Wednesday, March 27, 2013


March 28

I didn't think today would hurt, in fact, I didn't even think much about it. Until just then, until when I realized it was my cousin's birthday, and then I realized. 

And then I knew, and then it hurt. 

I hurt. 

I hurt that five years ago, in a little courtyard in a city that I love, I let someone promise me forever. 

I am sad, that as I am fixing to do this all over again, that I can't give him the one gift I wish I could give him. 

And I know it doesn't bother him.

But on days like today, it bothers me. 

The guilt of having been married. 

The guilt that this is not my first time. 

The guilt that this experience is not my first.

That even though, so much of what I feel and what I know is the first time, that the weight of the guilt is heavy. 

Because five years ago, I said I do. 

And a year later, he walked out on me. 

And he broke my heart in so many ways that even as I am wholly in awe of where this has led me, and the lessons I have learned, and the person I have become because of this, that he did scar me. 

That the grieving sometimes doesn't end. 

Whether it is that I failed myself and failed my marriage.

Or whether it is that I am terrified of losing another child. 

It's not always going to hurt like this. I know this. 

I know that it won't always hurt the way it does now because it doesn't hurt anymore the way it did the first month, or the first year, or the second, or the third, or the fourth. 

This pain, is not a devastating-can't-breathe-soul-crushing pain. 

This pain, is just pain.

This pain is just I-need-a-moment pain. 

I need a moment to acknowledge that today is the day. 

So I just needed to say this out loud. 

So I just needed to say, five years ago, I said I do and it all horrifically fell apart. 

Just like on Mother's day, I need a moment to say, I was a mother too.

Because I think the numbness of forgetting, does not alleviate the pain of experience. 

But the pain of experience always gives birth to something new. 

And right now, my new, is good. 

Really really good. 

But it is moments like these, late at night, when the vulnerability of everything hits.

And I am scared.

I am scared of not being good enough.

I am scared that it was me.

I am scared that this will haunt me. 

I am scared that the guilt will never go away. 

I am scared that I will never forgive myself. 

I am scared that he broke me in places that feel healed, but can be ripped apart again. 

I am scared that my gut was so so broken once. 

Because the man I married and the man that was, was not someone I really knew at all. 

And it wasn't like I married a man I just met. I married a man that I dated for three years and lived with and I was blinded to so much. 

I married someone that I let change me and someone that I allowed to question my values, someone that I let me believe was not who I was at all. 

I let him break me. Not overnight. Not just when he walked out. 

But I let him break me a long long time ago. Piece by piece, lie by lie, compromise by compromise. 

And the saddest part in all of it is that I didn't even know. 

I didn't even know until his ex wife told me.

In one of the most profound moments of my life. 

That she was me, so many years ago. 

That she wasn't judging how it happened or why it happened. 

It always happened. 

I was number four. Number fucking four. 

How does that even happen?

How do you even marry someone you met doing Katrina clean up and be so completely mistaken?

How do you not know that you are wife number fucking four. 

I wonder if number five knows she's number five. 

Or if she thinks she's number three?

And the saddest part is I don't even hate her. 

Because number two taught me, you don't judge. 

You don't judge and you don't know and you completely get why. 

Why smart girls become stupid girls.

Why she said yes.

Because she is in the same cycle. 

The controlling nauseous cycle of control and just enough threat. 

I lied.

The saddest fucking part was my parents were devastated. 

On the day that I thought was the start of my happily ever after, they were hurting. 

They were devastated.

They were heartbroken.

Because they already knew the things I didn't know and couldn't see. 

And in the thirty hour plane ride home my godmother questioned and questioned and questioned my mother.

Why didn't you say anything?

Why didn't you stop it?

Why are you letting her marry him?

Why? Why? Why?

Why did you pretend to be happy for her when you weren't?

Why did you lie? 

And this is what my mother told me when it was all over. 

That she didn't because she was my mother.

That although she didn't quite know how bad it was that she knew enough to know that when things fell apart, I would need her.

And so she didn't say anything. 

And so I didn't know about this conversation or how they felt. 

She had already voiced her concerns when we started dating and when we got engaged. 

And when I didn't listen, she stopped.

Because she couldn't stop the train wreck, but she could make sure that she was around to help put the pieces back together.

To help put me back together.

And when it exploded.

She was on a plane within the week.

She sat and listened as I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

She picked up my laundry and made comfort food.

She was my mama, and she didn't say anything five years ago today, because she needed to be there when things fell apart. 

And the sacrifice in that brings me to my knees. 

So while I was the fool and while I was blindsided.

It was obvious to everyone else. 

It was exactly what number two told me

that when it was all over

they held her and told her who she was

that they had lost her but they were going to find her

that she was not done

that she was not broken

that this was not her story

this was a lesson

a hard, painful, heartbreaking, lesson. 

and I believed her.

Not just because she was number two and knew what it was like

but because I knew who she was

I knew the type of mother she was

I knew the type of person she was

I knew the type of wife she was

and what she gave me wasn't just answers 

but what she gave me was hope

and understanding

and realization

that smart girls do stupid things

and that is okay. 

"Forgive yourself for not having the foresight to know what now seems so obvious in hindsight." 
~Judy Belmont

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Diamonds and Fairy Dust.

