Chris and I are back in town after a very long, very hard 4 days in Kansas to celebrate my aunt's life. There are so many details about our time with family that I do not want to forget, so I'm going to journal them here in my blog. This will be a long blog entry full of information that most of you won't care about, but like I said, this is for my benefit.
Aunt Diana was initially diagnosed with Leukemia back in September of 2008. She went to the doctor for a sore throat, they diagnosed her with mono, then changed her diagnosis to leukemia. Her daughter, Terra, who lives in Japan, came home almost immediately to care for her mom as she battled the cancer. Following Aunt Diana's first round of chemo, the cancer was still going strong, but after the second round (late fall), it went into remission. In March 2009, after 6 hard, hard months of living in the hospital for days on end, being incredibly sick, losing weight and hair, and months of enduring of chemo, the cancer was in remission enough that the chemo was over and she could slowly get back to life as normal. Terra went home to Japan, and Aunt Diana was feeling good and gaining strength. About three weeks later, Aunt Diana got a rash. The doctors did a bone marrow biopsy, only to discover that the leukemia had returned with a vengeance. She now had not one, but two different kinds of leukemia, the old man leukemia and infant leukemia. She immediately began treatments again.
Things started to go down-hill so fast at this point. Her body was still weak and it was just too much for her. On Saturday, May 10th, Dad called to let me know that things were looking very bad. Mom was in Wichita with the family. Terra also arrived back in Kansas that night. On Sunday, Aunt Diana looked about the same, so Mom went on home. Dad called on Monday to let me know that they (along with Lisa and Chloe) were heading back to Wichita. It was just a matter of time at this point, and Mom needed to be there with the family.
On Tuesday, May 12, 2009, Aunt Diana went to be with God. Dad called me while I was at work (about 9:30am) to let me know. I immediately called Chris to tell him, then Jeremy called me to touch base. I spoke with Dad again, then Mom, then I called my oldest brother, Shane, to let him know. I broke down a bit on the phone with Shane and just cried and cried as I told him. Jeremy called me again to let me know that they would be driving to our house to stay the night, then head on up to Wichita the next morning. I stayed at work until 4 even though I was having a difficult time functioning. Jeremy, Shawna, Jordan, and Kaylee arrived at our house at about 1:00am. I was so glad to have them there, as the burden of grief is lighter when you can share it.
Wednesday morning, Chris and I both went to work. Jeremy and family stayed at our house and slept in since they had been up so late driving. I left work at about 11:00am, came home, and began packing to go to Kansas. Chris arrived home at about noon, we loaded up, went to El Azteca for lunch, and headed out of town. I rode with Shawna, Jordan, and Kaylee, and Chris and Jeremy rode together in our car. We arrived at Granny T and Pappy's house in Wichita at about 4:30pm. Granny, Pappy, Dad, Mom, Lisa, Russ, Chloe, Aunt Suzie, Uncle Joel, Sharayah, Alyssa, Tony, Mercedes, and Hunter were there. We missed Rob and Terra by just a half hour or so. Everyone was very solemn when we arrived. Normally, our family is loud and talkative and the house is full of laughter. The air felt so heavy and it was overwhelmingly quiet for our family. Granny had set out a bunch of old photo albums that we looked through while we visited. Soon, Aunt Cindy, Uncle Justin, Brett, and Christine arrived. Tony, Mercedes, and Hunter left about that same time. This was also Mom's birthday, so we all sang to her and ate blackberry cobbler. The phone just rang and rang with people calling to give their condolences. Also, there was a steady stream of people stopping by with food, flowers, and other things like paper plates, napkins, paper towels, plasticware, toilet paper, etc. Someone began a list to keep track of who brought things, so as they stopped by, we just kept adding to the list. Before we had dinner, we always hold hands and pray as a family. I think everyone teared up a bit as we prayed to our Father to comfort us and sustain us during our grief. After eating, several of us (Granny, Mom, Cindy, Suz, Joel, Sharayah, Alyssa, Brett, Christine, myself and I'm not sure who else) sat in the front living room and shared memories of Diana (and other stories). It felt so good to talk about her and smile while we remembered the things that we loved about her so much. Pappy was having a pretty good day. He knew who we were and was talking with us and asking us questions. He even asked Chris if we were having any luck in the baby department. That night, Jeremy & family went stayed with Brett & Christine, Suz & family stayed with Cindy & Justin, and Mom & Dad and Lisa & family stayed at Granny T & Pappy's. Chris and I decided to get a hotel. It was pretty late by the time we all parted ways, and I broke down into the ugly cry in the car after we left. We stayed at the Holidy Inn Select off of Rock Rd.
