Posts Tagged With: hope

The Christmas that shouldn’t be

I look at that title of this post. and I re-read it again. It has been four years since Lynda and I were hit with the cold hard fact that her cancer had spread. and without Lynda in the room, I asked Dr. Sinclair the question that would bounce around in my head in more ways than I could ever imagine it would.

How long?

How do you spit that question out? How do you wrap your head around that kind of a question? My tongue was numb, hell, I was numb. I was in probably the deepest state of shock I had ever been in, but also I had known from the first PET scan that Lynda, my second wife was in trouble. Just like I knew Connie , my first wife, was in trouble when the words “pancreatic cancer” rolled out of that surgeons mouth in 2001. I knew that the likelihood of Connie making it for any period of time was nil.

Now, there I sat, with my second wife and now this ugly beast had reared its head in the dark and turned our way. Staring into the eyes of a dragon is a life changing event.

Dr. Sinclair, who I considered to be an excellent oncologist prefaced his statement with “We don’t know”. It could be… and at that point I tuned everything out. As I watched his lips move, I was rocketed back to the days with Connie. Spending days in the hospital bed, cuddled up next to her realizing that time was getting shorter with every passing day. And I was so wrapped up in losing her that I couldn’t figure out how to live… for those last few weeks, it was as if I was sitting around an empty coffin, just a matter of time before I found it filled.

I came back to the conversation finding Dr. Sinclair looking down at the floor, we both realized that this diagnosis was as dire as any that I had ever heard. Lynda and I left the office that day, and went for a walk, trying to talk about what we thought was coming. The options, any ideas? What in the hell do we do now? It was crushing. We talked, we cried, and we sucked it up and determined that we would do everything we could to beat this dragon.

As it progressed I think a light bulb went off in our heads. We are all going to die at some point, the end is never the destination, the journey is. Life is the journey, and it is what you make it. I remember a line from the “Shawshank Redemption”

Get busy living or get busy dying

Damn straight.

Lynda and I have always lived full tilt boogie, ask any of our friends. We don’t take life lightly. We decided to up that a notch, and go for the gusto. The road trip, Belize, getting in touch with old friends, making sure our family knew how we felt about them, then re-confirming all that once again.

Lake Harmony

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erick and Lynda bristlecones

Over two years later, and that dragon that had turned to us in that rough night is now sleeping. It rustles every so often, but does no damage other than remind us that life is uncertain, an ending is forever possible, and at some point, inevitable. But we think we found the secret to life. Live it. Run it as hard as you can, you won’t get a second chance, unless you get lucky like we did. We are in our second chance now. And it is good.

Us in Guatemala

Me and my wife

Me and my wife

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What has cancer done for us? Our sister in law has often asked “How can serve you” (can cer v u). and it has in more ways that I can count. This disease has made me appreciate every day I have with my wife and friends. It has made me a better man. And together, it has made us a much closer couple. Lynda is healthier now than she has ever been. As am I. Mentally we are tough enough to deal with anything that life has to offer, and perhaps a bit more.

Then there is the Christmas time of the year. This was Connie’s favorite time of the year as it is Lynda’s. For me it has always been tough as I get nostalgic remembering the Christmases of my past. The Charlie Brown Christmas tree with Connie. Connie and I decided to cut our own Christmas tree in Alaska, and found what we thought was the area to cut a tree, found one in Chugach National Forest and proceeded to cut it down, waist deep in snow.

We loaded it up in my little Dodge D50 pickup truck and off we went back to our happy little trailer in Anchorage. We  put it in a tree holder and filled the tree stand with water. A couple of days went by and it began to turn brown. I kept wondering what was going on? I looked at the water level and it hadn’t changed. added a bit more water and watched. Slowly over the next couple of weeks, the needles fell out and we were left with a bare tree with all its decorations about it. A Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. Then I realized that the stump was bout a quarter inch or so above the water line. We laughed about that for years.

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There fun we had as kids with my mom, never realizing just how little money we had, yet Christmas was such fun. The Pinatas, friends coming over, the smell of turkey in the air. I can remember the squeal of delight from my younger sisters as the threw themselves at the wrapped toys under the tree. I took great delight in that. Knowing that my brother Danny and I had spent a lot of the evening, wrapping those same presents. My mom in her chair at the dining table looking down with a worn but happy smile. those were magic times.