Our love story is proof that God can turn broken things into blessed things. When I met Mr K, I was going through some major changes in life, unsure, scared, and at a crossroad where all I had was my faith, and my safest comfort that my God had me, that my God would not forsake me, that my God had a plan so much bigger than I could see. And so many months after, as I witness how God has weaved small circumstances into big miracles, I know with all my heart how incredibly faithful my God is. How blessed, and how special, and how awesome it is to be loved by a God, that is in your corner, even on the darkest nights and a God that is stronger, mightier, protective of us in our deepest hurts.
I didn’t understand, and for a long, long time. I was so incredibly hurt by this growing pain. While my faith remained unshakeable, my heart was broken for this life lesson that God was teaching me.
Looking back has been a journey of awe. A journey to always remember that beauty rises from the ashes. That in the midst of what I thought was my biggest failure, was the beginning of grace in healing and renewal. I battled what felt like a million demons at times, struggling and clawing, wanting to stop and give up many times but knowing that we had to scrape away all the old to give way to the new. I had the gift of a counselor, that got me, in the first session. That didn’t judge, didn’t take bullshit, but didn’t corner me into a wall either. An hour a week, I had a safe place to come to to just say I’m broken, I’m broken and I don’t know how to fix this, and I am tired, and I am struggling, and I am hurting. She taught me how to trust my gut, to rely on my instincts, to be true to how I felt. She taught me to find my voice, to confront all the things I had kept buried so deeply, to stop running. She taught me how go back and change my story. She taught me how to stop, rewind, and play again. She taught me that the dark was scary but that dawn would always come. She taught me strength, and forgiveness. She gave me permission to grieve, again and again, she gave me permission to be raw, and vulnerable, and blindingly honest. And in that, she gave me, me, on a silver platter, with diamonds and fairy dust.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


It's when I forget and then remember, when it hurts the most. And tonight, I am thankful for someone to hold me and someone to reassure me that it is okay to hurt and okay to feel the things that I am feeling. That this too, is normal. Because sometimes, none of this feel like it should be normal. And sometimes, none of this is. None of these things are things that people talk about, and none of these things are things that feel okay to talk about, because sometimes, none of these feelings make sense.

It is hard to be caught in the middle, to be happy and sad at the same time, to be grateful for the present but overwhelmed by the before, to be so incredibly in love but to also grieve where love was lost. It is hard because there is not even a title for your loss. I'm sure this happens to other people too, I am sure that somewhere out there someone feels the same way I do and that somewhere out there, someone hurts the way I do. I know this, I know this is my heart and in the moments of overwhelming grief that I am not alone. But how do you even google for familiarity when there is not a name for it.

I tell him that it's like keeping a deep dark secret, this place of being lost and sad, this place of feeling these feelings and having to keep it to yourself. And he tells me that it's all in my head, these judgements that I think people will make and these judgements that sometimes people do. He tells me, just let them judge, because you are safe here with me. In this bond, and in our world, you are safe and I will not judge, will not tell you how to act or what to feel, will not tell you that you are less. You are not 70% off clearance rack, you are beautiful and you are couture, you are more than worth regular price, you are immeasurable.

I don't define you by this, and sometimes, even I too forget. Until moments like these, until moments where it hits you like a freight train out of nowhere and you are sliced open and vulnerable. That place where you go, that place of so much hurt and so much pain and all I want for you to remember is who you are. Who you have become and who you are becoming. I want to remind you that sunshine comes after the rain, I want to remind you that there is a plan in the madness of becoming, I want to remind you of healing. And that this too, shall pass.

This, is normal. These feelings, these moments of intense grieving, is normal. So maybe it comes every now and then, so maybe even after ten years or twenty it might still hit you once it a while. It doesn't discredit where you are in life. It doesn't discredit your joys and your triumphs, it doesn't discredit your wins and your nows, it doesn't discredit your healing. It doesn't make you ungrateful and it doesn't mean you begin again at one, it just means you got the sails taken out of you for a while. A releasing of the cauldron of emotions and triggers that build up over time, and that too, is okay.

I will remember to be kind to myself. I will remember to be a friend to myself. I will remember to tell my heart the things that I would tell someone else, that this is not the definition of who you are, and this is not a failure. This is being human. This is what loss looks like and feels like and there is no time frame on grief. Allow yourself the vulnerability of grieving, allow yourself the permission to feel the things you feel...and when you do, when you let go and unclench, you will realize how much better you feel. That this was the very thing you needed.

"Be what you are. This is the first step toward becoming better than you are."
~ August W. Hare

Monday, October 15, 2012

235 days.

Princess cakes and post-it treasure hunts are the best! :)

Dear sweetheart,

It's 235 days till our official wedding ceremony. There is something so sacred and special about standing in front of friends and family vowing to love you for the rest of my life. I am so ridiculously excited and I curse myself for setting the longest engagement in the history of ever. :) But yet, the perfectionist in me, and the leading force behind this decision is grateful for this time to plan, to anticipate, to account for and to perfect every last detail. I am overwhelmed and giggly, I am loving this and enjoying the madness of it all.

I love how you patiently and smilingly support me in all my crazy. As I drag you to different kampungs in opposite directions (thanks to my awesome sense of direction) to look for the obscure  shop that six thousand people have recommended or some elusive thing I saw on Pinterest that I feel I need or can put together. You drive me, and you smirk as you raise your eyebrows and I take you on another wrong turn, or I squeal at the perfect shade of blush that all just looks like some sort of pink to you and roll your eyes as I tell you OH MY GOD JOE OH MY GOD YES! :)

And in one of our dates, you tell me you're worried if I feel alone in my crazy. You are worried if I mistake you letting me do my thing as you not being interested. And out of nowhere, you apologize and you commit to being more proactive at planning the wedding. You worry that you are not being supportive enough because you don't know all the details. I laugh and I give you the biggest hug in the world because I tell you that this is exactly why I love you. I love that you take care of me, and my feelings. I love that you want to be so much more and that you want to be everything I have ever wanted or needed. I love that you try, again and again, you try. I love that we are learning to grow together, I love that this is a constant lesson in being the best that we can be.

