Sunday, February 8, 2009


It's that month again, that month of love and remembering.

Since I will be traveling this year on Valentine's Day I won't get to speak with you or hold you, but I will in my mind. Time is funny, as it shifts its forms with regularity and it is hard to understand what makes something seem at one moment like it's further behind us, and then at another time, sear us with the physical sense of loss as if it has just happened. I have beautiful pictures of Mike (those Martha E. drawings) in two different places in the house, one by grandmom's hallway so she sees it every day as she wheels by, and one in the dining room so Mike is in there with us. They are Mike in his youthful prime, all hope and potential, all drive and observation. He's an angel in those drawings, full of health, strength and such solemn beauty. I can flash in an instant from those images back to the later Mike, with an oxygen tank as companion, a big ol' belly, and an ear to ear smile. It is interesting to think of Mike as so ponderous in his youth, and so joyful in his later years, even though death was waiting and he knew it. It really helps me to see how he recognized the true joys in his life, all of you, his work, his paying attention. It makes me think about what makes someone beautiful, or happy, or fulfilled.

I think Mike will be teaching all of us for a long time. I miss him so much, and sometimes have to remind myself that even though I've just thought to myself, "I want to give Mike a call" I have to catch myself. Now that's a LONG distance call. But I feel him around me so often, a gliding, glowing kind of presence, long streaming hand gestures that are like gentle comets.

I send everyone my love and hope that we can multiple the love of Valentine's Day this year.I wish we could all be together in person but our hearts will have to do.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

from crown heights

Dear Dad,

My thoughts have been with you more than usual over the last two weeks.

Sitting on the 2 train to Flatbush, I looked in the hazy reflection of the subway window and saw you looking back at me. I wonder how it must have been for you, moving to the Sounth Side with your loving perspective on life and being faced with the ugly realities of gunshot wounds and polytrauma in the emergency room. Waking up before dawn for a 36-hour workday. Feeling the cold energy of the city, impassive and uncaring. Swallowing your pride and subjecting yourself to the hierarchies of the medical profession.

I see your eyes shining and your warm presence, recognizing the paths and experiences we have shared. I feel your strong hand, guiding me through the long days and reminding me of the rewards that lie ahead. You're here with me, Dad, and I feel your love.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Letter to Dad on Easter Sunday

Easter 2007

Dear Dad,

My thoughts are all on you now. It is early morning on Easter Sunday. Passover began last Monday. Your face is so clear and bright in my memories of these celebrations. Did you know that Jeremy can sing some of the Hebrew prayers by heart (just from his memories of your voice in family celebrations?) I am hoping he will teach Jesse and me. Rosanne said she will teach me the meaning of your Seder plate. The Hebrew teachings and Judaism itself are the basis for so many faiths including ours. We would have been busy at St. Mary’s this weekend except for that we are just starting to recover from the flu. Also, I need quiet time with loved ones to cushion the solemn knowledge that we won’t be seeing you today. I wish our family was gathered together at Rosanne and Alphonse’s home still and that we all had a few months to stay there together. Our time there was very precious.

I miss Rosanne who is carrying all of us in so many ways. I am sure that Rosanne is one of the strongest women I will ever know. She has so much love in her heart for others. She is amazing and we are so lucky to have her especially in times like this. I am glad that you had her as a best friend, Dad. I remember many times when you spoke of good, long, meaningful conversations with her. She is so brave, so strong, so understanding, so caring; you must be so proud of your sister, Dad.

I miss Grandmom who understands your death with absolute clarity. I know that you wondered if she understood your illness and worried about how she would take your death. The image of her determination as she pushed herself out of her wheelchair, stood, walked to the podium, and spoke of you at the memorial service shook everyone there. Tears flowed at that moment. I think her words were (I think-but may need some input here) “He was a sweet kid and he (at this point she gestured towards us) had sweet children”. Then she cried with all the love of a mother who has lost her child, her son. I think I am very glad now that you were not sure she would understand as I fear it would have broken your sensitive heart to know how she would cry. But we do not get to pick how and when we die Dad, and you know you did everything you could to give us all the time and love that you could possibly fit in.

I can’t even fathom how much it hurt your body (especially since you never complained) when you stood at the stove time and again trying to teach me how to cook. You continued even when your feet were so swollen that you could not fit into the 4x wide slippers we had found .(the steroid meds temporarily shut down your adrenals and then the cancer shut them down permanently). Thank you, Dad.

I remember you still trying to give Jesse a cranial treatment to help with his teething even as your left hand now trembled slightly most of the time and even though you had to stop because your arms began to shake from the weight of his little head.

I remember you facing your fears and accepting the inevitable side effects from undergoing radiation in the spine to help slow the metastasized cancer so we could have you with us for longer.

I remember your amazing hope and will to live after you survived your first seizure (after which the MICU resident on call that night told us that you might not wake up from and that even if you did there was no medicine or treatment that could prevent another seizure from occurring because the cancer had spread into your brain now.

