Do you ever wish you could rewind the clock? I think back to 10 years ago, back before I knew many of life's sorrows. At that time, I was still relatively newly wed, expecting my first baby and the biggest trial in my life was getting through morning sickness. Sure, there were the normal stressors of life. But I had yet to lose anyone that was super close to me and life was relatively carefree and happy; I supposed you could say I was a bit naïve, not yet knowing the pains of life.
The past few years have taught me much as I've faced the harsh and bitter realities of the world. Over the past 6 years, some of the things major sorrows I have dealt with include:
-the loss of my choir teacher/mentor/very dear friend to cancer
-the death of my grandparents
-the grisly murder of a close friend, whose murder details and murderer's trial was aired on TV (Travis Alexander, murdered by Jodi Arias)
-witnessing/dealing with the stillbirth of my nephew
-coming to terms with my mom's diagnosis, and watching her slowly deteriorate day by day
A couple things I've learned are:
1. When you think you have it bad, someone has it worse.
2. Right when you think it can't get any worse, it can.
This past week my 3 year old son had a tonsillectomy. I was thinking back to when I was 6 years old and I had my tonsils removed. I can still see my mom's tear-streaked face as I woke up from the anesthesia; I was frantic and ripping out my IV. Watching two of my babies now go through this, I can only imagine how my mom felt!
That night, as my son lay on the couch and finally fell asleep after a painful day, I logged onto facebook and a friend messaged me.
"Did you hear about the Stay family?" she wrote.
"No...what's going on??" I replied.
"I'll call you," my friend wrote.
Katie Stay was one of my closest, dearest friends. She was the first real friend I made after I married my husband and moved to Moreno Valley. She threw my baby showers, we had family dinners together often, we walked everyday to the school together to pick our girls up, we had craft days and play dates with our kids and talked on the phone everyday. We hosted parties together and were there for all of the important milestones for one another in our lives and our children's lives
(including the adoption of our niece). Each year, we celebrated our birthdays together by going out to lunch (her birthday is October 6th and mine is the 7th). Indeed, we became the very best of friends. We talked about everything together...our joys, our struggles, our hardships with family relationships, etc. She moved to Texas a few years ago and we've still remained close- talking on the phone, emailing and even mailing cards and gifts to each other.
In the few moments that I waited for my friend to call me and update me on what was going on with the Stay family, I clicked on Katie's facebook page. My jaw dropped and I let out a cry as I read comments from friends saying "RIP Katie and family." Confusion, denial, anger, sorrow, anxiety...those are just a few of the emotions that flooded over me as I learned about the horrific murder of my dear friend and her family. I'm not going to post the details here (google it if you haven't heard, or watch the news). Suffice it to say, I have been a mess the past few days. That night, I didn't sleep a wink. My thoughts kept turning to my friend and her husband, to her 4 children who were killed, to her 1 daughter who survived. My heart was breaking, my head felt as if it were going to explode and the tears would not stop flowing.
Over the next few days, I laid low at home, in my pajamas, trying to care for my recovering child while mourning the great loss of our dear family friends. I couldn't imagine what Cassidy (the sole surviving daughter) was going through. After spending a couple days in the hospital, Cassidy was released and went to a balloon launch/memorial for her family at their nearby elementary school yesterday. I imagined this poor girl would be a mess, but when I saw her on the news, she had a brave smile on her face and declared that she knew her family is now in a better place. She encouraged and inspired others to "Stay Strong" during this tragedy and to find the light in the darkness. I am truly amazed and inspired by this girl's inner strength. I knew she had it in her (she is her mother's daughter, afterall, and Katie was one of the most positive and optimistic people I've known) but didn't expect it so early on. I know she definitely has a lot of healing and struggles to overcome in the future, but I think she will continue to amaze us all with her example of strength, faith and hope.
I know this post isn't really related to my mom or dementia. Maybe it's mostly for me (writing is my therapy). But if there's one message that you take away from this, let it be one of hope and courage. Life is hard. I know that well by now. But rather than dwelling on those things that can drown us in sorrow, let us rise above these trials and give hope and inspiration to others around us. That is exactly the example that Katie led in her life; her legacy lives on in her daughter. My life is better for having had her in it, and though I will miss everyday, I cherish the memories she left me with and the example of goodness that she set. I have a new resolve to "Stay Strong" in the trials I face, the sorrows I encounter. I have hope and I have faith that this life is not the end; rather, death is the beginning of something better to come.
'Til we meet again, my dear friends.