I reassure you that you can let me obssess over the details while you silently support me. Whether it's just listening to me work through a decision as I weigh pros and cons and change my mind sixteen times in between. If it is you taking a Saturday morning or a Monday afternoon to drive me somewhere because I suck at it or if it is you rubbing my back and laughing at me because I am crying again at another silly wedding video and you hold me to remind me that you love me. I am happy to do this, I am happy to throw myself head first into this, it is something I enjoy and I value you supporting me even when you don't even know that this is what you are doing. Besides, I am positive the idea of four hour wedding planning meetings deciding things like whether the ruffles on our linens line up horizontally or vertically will make you want to stab your eye out the way ironing makes me feel. :P

And just in case I don't tell you enough. I love you. I am blessed to have you in my life, I am blessed by the lessons you have taught me and I am blessed by this journey we are committed to taking together. You have watch me come into my own and I am so ridiculously proud of who you are becoming and all that you are. You are a rockstar and you are my hero. You have made moving halfway across the world effortless and seamless. And when you get homesick and feel a little silly, I want to hold you closer and remind you how incredibly strong you are. You are doing what I struggled to do for a year. You inspire me and you dare me to dream bigger, love stronger, fight harder, be a better person. You make me want to be a better person. I am kinder, more patient, more forgiving, and your love has taught me to appreciate all the little things.

I am strangely and sensitively aware of how much you mean to me and how quick time passes, I am afraid of all that can happen, of all the accidents and all the things that can go tragically wrong in a blink of an eye. This ferocious protectiveness is so foreign and so familiar all at the same time. I have to remind myself to take a step back and let you live your life even as I cautiously try to reign in the fears of all the unknown. I am not sure why this is happening, or why I am suddenly so acutely aware of this. At times, I know this is so much my scars talking more than reality, and just knowing and acknowledging this calms me down.

Still no on the rented scooters in Bali though. :)

We have been taking our pre-marital course, and already, we are learning so much. I went into this knowing that this was something I wanted to do. This was something I felt passionately about, these tools and this almost insurance plan for our marriage. I love that you so wholeheartedly and genuinedly signed up for this. Thank you, for taking it seriously but most of all, for applying all that you have learned without even me having to push you! I am proud and in awe when I focus on you as my husband and the roles you will play. I am intensely curious as you open up and share random things and stories. Some completely unexpected but so eye-opening at the same time. I love that this "project" has allowed us the security and forced us to take time out to protect and intentionally create time to work on us. These conversations make me fall in love with you all over again. I like who you are, and love when we discover that so much of our values and thoughts allign. But most of all, I love that this time reminds me of when we were first starting to get to know each other and we just wanted to soak it all in. I feel like a little girl with the hugest schoolgirl crush, waiting excitedly for Wednesday date nights to come. The butterflies in my tummy because this time is so special for us. And I love the look you give me, the way you light up and the way you take control of our date nights and dinners. I love you Mr K, with everything I am and with everything that I will be.

This journey we are on blows my mind. I always, retardedly, naively, think I cannot possibly fall in love with you more, but you blow my mind, every. time. I think that this is the best, the best and most awesome and amazing it can possibly be. But then I am still shocked when I realize just how much deeper this love runs. This started out as just a letter to write you to encourage you and to remind you that I love you. But this is also a letter of gratefulness.

I am so grateful for you.

So much of love and dorkiness,
Mrs K

"I vow to help you love life, to always hold you with tenderness and to have the patience that love demands, to speak when words are needed and to share the silence when they are not, and to live within the warmth of your heart and always call it home."
~The Vow

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


My father-in-law passed away this weekend. And it still seems so surreal to say that. He slipped away quickly and peacefully, opting to stop treatment on Wednesday knowing that it would be a terminal decision. We thought we would have at least a couple of weeks more, as we spoke to him on Thursday, excitedly telling him about our plans for Vietnam, our random weekend away to the crazy insanely fascinating city of Ho Chi Minh. He laughed and he sounded so so good, so alive. And because of time changes and switched off phones, we didn't find out immediately after it happened. I am not sure exactly what we were doing when it happened, but I know we were at a cooking class. My sweet incredible husband that knows my soul signed us up for cooking classes.

I have an insane obsession with learning how to cook, I am fascinated by the strange ingredients and new colorful spices, I am in awe as I hungrily try to absorb all this new information and techniques, as the sights and sounds blow my mind. I love the ritual and repetition of preparing for a meal, it is one of my favorite parts next to having a meal that has been carefully put together for hours to be enjoyed. I love the chopping and peeling, the picking and the measuring, even if I hate touching raw meat or the aromatics...I have thing about my hands getting dirty and smelling for hours. Weird, I know. But it is all just magic to me, it is something I do to find myself, and something I do that relaxes me and makes my heart dance.