I remember how you agreed to radiation of your brain because the doctors told you it was the only treatment left that might give you just a little more time: at the very most six months (even taking into account the fact that you had already outlived the oncologist’s life expectancy and prediction of your body’s deterioration rate several times so much so that he inquired about the homeopathic and mistletoe treatments you were taking at home). Without the brain radiation treatments I don’t think the hospital would have been authorized to send you home due to the uncontrollable/unpredictable seizure activity you were having.

You were so, so brave and strong to go through the brain radiation. You had to stay in Dayton Hospice for daily transport by ambulance to Kettering Cancer center even though you really wanted to go home. You took daily ambulance rides that were uncomfortable (cancer throughout your bones on a hard, portable bed for a few hours) then faced claustrophobia as you wore a constrictive head helmet and lay in the radiation chamber. You never complained to me about these things though. I heard of your rough days from the concerned nurse who brought your medications. When I got worried you just reassured me that it was all o.k..

You taught me so much about never giving up hope or the desire (will) to live Dad. You taught me how important it is to fight for every moment of time with family and friends even when that fight is fraught with struggle. I hail your bravery Dad as you faced increasing body pain and the sometimes daily loss of your independent lifestyle.

I remember talking to you on the phone about how at it was at times difficult adjusting to life with a new baby. You were so comforting to me and then you admitted that you were having adjustment issues too. Earlier that morning on a grocery run your motorized wheelchair cart had stopped at the same time (low store scooter batteries I’ve since realized is a common problem for disabled shoppers) as the side effects of your medications had hit and you had been unable to get to the restroom in time. I remember thinking then that I would eagerly choose caring for a few more newborns that choose to take on cancer. It only took a day or two before you were back at the store trying again.

Your courage Dad is something I will always strive for. You had more faith in your body than I ever did and with admiration I watched as you appreciated and worked with your body throughout the entire illness. You seemed to trust that your body still contained within it the strength and adaptability to get you as far as you needed to go. You and your body triumphed Dad. You fully lived every bit of life that was left in you, never wasting a minute. You also succeeded in making it home where you so clearly wanted to be. It was your favorite place to spend time together socializing, to celebrate holidays and special events, and to rest and relax (especially growing plants and trees outside). It was the place where you wished to die.

I miss you Dad. I am only beginning to become aware of all that you taught us in your entire life and through the last few years. I am full of gratitude for your love, your strength, and your hope. You were a fantastic teacher Dad, and you definitely taught by example. Happy Easter Dad. All my love, your daughter

Thursday, April 5, 2007

A place to go

Joy, I am so grateful to you for doing this. It is a place to go to be together and to be with Mike. Your writing, and the whole feeling that I get from visiting this blog are both amazing. You've given us all a great gift and Mike a wonderful tribute.

One part that strikes me every day is that the memories and time with Mike are fixed now. That's when grief really comes. But your blog helps me to feel that we are carrying him forward with us, in our everyday. This means SO much.

So much love,

Monday, March 19, 2007

March 19th '07--Family Dinner

Well Dad, last night Jer, Jake, Todd, Jesse, and I gathered for supper at Arangs (our favorite family restaurant ) for some loving care from Ming and Mae. It was a good night Dad. We lingered for two and a half hours in the party room enjoying eachother and memories of you there. We ordered our latest favorites without hesitation even though you always did that for us:broiled squid, wakame salad, agadashi tofu and the glorious caterpillar roll that Aunt Rosanne taught us about. Jake got something delicious and spicy (I forgot the name), and the rest of us got sushi combos (no surprise there). I remembered when you guys brought Sushi from Arangs to our home after Jesse was born. Thankyou for spoiling us so lovingly! I remember that Sushi was one of the only foods I neverlost during my pregnancy.

By the way Dad, I finally found another lady who had the same severe sickness that I had during pregnancy. Her doctor was familiar with the condition "hyperemesis gravidarum" and she was actually able to be semi-active and greatly reduce symptoms by using a medication made for chemotherapy patients (Zophran). This gives us a lot more hope when thinking of possibly getting pregnant again.

During our meal Jesse was really tired from trying to work with Jer and Brian all afternoon while they did construction on our kitchen so he when he got fussy Mae and Leena entertained him (trying to give me some time to eat) which was great. Then, later on, they brought out some Mango ice cream for him and we were all remembering how you gave him his very first ice cream here and it had been the Mango flavor (Mae remembered). Jake had not had time for a real meal in a couple of days andit was Jer's last day in Ohio until September so it was definitely time for some good healthy food and a send-off dinner. Well Dad, we had a lovely time hanging out there for a few hours and we missed you but also felt like you were very close. And at the end of supper we all toasted you and Rocky Jones with the smoked eel sushi. (and Jake with the caterpillar roll) I imagine that you and Rocky were smiling down on us. And I am quite sure that by now you have gotten the chance to meet Todd's father, Jesse Freeman Cade up there in heaven. Well, until we see you guys again. Lots of love from down here....