I realize now that the conversation with Dr Sinclair hung in the back of my mind for all this time. Lynda should not be here. Based on patient history of  those whose cancer that has spread, she should be gone, and I should be a widower yet again. and had this scenario played out, I am at a loss as to where I would be. and that thought chills my bones to the core. However, I am humbled by this Christmas that shouldn’t be.

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It is by far one of the greatest gifts that the universe could have ever bestowed on me. And my promise? I won’t squander it, and instead of being “Grinchy” I opt more for the “It’s a wonderful life” attitude. This is indeed the Christmas that shouldn’t be.  And may there be many more, not only for us, but for all of you who read this post as well.

Merry Christmas to all  and a quote from “It’s a wonderful life”

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he”?

Here is to the lack of holes in your world.

Merry Christmas to all

Note*** And especially to Regina, who just lost her husband, I truly know the loss, and if ever we can be of help, reach out, we are here.

 

Erick and Lynda Carpenter

 

 

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Categories: Adventure, Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Camping, Cancer, Downhill Skiing, Family, Hiking, Hot Tubbing!, Living Passionately, Love, Reconnection, Religious, RV Travel, Scuba, Ski, Spiritual, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

This time of the year

I find myself more reflective than normal. While I always try to remember where I am, and where I am going, I find myself melancholy this time of the year. Memories come and go, with the ebb and the flow of tide of the day. I have quick flashes of truly delightful Christmases with my siblings back in the day.

I gleefully remember waiting for my younger sisters going to sleep so my brother and I could put their presents under the tree that we had all worked so hard on. Stringing popcorn and cranberries, along with my brother and I trying to figure out which bulb was burnt out so we could get the lights going again and hung up on the tree.

I remember laughing quietly as we went through the wee hours of the night trying to make it all look good. I know my mom who was at work at the bars being either a waitress or a bar tender while teaching school during the day would come home to a worn smile, knowing that she didn’t have to do it all herself. I realized I probably received more happiness from that alone than almost anything else.

My younger sisters would bound out of bed early on, only to squeal in delight as they opened the hard earned presents that my mom had bought with her tip money or had put on layaway the equivalent of a credit card back in the day. On one hand the delight my sisters and I got out of the gifts almost outweighed the underlying guilt I felt that my mom had worked her butt off so hard only to spend it on us kids.

However, my mom, long black hair and her stunning indian features would sit in the dining room of our trailer and look down on us with such a bright smile. It was a moment that I know she treasured. We bought her gifts as well, nothing quite so grand, but we all did what we could do to either make them or buy them to present to her as kids do.

Some of the gifts, long since faded into history, were hand made. Nothing wild, but often it was clothes or some type of plaything that we enjoyed for awhile. During those times I learned that all things, as fun and as enjoyable as they are, fade over the years. The clothes become tattered and eventually discarded. But the emotion, the memories, have stood the test of time.

I often have coffee at home, and sitting at the kitchen table, the memories flood back of my mom sitting there with  her smokes, laughing, chatting about the events at the bar or at school, and at the time, they were amusing. I loved sitting at that table at christmas time, the white octagonal table that we spent so many years rushing in and out of the home, but somehow seemed to find the time to sit, have coffee, and enjoy each others stories.

Those memories remind me that life can be fleeting, but can also be relived over and over as the years go by. and the enjoyment often grows over time. I sit here in our home in Colorado, and I have a small kitchen table where I can pour a cup of coffee and sit back to remember those days. What a true delight it is.

To those that are just beginning families, or have families that are growing, do you and your family a favor, put the electronics away when you come home, turn off the TV, start a cup of tea, a cup of coffee, and have a conversation if even for only a little while. In the years to follow, those will follow you and your children for a lifetime, and in that, provide you memories that last for generations.

Mom? I feel your presence to this day, here in our home.

Merry Christmas.

 

Categories: Adventure, Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Camping, Cancer, Downhill Skiing, Family, Hiking, Hot Tubbing!, Living Passionately, Love, Reconnection, Religious, RV Travel, Scuba, Ski, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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