And here we were, in a strange but so culturally rich city. A foreign place where the accents and the language were so different from anything we knew, wholeheartedly throwing ourselves into it all. Learning the different herbs they grew and how they complemented each dish, rolling a spring roll in rice paper instead of flour, following the chef on a wet market tour as we shopped for ingredients. Trying to take it all in, the exotic strange fruits and vegetables, the insides of different animals as no part is wasted, and how it is used and prepared in their country. So in awe but creeped out by the different sea creatures swimming around in buckets, wriggling around and bringing fresh to a whole new level as they butcher it right there. Live soft shell crabs, prawns the size of my hand, baby water lotus roots, fuzzy pig ears, banana blossoms and so many new things we didn't even have names for. We had our minds blown and the biggest hugest smiles on our faces, laughing because it was all so crazy and so fascinating at the same time. Laughing as my father-in-law drew his last breaths and passed. I know in my heart of hearts that this guilt is unfounded, that this is what he would have wished for us. For us to be exactly where we were. For us to be doing this. For us to be laughing together and pushing the limits of comfort zone and really living it out loud.

And so, as we returned to the hotel, we weren't prepared for this. I wasn't prepared for this.

We were wifi-less, for some strange reason the better hotels always make you pay for wifi but the three star hotels will just give it to you for free so we were only connected in certain places. I had briefly logged on that morning, a quick update sharing our amazing experience in the city so far; how we had rocked out in our room after an incredible breakfast buffet, so excited for the day ahead and just so thankful for everything. It was just supposed to be a quick stop, just to freshen up and cool down, the humidity kicking our asses and the need for a clean bathroom. I almost didn't check my messages, but then we had just a little bit more time. And when I logged onto facebook, the first message that came through was a family friend saying "Peace be with Joe".

I think I stopped breathing, my heart started beating too quickly as I scrolled down and read all the frantic messages of my mother-in-law, my sister in law, and hospice trying to reach us, finally just putting it on my wall. Begging us to call as soon as possible. And I knew, my heart knew what had happened, and I looked over to Mr K, the biggest smile on his face, so high and so proud from our fun morning, so relaxed and so excited to venture out to explore a different part of the city.

We were only supposed to stop for a couple of minutes, to drop off recipes, to pick up a bottle of water, this was just a pit stop.

And I knew, I knew and I didn't know how to tell him his life was about to change forever. I didn't know how to ease the blow, I didn't know how to make this better. And so I said, honey, I think something might have might want to check your messages.

And there it was, shaky hands and pounding hearts, his mom on voice mail telling him his dad just passed away 45 minutes ago. Telling him she loved him and he passed away peacefully. Asking for answers as next-of-kin and all the formalities in a broken voice transcribed into words that doesn't make sense because Google Talk can't really read grief.

I rubbed his back and hugged him as I went into fix-it mode, I went into take-care-of-him mode. To prioritize and plan and to find out answers to the sixteen hundred questions we had. What do we do? Do we leave Vietnam? Do we fly from Malaysia or do we just get tickets to fly out straight to Peoria? Do we stay? What would dad do? What would dad want us to do? What do we do? How did he die? I don't understand, what the hell just happened? Did he just slowly fall asleep or was it sudden and painful? Did he know? Was he at peace?

I knew he needed to talk to my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law and my brother-in-law. He needed the troops, his troops. It's a small troop but it is his troop. And we joke so often on this, about why we need to have more than two kids, and why we came back to Malaysia to be a part of this troop, so that when the shit hits the fan, we can always always mobilize troop. Our troop literally has multiplied tenfold just by moving across continents.

It is our reinforcement, the invisible hands that come over before a party and go to work making sure there is enough ice or that the caterers are set up, that the invisible lint is picked up and that the maids are organized and working on a project, the invisible safety net that fills the gap, the strength of cousins and aunts and brothers and uncles in a crisis, the people that just magically take care of the things you don't even know yet needs to be taken care of and it all just gets done without you even knowing, the love and pride that pushes you forward or the roaring cheering as you celebrate a win. The security and the assurance of the people that know you, the people that have your back no matter what, the people that remind you when everything is falling apart that they are standing strong and holding it all together so you don't have to because they have this. Our troops, we needed our troops....there are just things that your troop can do for you that no one else can.

He needed his people. And I couldn't undo this but I could get him his people. And in the meantime, I could mobilize mine. Ours. This was our troop now because they had welcomed him as one of their own. I would mobilize my side of the family and they would keep us afloat until we found his.

We talked phone cards, and Skype, Viber and What's App, but his family wasn't online and we couldn't call because our stupid roaming phones couldn't find a signal. We had never activated that option, knowing that we would always have our phones off in a foreign country. Technology is awesome and there are far too many better options of staying connected. It was a back-up back-up we always meant to do and something that was always on our pre-travel to-do list of things, but there was always just so many things more exciting then waiting at the phone company.

I think we subconsciously figured we would problem-solve if we were ever in a crazy situation. It is half the fun of traveling, the unexpected and the crazy. We had traveled enough to have had the most bizzare shit happen and we trusted each other and our instincts, our little bag of experiences, things we had learned along the way that we could put together and frequently relied on. We were a team, and together we knew we would always figure it out. It is a life long learning process, this amassing of knowledge and experiences, something we thrive on and enjoy, and whatever this situation that came up, would just be part of the adventure.

But this time, I just didn't care. I didn't want the cheapest, most effective, make sense solution. I wanted immediate relief for him, I wanted his troops for him now and I wanted to just fix it and make it all okay. I knew that our time was running short, it was way past midnight in the States, everyone had been waiting to hear from us but they were probably close to calling it a night, exhausted from a long, long, painful day.

