Thursday, February 21, 2013

I look to you

The sun is shining today! Except for the mere fact that any of us would take sun over rain/snow, this normally isn't a big deal. Today it is though. Has an event or situation ever happened to you and as a result when you see or hear about something, even if it's the smallest thing, you think about that event? That's what I'm going to bring you today. For me, the connection that makes me think back to this event is the sun. On any other day, I normally don't have the connection in my mind but because today is special I do

How many of you celebrate or count the "half a year" stuff? "Happy half birthday" is the most common and the one my family LOVES to use! Today is a "half a year" type of situation  I have decided to write this post on this day not because it's been half a year but because I want to remember the special time and to share the story of this wonderful person with you. 

Six months ago today, my family lost this wonderful woman

This is my cousin Denise. I have to say she was the greatest lady! I wish you all could have met her! She was the kindest, most giving, most patient  most positive person I think I've known and I'm so glad to have been part of her family. 

My grandparents (dad's parents) were like her second parents. She was raised by her grandmother (my great grandmother) and my grandparents. Out of my dad's three siblings he was the closets to her. Although they were cousins and already had that relationship, they had this unspoken relationship too. I guess you could say they were more than cousins. It was always nice to see how happy they each got when talking to each other on the phone or seeing each other the very few times they did. They would call each other every few months or sometimes even longer and talk for hours. Another special thing that was kind of "their thing" (or I guess just the family thing), was that every 'Christmas she would send a little vase of some sort of flowers. We always looked forward to those! :) 

Her and her partner lived in Vermont, about 2 hours away. We barely saw them, or at least that's what I remember  Although you'd think that I'd have memories of the few times we got to visit with her, unfortunately I don't  Sure, we have old movies from when I was a baby and we visited or even pictures but my first actual memory I recall without anyone just telling me about it was back in 2008, which is when the above picture was talking. Obviously it was at my graduation was so nice they were able to come! The next time I remember seeing them is when we traveled to Vermont for my cousins football game. Because it wasn't too far, they made the trip to visit us! I have to add that it always felt a little weird talking to her on the phone or in person just because I never really saw them and plus I was younger. It actually kind of shows who she was though. She was a very soft spoken person and seemed to always be happy. She was very "gentle" in all that she did. 

Looking back, it's hard thinking about the fact that the time we saw them at the football game would  be the last time we saw her healthy. It's always funny how things can change when you least expect them took, especially when you don't see that person much.

This brings me to her overwhelming, brave, positive, strong story. About 6 years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She already had MS, which is a disease  It affects the central nervous system. On top of the MS, she also had Parkinson's disease. which affects the nervous system. The two aren't the same. So now she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a difficult time because of the other two factors and the attacks she would get from them. I don't remember this part of her life. Meaning how long it took to go away or how she was doing, I just know she had it. Luckily that finally was treated with the surgery and was gone. As I said this was about 6 years ago. Unfortunately, during the fall of 2011 she started having a pain in her shoulder. Her partner kept saying to get it checked. She wouldn't though. Finally in January 2012 she did and was once again diagnosed with breast cancer. this came as a shock to us.  She told him one night on the phone but said not to tell any other family members. That was difficult to not tell. This was in February when she told him. She got treatment every other week, 7 days on, 7 off. Because of this my dad would try to call on the off week just to see how she was. She wasn't doing well with the treatment and it would wipe her out, which is to be expected. Not long after he had calls for a few weeks and there was no answer. He finally called her partner and was told that she had moved in there. She couldn't take care of herself. 

Unfortunately she was just getting worse. The cancer spread to her bones and all over. Her partner told my dad one night on the phone that she didn't think Denise would win this time. I can remember that night and the sadness in my dad. Denise worked at a hospital. It was a very small hospital. At first she didn't want to go there and wanted to be treated at home. Unfortunately around The very first week in August, they made the decision to bring her there because her partner just couldn't do it at home. At this time my dad decided to call all our family members  She wasn't coming out of this one, and she knew it. It was a weekend when my dad first took the trip up by himself. He didn't know what he'd walk into. He came home and said she wasn't as bad as he had thought  So the next week my mom and I joined him. When we got there, you could tell she wasn't good but she was positive as always and we actually had a good time. We went up a week later, with my dad staying in contact almost everyday. This time there were alot of us there at once and you could tell she felt the love. She was on hospice and they had made a basket full of hand made harts. 

This is the one I decided to take..its shaped perfectly! I have this in my purse at all times. Just a little token to remember me of that time

Anyway, it was hard to leave. Both times it was so hard to leave. Especially the first time. We knew we wanted to go back but didn't know if she'd be gone before then. 

She died on August 21st. I'll never forget that day. My parents and fiance were gone to work so it was just me and the dog. Her partner promised my dad that she'd call when Denise had passed. Well, that afternoon as I sat here all alone with the dog, she called. I couldn't get to the phone but knew why she was calling. It actually wasn't that hard. Denise wanted to go. She knew it was her time and was a peace with it. And as long as she was at peace we were all ok. 

Talk about signs! We went up her the funeral. My aunt, uncle and two cousins came too. While sitting in the church for the mass, one of her close friends said some words about her. One part of her speech was reading a poem written about basically being free and not to be sad. There wasn't a dry eye around while she read that. Just to note it was cloudy that day. Not like rain cloudy but it hadn't really been all that sunny. At the moment her friend started reading this poem. A gush of sunlight just shined through the window and put a spotlight on the lady reading the poem and stayed there the whole time. There was a feeling that Denise was there with us. It was so nice and special!

Despite her struggle, one of the most inspiring and great things she did was start a program at the hospital she worked at. There were, and are, so many people on hospice and alot of them didn't have people to be there by their side when they passed. Denise started this program so that these would would have someone there. Denise would go sit by their bedside. She didst need to speak or anything...she just wanted them to know someone was there. Everyone needs a friend or someone to be there for them and that's what was so great about her! Because of her, they also had a hospice suite at the hospital. The room included a kitchen and whatever the family members needed so they could stay with their loved ones. There's a fund set in Denise's name for the room. We sent in money and we got a plague put on the wall in her honor. 

As I said before, this was a lady of many things. She was great and everyone knew that and was so honored to be apart of her life. Our time with her may of been cut short but we're glad for each memory we have had with her.

I want to leave you with a song. After her funeral we went back to her partners home. Her partner and some friends had put together a DVD slideshow and gave us a copy. This song is played throughout and it really sums up how she felt about her situation. 


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