Two years – In Gratitude

On this second anniversary of Helen’s passing, I decided to re-print a letter I had earlier mailed to a Prayer Group who supported her throughout her ordeal. I also owe this debt of gratitude to all her other friends who prayed for her over this ten year period.


The letter is a recap of excerpts from emails written by Helen to the Prayer Group from the date she obtained her laptop, May 23, 2006, through the last date she was able to write, September 29, 2007. The letters reveal insights into her thinking during that roller-coaster period.

I will never forget all of you for your prayers and subsequent contributions to this website.

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05//23/06 I’m so excited. I’ve received my new laptop. This is my beautiful day.
07/12/06 I made funeral arrangement at Coleman Mortuary
08/21/06 Last night I feared I might not wake up the next day.
08/21/06 Everyone I know has faced heartbreak
09/14/06 Proud to be able to move around with my new walker instead of having to be pushed in wheelchair
09/22/06 Xolda pills not working. Tumors growing again
09/26/06 Literature Donna sent me discusses “the large world view”, but my world is getting smaller
10/13/06 Delayed chemo so I can go to Coronado condo
11/10/06 Starting new round of chemo
12/06/06 Had my last chemo. Feeling really bad; can’t think straight
12/17/06 Began Palliative care. Hope I can make it to family Christmas party
12/20/06 Refuse to take any more chemo. Began Avastin infusions which doctor hopes may prolong life
01/23/07 This was “my beautiful day”. The liver tumors are shrinking…. Love, prayers and gratitude
02/11/07 Made it to Henry’s birthday party
03/05/07 I’m so weak. Palliative nurse mentioned Hospice for the first time
03/08/07 Went to Chico’s. Narrow aisles. Hard to maneuver wheelchair, hangers are too high. The Chico experience is not what it used to be
04/16/07 Made it to Easter; even went to Matt & Mary’s San Diego condo It was another “My Beautiful Day”
04/25/07 Loud dispute between Henry and Cat Scan people re incorrect Scan prescription. They refused to clarify with Oncologist. He was furious, struck me as funny. Also found myself trying to talk people at belt buckle level from my wheelchair
6/15/07 praying for you, Donna, is my privilege
6/15/07 I’m not sure I am “a tough little cookie”. I don’t fear dying; I fear being sick
6/19/07 my major goal is to live long enough to see my first great grandchild. Angela is due February 2008
6/27/07 I will fight each battle as it occurs and do the simple things that bring laughter and pleasure to each of my remaining days
8/13/07 My hands shake too much to write or type any more
9/27/07 I signed up for Hospice a couple of days ago. Can use some prayers and I know where to go to get them. ..Love, prayers, and gratitude

Three days earlier, I had refused to allow ER at St Judes to admit her for continued testing the next day. She had reluctantly allowed me to take her to the ER, saying “promise you won’t let them admit me. I’ll never come out alive”. While awaiting test results in the ER, she said “Don’t worry, I’m a tough little cookie”.

Through all Helen’s “ups and downs” her prayer group continued to visit and pray for her. I know that Helen had been praying for you too. Meanwhile, I had been looking inward, hurting when she was down, ecstatic at each “up” as she achieved each of her short term goals, and always reveling in the joy of simply being with her throughout. Each of you lovely and good people lifted her spirits each time you visited or wrote, extending her life through your prayers. Helen particularly looked forward to, and appreciated, the Friday morning communion visits and flowers from Doris and Eileen. On the last visit Doris said “See you next Friday’, but we all knew there would be no next Friday.

With love, prayers and gratitude,

Henry

No change to report

The update as of Wednesday morning 10/17, is that there is no significant change to report. Mom is weaker; sleeping more and more each day. No longer eating or communicating. The only positive aspect is that she seems more comfortable and at peace for longer periods. That’s about it.

Mimi

Saturday Update

No change in Helen’s status. But our family wants to express our deep gratitude for the touching emails you have sent. You have no idea how much these messages have meant to our Dad and all the kids. They have been a tremendous comfort this week.

It occurred to us that Helen’s friends might want to add to the website. I’ve just added this message board, so that visitors can post their thoughts to the website if they wish.

If you would rather send a private message to our family, Helen’s email is now going directly to Henry. (Click here to email the family) . You can let my Dad know if you want it included here, and he will forward it to me to post.

Lenore wanted to share a poem that our mom wrote when she was just 14 years old. It illustrates Helen’s beauty and talent at a very early age. I hope that is showing up in a post below. If not click here to see it full-sized.