We could always try to get some more Skype credit to call later, or find the closest store with a phone card, and all the other many roundabout ways for doing this cheaper but I reassured him that if there was ever a situation that justified an international hotel phone call home, this would be it. And I knew he was relieved, because I think that when a crisis happens, the adrenaline that pumps through you primes you for a fight. It is so much more easier to focus on one thing, to prioritize and say this is where we need to put our energy into and this is just fluff.

I knew that he needed me to stay calm, to stay rational, and keep my shit together. In that moment, in these moments, he just needed me to help him prioritize, to take control of the situation, to figure it all out, to figure out the best solution and to anticipate the worst because his thoughts and feelings were just so scrambled. He was just so confused. What the fuck just happened? We just talked to him, we just talked to him a couple of days ago and we were just supposed to stop at the hotel for a couple minutes and we just talked to him. How is he dead?

I dialed the numbers for him, letting it ring then quietly slipping the phone back to him. Holding his hand, as if I could transfer some of my strength to him, as if by doing that I could take some of his pain away and transfer it back to me and it would protect him. My sister-in-law picked up, her voice racked with hours of crying and he said, hey it's me, sorry we're calling so late, we're still in Vietnam and our phones aren't really working. Would you like to call us back on Skype?

And those moments, those moments in between hanging up and waiting for her to call back. Palms sweaty, mind firing a hundred questions at once, making a mental list, wanting to make sense. Wanting to make sure to ask all the questions we needed answers to, wanting to just please let this all make sense.

She said, "hey Joe, dad is gone."

And we sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. Her finding strength from deep within to reassure him again and again that he didn't suffer, that it was peaceful. Saying the words out loud of what you knew but just needed to hear. That he was so incredibly ready, that he had been holding on for everyone to get home to say goodbye...and everyone made it. That just quietly and slowly and quickly, he slipped away over the weekend. It is so dad, and so him to do that. And that somewhere he is having the time of his life, completely cancer-free, and drug-free, and blood transfusion-free, and pain-free. But that he was gone and she is so so sorry.

I cradled my husband as he fell apart and felt my heart break into too many pieces as he sobbed and sobbed and sobbed into my chest, as I held him and stroked his hair. Rubbed his back and reminding him that it was going to be okay, you are going to be okay, it's okay, I'm here. I got you, I got you, I got you.

I let him cry till the hiccups came, and when they did, I just held him even tighter, reminding him to breathe, reminding him that it was okay to hurt this much, that it was okay to fall apart, that I was strong enough to hold us together and hold him until he could feel the solid ground again.

I let him cry and I wanted him to cry, so afraid that he would keep it all in, he usually does when he is scared or unsure until I talk it out with him, I help him find his words and help him process. So scared he would retreat to a place where I couldn't find him, and so scared that he would try to do this alone. My favorite introvert, my yin to my yang, and where I normally need to talk it out until it makes sense, he prefers to internally process it, figure it out and find ground before he's willing to come for help. It is part of what makes our relationship so special, our opposites. He teaches me to slow down, and I teach him to verbalize. But this time reassuring him that he didn't need to find the words, reassuring him that it was okay, that he didn't need to keep his shit together, that he didn't need to protect me and that I loved him, I loved him in the hard times and in the good. That I was strong enough, reassuring that these are the moments where I will pull and I will fight and I will find the light for us and that together, together we would make it through this.

Then we worked on calling his brother. His brother who had just said goodbye to his dad that morning, his brother who was on a cross-continental flight somewhere preparing to go back to work where he was stationed in China while the kids finished out the rest of their summer with mom. His brother who still didn't know, and his brother that my sister-in-law was desperately trying to contact, getting his assistant to call him again and again until he picked up. Until his plane landed.

His brother that was his rock, his only and older brother who had always taken the lead when they were young, the one that guided themselves through the turbulent years of divorce and step-marriage and all the madness and always made sure to take care and protect Mr K. Mr K who was so much younger, so much more innocent. His brother that grew up too fast so Mr K didn't have to. And when his brother finally got the news and they finally reached each other, Mr K was so much more at peace. His brother, as he told him in their own language that it was going to be okay. As he formulated a plan and what they were going to do and what needed to be done. As he helped Mr K make sense of it all, and I have never been so humbled or valued so much witnessing the troop at work.

And then, he felt so much more better. Finally releasing the breath we had held for the last couple of hours navigating through the shock and the devastation. He found a smile again, knowing fully where his dad was and where his head was when he passed. Being comforted immensely that after two years of so much treatment, and so much pain, that his dad was finally home-free. So incredibly thankful for the weeks they spent together this summer, the special time they had together, just the both of them, that they treasured so much. Knowing and acknowleging that his dad was so proud of him and that he was so incredibly loved.

We talked of their adventures together, the summers he had with his dad, of exploring museums and of old leather bound books, of first editions and travelling, of the things that his dad cultivated and instilled in him, of the things that we would honor in our lives.

We laughed at the memory of being quarantined in the hospital, both his ear drums blown from an infection, literally screaming at each other hoping to be heard. Of how much better and so much more him he looked and acted the second time I came back that summer. How he had changed from the quiet tired man at the hospital the start of the summer to this lively quarantined man the end of summer. How he laughed and made jokes and even asked for the elusive BK mushroom swiss burger we were happy to hunt down for him, a surprise after all the chemo and transfusions had made him lose his voracious appetite. We knew that appetite and had seen the difference, noticing how skinny his legs had become as his muscles began to break down. How much older he had looked. How the last two years had really taken a toll on him.

