the time he was seeing someone else and I was totally not interested in dating anyone, ever, so it wouldn't ever be an issue.   Gradually I stopped crying the entire time that we spoke and was able to let some of my personality show through.  It felt good to laugh and joke with someone even if it was in between crying fits.  Eventually our conversations became less about our loss and more about getting to know each other as individuals, not widow/widowers.  We found that we could talk for hours and not run out of things to say.  We began speaking a few times each week for 3-4 hours at a time.  It was very healing for both of us.  We had never met or even seen pictures of each other and it was working well for both of us.  Being 'faceless' was kind of nice because I think it was easier to be vulnerable with each other.

I still ached for Trent every minute of every day but I was beginning to see that my life had to go on and be purposeful.  I couldn't just wait out the Second Coming.  I had to live my life with meaning and purpose and find joy again.  I knew that is what Trent expected of me so I threw myself into creating joy for me and my kids.  That was during the Christmas season and I made sure we were super busy having fun.  I also began to realize that what made me feel better was serving others.  I put together goody baskets for friends and decided to take one to Brad too.  I called him and told him that I had something for his family that I would be bringing by and that if he wanted me to remain 'faceless' he should make sure he wasn't home when I delivered it.  He got brave and decided that we could meet face to face.  I know he was super nervous that after we met face to face we wouldn't be able to speak as freely as we had over the phone.  I was not too nervous about that though.  When I got to his house it was a little weird but we talked for a couple of hours like we were old friends.  It was actually kind of funny to see his face and his expressions as he spoke.  It was comfortable and fun.  I could feel our friendship becoming more and more important to me.  As I said my prayers that night I thanked Heavenly Father for Trent and Brad.