On Thurday morning, we got up, ate breakfast at Panera Bread, stopped by Kohl's to get Chris dress shoes (he forgot to pack them), and arrived at Granny & Pappy's at about 11:00am. Pappy, Dad, Jeremy, Shawna, Jordan, Kaylee, Lisa, Russ, and Chloe were there. Uncle Keith was also there mowing the lawn. Granny was trying hard not to worry about the lawn, but I know she hated it looking bad with so many people coming over. She was happy to have it mowed. Mom had taken Granny to get her hair done. While they were gone, Shawna, Lisa, and I manned the phone and door as a steady stream of folks had started bringing food again. A little after noon, Aunt Cindy, Uncle Justin, Brett, Christine, Scott, Beth, Wesley, Aunt Suz, Uncle Joel, Sharayah, and Alyssa arrived. We had a quick lunch, then the Chuck & Jody family headed off to meet up with Grandpa N for coke and coffee. We visited with him for about an hour, then headed back to Granny and Pappy's to begin getting ready for the visitation. We left the house around 5:00pm, and the visitation was from 6:00-8:00pm at the Watson Funeral Home. Seeing Aunt Diana's body was very hard for everyone. Brennon, Twyla, Taylor, Bode, Blair, Uncle Keith, Aunt Jody, Amy, Chris F., Jayden, and Sofiya were all there as well as the family that had all been at Granny & Pappy's. I saw Terra for the first time and we just hugged and cried and hugged and cried several times. Pappy wasn't doing so well at the visitation. Granny's brother, Leland, asked him who I was and he couldn't tell him. Also, he turned to me at one point and said, "You just never know where you're going to run into people. I'm seeing all sorts of people I know here." He mainly sat in one seat quietly as several of us rotated sitting with him. At the end of the visitation, Rob, Cindy, Mom, Keith, Suz, Granny, Pappy, Joel, Dad, Justin, Terra, & Mike all gathered in a circle by the casket and had a special moment. Granny wanted us all to come back over to her place after the visitation was over, and we all did except for Rob, Terra, Mike, Tony, Mercedes, and Hunter. We all ate some of the abundance of food that had been brought over, then visited until about 11:00 when we parted ways. Chris and I went back to the Holiday Inn. We really needed some good sleep, but it was not to be. The fire alarm went off at about 3:15am, so we had to evacuate. Our room was on the 9th floor, and we of course had to take the stairs. It was a little after 4:00am before we could settle down enough to go back to sleep. Someone had pulled the alarm as a prank.
On Friday morning, we arrived at East Point Church of Christ at about 9:00am. The family was corraled back in the fellowship room to wait to walk in. From our family, those who were there were: Granny T, Pappy, Cindy, Justin, Brennon, Twyla, Taylor, Bode, Blair, Scott, Beth, Wesley, Brett, Christine, Mom, Dad, Shane, Jane, Blane, Rain, Zane, Jeremy, Shawna, Jordan, Kaylee, Myself, Chris, Lisa, Russ, Chloe, Keith, Jody, Amy, Chris F., Sofiya, Rob, Terra, Mike, Tony, Mercedes, Hunter, Suz, Joel, Sharayah, Alyssa, some of Granny's cousins from Houston, and a couple of Granny's brothers. Before we walked in the auditorium, we said a prayer as a family and the tears began flowing then. They had reserved seating for us in the 2 center sections of the auditorium at the front. Pappy, Granny, Mike, Terra, Rob, Tony, & Mercedes sat on the left front row, and Mom, Dad, Myself, Chris, Lisa, Russ, and Jeremy sat in the row behind them. The service was simple but special. They played I Can Only Imagine, told some special and amusing stories of Diana, then had a slide show of photos of her. Sissy's Song was the music for the slide show. After the service was over, the family followed the casket out to the lobby. As we were walking to the lobby, Kaylee's little heart couldn't take it anymore and she started bawling. This caused a chain-reaction for the whole family. The pallbearers carried the casket on out to the hersh. Dad, Justin, Keith, and Joel were all pallbearers. When Dad came back into the lobby, he hugged Rob and really broke down in tears. It was so hard to watch Dad and Rob hug and cry like that. Dad later told me that he kept thinking about how they were the same guys who stole Diana at her wedding, and he just never dreamed that they would ever have to carry her out like that. I could see Jeremy, Brennon, Scott, & Brett who were all crying. It's so difficult to watch grown men cry. The family stood in the lobby greeting hundreds of people for what seemed like a very long time. My cousin Amy came up to me during this and said that she had been on Diana's blog the night before. She had come across my blog through Diana's and read through it as well. She hugged me and we cried and cried as she told me she didn't know about the problems we were having getting pregnant and that she'll be praying for us.