We noticed that he had barely gone through three days before he needed another bag of platelets. Another blood transfusion. Sometimes even two to three.

We talked about what a special experience it was for our parents to finally meet, something we had looked forward to for a long time and grateful that it happened. Where our personalities and certain traits had come from and this sacred relationship of trusting and having faith that my parents would take care of Mr K the way they would take care of me in America.

My favorite story, of when we went to go get that burger late that night and they didn't make it anymore so we stopped at Steak and Shake and bought a pirated version of it. When we finally got back, he had fallen asleep and so we were just going to leave it for him and quietly go home. Because he hadn't slept much, restlessly waking up every couple of hours because he was so anemic and it was hard to breathe. The nurse ran after us stopping us and telling us how he had been waiting, how he had been nodding off and nodding off and refused to let them switch off the lights until the nurses promised promised promised him that they would wake him up when we came back.

Because he just wanted to say goodbye and he wanted more time. He just wanted more time, and so we woke him up. And he was him. He was humorous and cheeky, he was alive and laughing, he was asking for pictures and wanting to know so much about our adventures that we couldn't share enough. How he was so amused when we were taking photos of ourselves in the room and he could see himself on the flip camera and how he laughed. How he ate the whole burger, even the leftover mushroom bits and drank his pop. He was proudly introducing us to all the nurses, his son and daughter-in-law that lived in Malaysia, and how he had another son and daughter-in-law that also lived in China and his precious precious grandkids. He was alive and even quarantined in the hospital, he was the same man I met when I first started dating Mr K. The one that wholeheartedly welcomed me into the family and the one that was always in my corner, hawaiian punch in hand.

People always talk about how people know when they are dying and I think even then, he knew. He knew it would be the last time. I know that in some sense, we knew too, it was just hard to acknowledge because it is always too soon. They always talk about how they have this burst of energy, a burst of great days, parts where they are them again and there he was.

And as we left, we told him we love him. We promised him that we would be good to each other. We promised him that we would be happy and that we would go live out our adventure and take him on it. We promised pictures, because that was the first thing he always wanted to see. His eyes would light up as we explained and he would soak in all the different images, so delighted that we were happy and getting to experience so much, imagining himself there maybe and savoring them again and again. He loved the different cultures, he loved seeing new things and the exoticness of it, of exploring, and I remember whispering to Mr K a crazy thought I had after he died but that one that I believed with with all my heart.

He was finally able to go on our adventures and in China with the kids. The doctor had restricted travelling many many months ago, it was much too risky with his compromised immunity what more with the either of his sons at least a good 15 hour flight away of recirculated air. He was crushed he wouldn't be at the wedding, and Mr K was crushed because he always imagined him there. And secretly, I think we both secretly held on to the hope that it might happen. It seemed so silly to say out loud but we finally got to bring him to our side of the world, to Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh city, just like we would bring him everywhere else he dreamed to see because he would always be with us. But the best part was that he wouldn't be too sick, I could just see him smiling and taking it all in. I have no idea why, but this thought carried and comforted me the most.

Then my husband surprised me just like he always does. He said, we need to do this. We need to suck it up and do this right and we need to honor him and this is something he would want us to do. He wouldn't want us in the hotel room crying and being sad, he would want us to go out and visit and see how the other half of the world lives. He would want us to get all up in there and learn about this city and visit the museums. He would definitely want us to visit the museums. And so we did, we went to the Reunification Palace and soaked it all up in his honor. We visited the sites, and bargained at the local night market, we got lost in Chinatown and we stopped to eat an egg roll from the streetcart vendor, we went to the obscure places and we hung out with the heart of the locals, smiling back, hands waving and mimicking as they proudly welcomed us into their little shack, honored that we chose to eat there verses the commercialized corner, where the jaded and the hardened vendors were ready to suck every penny out of us. Speaking no English, we just hung out. We did what we knew to honor him, what we knew would make him happy.

I think so many times we want to hide our grief, we want to deny it, just suck it all in and pretend it is not happening. We want to rush through the seasons even as we both know that this hurting, this anger, this helplessness, this season in our life and this feeling through the feelings is healthy.

But yet it is so incredibly difficult at the same time. I want to fast forward through this stage, this stage where my husband is so heartbroken. This stage where my husband realizes that all he has left is memories. This stage where we feel cheated that he died too young. This stage where the grief overwhelms him so suddenly out of nowhere, something random, and all I can do is rush to hold him and wipe away the tears. I want this season to be over because it is so painful. I want to fix it, I want to make it better but I know I just have to ride this wave of grief with him because I can't make it disappear. I just have to be here, we just have to be here, and we just have to hold on and ride out this season of our lives.

We are reminded that the best way to honor him is to do what he would want us to do. He would want us to be okay. To really be okay and not just denying or functioning or falling apart in the middle of everything, he would want us to go through the process because he would hate that we were unhappy. I know a lot of times, he protected us from knowing just how bad things were, masking it with humor because he didn't want us to worry. So this is how it works, this is how the ebb and flow of life functions. And so we are grieving, we are feeling through our feelings, we are holding on to each other and we holding on to the promise that we will see him again because we don't want him to worry about us. We want to ride through this and we want him to be proud of us.

His last wishes was to have his body donated to medical science and we are so proud of his decision and relieved that he got his last wishes fulfilled. It might take up to two years before they cremate him, but that is not who he is anymore. It is just a body, a body that could do a lot of help to someone else. No flowers or gifts from friends, just a donation to the blood bank, in gratitude of all the life-saving blood and platelets he received that helped us have just a little bit more time to build more memories.