Lenore and I are also working on a photo tribute to Helen, if you have a favorite photo of Helen, please email it Lenore at ltjstudio@mac.com

Message from Eileen Jones

Doris Royston brought Eucharist to Helen today, and I went with her as has been our habit these past many months. We hadn’t seen her in two weeks.

A couple of days ago I came across an old hymnal from my youth, quite by accident, and laughed as I recognized many of the hymns I used to sing with such enthusiasm. Memory is a strange and erratic thing—what I want to remember I frequently forget, yet these old hymns were fresh in my memory. Especially the music. So I picked out several songs, made copies of them, and took the copies with me when Doris and I met.

We two sat on either side of her bed, leaned into and over her, put our arms around her arms, and talked sweetness, beauty and reassurance to her. I know she heard every word we said, although she couldn’t respond. We talked about angels surrounding her, about probably the spirits of her mama and daddy and grandparents there also, her brother who died. Who knows? Just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there!

And then we sang. Old songs learned so many, many years ago at church with our parents and siblings. Old songs etched upon our souls from childhood. We also sang a lullaby, and asked the angels to sing with us and through us.

After Eucharist we prayed for Helen and for Henry. We asked God to sustain and strengthen them in this sad, sad time. We thanked God that they each had the other to teach and learn from, to grow up and old with, to create family with, even to disagree and be angry with. We are thankful for what we ourselves have learned from Helen and Henry about love and persistence and faithfulness. Then we thanked God for their extended and loving family, examples of love in action.

Death is a holy and sanctified time. Doris and I are richly blessed to be a tiny part of this sacramental experience.

Eileen Jones

Henry’s Oct 11th Post from Website

10/11/07 Update:

Our Dad came across this Henry Van Dyke poem today and asked that we share it with you here. His comment follows.

Gone From my Sight

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says: “There, she’s gone!”

“Gone where?”

Gone from my sight . That’s all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminshed size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone says: “There, she’s gone!” there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout:” Here she comes!”

And that is dying.

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The status of Helen at this moment of 9 PM on October 11, 2007 is what the poem describes above as “a speck of white cloud.”

Henry

First Post from the homepage

As you may know, Helen’s battle against breast cancer has recently taken a turn for the worse. On Saturday, Sept 29th, she sent the following email, titled “Entering a new phase” to several friends:

Well dear friends I am finally come to a new place in my disease. Over the past few days I’ve been busy (?) signing up for Hospice.. it hasn’t been as easy physically or spiritually as I thought it would be, but the Hospice people are unbelievably kind and patient. Could use a new round of prayers though and I know where to ask for them.

Love you all,

Love, prayers and gratitude.
Helen

By the just following day, Helen was considerably weaker and barely able to whisper her thoughts to us. Over the past week and a half, her condition has continued to worsen and all of us in her heartbroken family, have begun to accept the sad realization that she may only be with us for just a short time longer.

This is an extremely difficult time for our father, Henry, who has been at her side night and day for the past 2 weeks (Well, for the past few years, really). As usual, our Dad is fiercely protective of Helen’s health and comfort … we hope you will understand and respect his wishes to keep their home as quiet, peaceful and germ-free as possible. This means he is determined to keep visitors to a bare minimum … her children and their spouses only. Her brother, Bill and his wife Ann, flew out from New York last week to be with Helen, possibly for a last visit.

Fortunately, most of Helen’s many grandchildren came to visit with her at a family celebration of Henry & Helen’s 52nd wedding anniversary party just a few weeks ago. Our Mom was still her loving, witty, happy self at that time, and this is how Henry prefers the grandkids to remember seeing her for the last time. For this reason, and the reasons mentioned above, he has asked all of the grandkids not to visit. The entire family understands and respects his wishes about this.

Helen isn’t able to take phone calls or answer emails any longer. And, as you can imagine, the volume of phone calls can get pretty overwhelming for our Dad. For this reason, we will be posting updates on this website, so that her many wonderful friends can check here for daily information on how Helen is doing. Also, we will print out and read all of your emails & letters out loud to Helen. Sometimes we see a smile cross her face when we do so.

I wish my Mom was feeling well enough to proof-read this message. I’m sure she would have many constructive, but gentle editorial suggestions! (such as not to switch to “first person” in this paragraph).

We thank you all for your prayers and good wishes.
Love,
Helen’s Kids