We then made our way back to the Fellowship room where the church served us a lovely meal. It was a big group to serve, and they did a great job. After dinner, several left for home. Chris and I went and hugged Rob, Terra, Mike, Ton, Mercedes, and Hunter good-bye. Rob gave me a plant to take home, then Terra showed me a vase of fresh-cut pink tulips that had been on one of the guest book tables. The card said, "May the Lord sustain you with His comfort and peace. Our love and prayers, RSU Friends of Chelley". That really touched my heart and I was crying again. We then headed back to Granny's.
Back at Granny's, we visited for a while with those who had come over. This included Granny, Pappy, Mom, Dad, Shane, Jane, Blane, Rain, Zane, Cindy, Justin, Brennon, Twyla, Taylor, Bode, Blair, Brett, Christine, Lisa, Russ, Chloe, Myself, Chris, Suz, Joel, Sharayah, Alyssa, and Granny's two cousins from Houston. Brett asked me how things we going for us regarding having a baby. He and Christine are expecting their first in August. We talked about it for a while and they gave me some encouragement. I don't know exactly who knows what about our situation, so sometimes it feels like an elephant in the room. They were very sensitive about it and I really appreciated them asking.
Around mid-afternoon, we broke out the many, many pies that had been brought over and had dessert. The last I saw the list, there were 35 entries of people and families that had brought food over. It was truly an unbelievable out-pouring of love. Granny & Pappy have spent the greater part of their lives going, doing, taking to, and being there for others in times like these. They truly reaped what they had sown for 50 years as people just poured in with love and food and cards and flowers. We had such a large crowd at their house, and we couldn't even come close to keeping up with the food that was being brought in. Granny ended up sending a good portion of it to Cindy's to store until we could eat it.
Shane & family left for home at about 3:30, followed shortly by Mom & Dad, and Lisa & family. At about 6:00pm, a storm rolled through and the tornado sirens went off. Granny corraled us all in the basement for about 30 minutes. After we came back upstairs, we ate again :-). This time, it was the two lasagnes that were brought over. A little later, Tony, Mercedes, Hunter, Uncle Keith, Aunt Jody, Amy, and Sofiya came over. At one point, Tony asked me if we were having any luck with the baby thing. I know that it's hard for people to bring up sometimes, but I really appreciate it when they do. We had a nice time visiting, but we all really worn out so we parted ways at about 8:30pm. Chris and I went to Brett & Christine's for the night since we had not reserved our hotel room for Friday night (we didn't know if we'd stay or not). They have a lovely older house. We stayed up visiting with them for several hours and had a really nice time. Jeremy & family had headed back to our house right after the funeral for the night.
Saturday morning we slept in a bit, then headed to Cindy & Justin's with Brett & Christine for breakfast burritos. Brennon & family and Suz & family had stayed there that night, so they were there as well. Chris and I had planned to head home that morning, but after the breakfast burritos, we visited (and Chris went outside with the guys to ride four-wheelers and such), then Granny & Pappy were supposed to come over for a mid-afternoon lunch. We wanted to see them, so we waited. We ate at about 3:00pm, then decided to leave. Pappy was having a bad day, and didn't know who we were at all. It was so hard to leave him that way. We all hugged each other a little tighter, and Granny even cried a little when we left. While at Cindy's, Terra had called and asked us to come by Rob's before leaving town, so we headed out that way. When we got there, Terra and Rob gave me a plastic tub full of scrapbooking magazines and card-making idea books that were Diana's. We visited for about 45 minutes, then Chris and I left. Rob hugged me so tightly when we arrived and twice when we left. It was very hard to be at their house without Diana.
It was a little after 5:00pm when we finally headed home. It was so hard to leave Wichita and the comfort of family, but we really needed to get back. We stopped in Tulsa and ate dinner before getting home at about 9:00pm. I had my own little stack of sympathy cards waiting for me at home as well.