And when he is finally cremated, we will spread his ashes at his final resting place, a place he loved so much and had so many fond memories of. We will come and make this special trip together, spreading his ashes in unity because that is what he would have wanted us to do. He would have wanted the troop there.

But most of all, we will honor him. We will remember him and we will tell our children about their awesome grandpa. We will tell our son about the tradition, about how he will share a name with different generations of amazing men, we will put more than just a picture to his name. We will tell them about what he was like, his humor and his love for his family, his giving and thoughtful heart, his spirit and the essence of who he was. We will share with them the adventures he took his sons on and they will pass this on to their sons. We will miss him on our wedding day and it will feel like a part of our heart is missing, but we will pray that he gets to see it all happen, that he gets to take lots of pictures.

We will live our lives fully, remembering to savor the adventures because that would have been what he would have reminded us to do. And when we are scared or in culture shock, we will dig deep and remember how amazingly lucky we are, that not many get to experience this and it is a privilege. That this was one of his dreams. We will hold him in our hearts and we will do this for him. We will love each other and support each other, we will stand by each other and we will be good to each other. This is how he would want to be remembered and this is how we will honor his memory.

We love you dad and we miss you so much already.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
~John 14:27

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Mind. Blown.

I think I need to sit somewhere quiet to process all that I learned and all that I discovered this summer. It is big and it is insane in a great way but it is also overwhelming to put into words. I want to talk about how incredibly special this experience was for me and how life-learning this short period in time was for us and was for me. We stretched, we reached, we imagined....we hoped, we dreamed, we uncovered...we courageously stepped forward and owned. We loved and then we loved even harder and stronger, we missed, we held on, we appreciated, and then we came a big huge full circle.

This summer, I learned how beautiful and soul-completing friendships are. This summer, I learned about loyalty and solidarity, I learned of holding up and holding on, I learned of paying it forward, of listening and sometimes just being there. I learned of how special a brilliant friendship is and I learned about being a friend and what makes a real friend. I learned to pick and choose and hold on and stay loyal, I learned to draw boundaries unselfishly, to be fair, to hold on, to always let your values and your integrity make the important decisions on life and to let it guide you. 

This summer, I learned what incredibly faithful god I have. How steadfast, and wise, and incredibly big he is. I learned how he has stood by me and carried me and listened when I was angry and lashing and so incredibly hurt by his plans, and how he comforted even as he knew these incredible plans he had in store. Instead of saying, you dumb ass, he walked with me and hurt with me and he understood. I think about how much my faith has grown, and how much more I stand secure in who I am and who my God is.   

I learned a life-changing lesson of how far I had come. It was in Dr Brown's office, reliving, retelling, realizing where I was and where I am now in a split second of signing in and registering. A big a-ha moment, even before we began. There is no way in hell I could have planned or even imagined this, there is no way that I would have thought that I would have forgiven, much less healed. There was no way to anticipate what love and what happiness would feel like. It was only a dream, only something that I prayed and wished and hoped for.....but if you asked me if I could have even fathomed what this would looked like, I would have said, you crazy fool. 

Unbroken, this trip reminded me how unbroken I was. Because for so long and for so many nights I thought that I was completely broken. That none of these pieces would ever fit again and that I would never be whole again, because that loss was so devastating and the deceit and the betrayal scarred me in such a way that I thought that there was no way of coming back from this. I thought that yes, I would be happy again, and yes, life would go on, and yes, I would find passion and love and these wounds would scar over but never in a million years would I have thought, that it would feel, look, be like this. That I would be happier than I've ever been, loved more that I ever even knew, be excited and passionate and throw myself all in to something without abandon but most of all, that I would be grateful. That I would be thankful this happened and even more than that, that if I could rewrite my life story, that I would rewrite this chapter of immense loss and heartache. Because it has led me here, it has led me here and there is still so much more to come. 

That blows my mind, because I think, holy shit, holy shit, please don't pinch me, please don't wake me up, please let this not be only a dream. 

You are my dream. You are my hopes and my wishes and all the unspoken prayers whispered when it was dark and no one was listening, because it feels so silly and so stupid to be filled with this much of want when the reality has been that it doesn't exist. You remind me of all that is good in the world, and you remind me all that I am capable of because you truly think I am unstoppable. You value my talents, and you see my gifts, you nurture my crazy, and when everything else fades, you love me with a love that is something only dreams are made of. 

It is the funny way and the comfortable silence of a car ride, the relaxing unabashed trust in each other to fart out loud and have a ridiculous dance-a-long to your favorite song that you only know the end lyrics and chorus to. It was the talking and the exploring and the coming together, the sharing of experiences and thoughts and the mark of a true friendship that supports and listens and encourages and says "me too".

It was slipping into this beautiful Vera Wang, this extravagant over-the-top princess dress that my mom and dad campaigned for and feeling so so special. It was the way Amie gasped and cried for this dream. It was the extra long hug and thank you stolen in between aisles and aisles of dresses with Rosemary, it was the acknowledgement of a dream coming true clashing with a "look how far we've come". I have never thought of myself as a princess, or a super girly-girl, but when they put that veil on, it was magical. It was everything you dream as a little girl, and in that moment, I felt so incredibly beautiful. 

I'm not even making this shit up. 

Because skeptical silly me reads this and says, are you fucking kidding me? Because this kinda stuff just doesn't happen in real life, it doesn't happen to me. I am a hopeless romantic but I am not a gushy unicorn pooping rainbows everything is perfect girl. But yet here I am, and I am overwhelmed and grateful all at once. 

It's fourth of july today, a day that has been so special to me for so many years. Because I am an arsonist at heart and fireworks just make me so incredibly happy. But yet, a quiet night of celebration, in a city that is so different and means so much, like a little secret as everyone else is oblivious to this day around us, a bottle of wine with my parents at a favorite restaurant, we toasted to Uncle Sam, and we toasted to 31 months. I missed the big ridiculous over the top display of exploding dynamite and showers of color timed to music, but I celebrated this moment. Of being with family, of being with the ones you love, of finally finding home and the reassurance that yes, this feels right, and we are comfortable, and we are holding on, and we will persevere. 

Because that's what he told me on one of our many hours in the car, that suddenly Springfield didn't feel like home anymore, that the ideal things you remember when you just want a great steak or to go to Target and pick up some random things, that it just doesn't fit anymore. That it feels weird to drive these same streets and go to all our favorite places but to just feel out of place. But instead, instead, we had found home a gazillion miles away, in a house full of noise and chaos and love, in relationships built on understanding and common ground, in places we have come to love and call our own. That he missed his drink man, or driving our "awesome" pos car, or our friends back home, and our weekends and our work. Malaysia somehow became home when we weren't looking, much a lot like this life, my dreams became reality when I didn't notice. And all of a sudden, we looked up and we were here. 

Fuck yes. 

"Its funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different."
~CS Lewis

Sunday, May 13, 2012

big girl, little things.

Dear m,
Thank you for making me a mother....for letting me borrow that title for a while and for letting me wear it with so much pride. You have given me the honor knowing what it feels like to be a mom and given me the gift of knowing that I can do this. That when I am unsure if I want to have children someday and that when I am unsure if it is possible to risk that much of love and that much of heartbreak, you have reminded me to be an example, to dig deep and to just have faith.

Because it was worth it, because you were worth it. Even if I had to write it all over, I would repeat your chapter in my life. You have given me a sacred glimpse of parenthood, the love, the joy, the fears....the soul crushing terrifying acceptance that it is possible to lose it all but that I am so much better because of it.

You have changed me in so many ways and you have shaped my relationship with the children we might have one day. To never take things for granted, to always say I love you, to have loud sing-a-longs in the car and to let you dance in the aisles of a theater as they're playing the end credits to the best song ever! To nurture that childlike awe, to just say yes to putting up a pink Christmas tree and then to let you keep it up just a little longer. But most of all, to always be in the moment, to always be present.

I have learned how important it is to take a break during a busy busy day and stop in for a lunch date at school, to always make sure I show up at a recital so that when you look across the room to find me, that I am there, to have one-on-one time and to listen to all your stories, because somewhere weaved in there are all your hopes and fears and dreams, and somewhere in there you are learning that you are heard.

I know that because I have seen your face light up and break into the biggest grin ever, I have seen your confidence grow and watched you pay it forward, I have seen how incredibly important those moments were to you. To bake a cake together and to get flour all over the kitchen, to silence my salmonella fears and let you lick the batter, to let you go to town in decorating the Easter eggs any way you want, even if it meant our eggs turn into a lovely shade of poop brown. Because your pride in those moments, in those moments that we were making memories, is irreplaceable.

The times where we have kept a schedule or done the mundane but precious ordinary blur into a big memory, but you never forget the special ones. A split decision then, but such big life lessons now. Writing out clues to a Valentines treasure hunt, bundling you up and taking you to the zoo, laughing as we try to figure out the walls of the gingerbread man house or the nights where I let you try on all my shoes and makeup, the nights where we transformed our kitchen into a make belief runway for a fashion show. Our special Sundays; just the both of us, to sleep in or to eat an illegal treat at McDonalds, to go to the park and feed the ducks, to stop and run in the sprinklers or to make a picnic of funny shaped sandwiches and organic oreos.

You have taught me the importance of staying consistent, the importance of boundaries and heartache of discipline. I have been the bad guy and I have been the good guy, whether it was working towards goals or learning about consequences. You have given me that honor and I have learned so much. Sometimes failing miserably and sometimes successful. You have taught me to color outside of the lines and to celebrate coloring outside the lines, you have taught me to use my imagination, whether it was the gourmet meal you "cooked" with sticks and flowers from our backyard or if it was trying to find a better way to help you understand a math problem.

I have learned to answer the hard questions, to answer with kindness and to do it with love. To be honest but to be sensitive. You have reinforced my values and my beliefs, of the lessons I want my children to learn and of the values I hope they prescribe to. You have taught me the importance of an apology, no matter if I am the parent or if I am older, you have taught me how important it is for a child to know that it is okay to make mistakes. You have taught me love, and you have taught me humility. You have taught me acceptance and letting go. You have taught me patience, and you have taught me joy.

You have taught me the gift of being a mom, and that will forever be a part of who I am and who I'll be. You were not from my womb, but you grew in my heart, and I am so so proud of who you are. Thank you for this lesson on parenthood, and on this Mother's day, thank you for letting me walk in those shoes for a while.

I love you m, you are missed and wherever you and wherever you're heading, I wish you the world.

Happy early birthday stinker, I remembered!

"Sometimes it's the smallest decisions that can change your life forever."
~Keri Russel