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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Even Less Sugar: The End

As I assume you will have heard by now, Ian passed away, one week ago.

I've been avoiding this post, not because I have been unable to put words together, nor because I have been too wracked with grief to journal my thoughts ... but because his last days were both pain and beauty and private. As public as I have been, via blog and Facebook, etc, there are some things that will remain small and close and intimate.

-------------- some timeline ---------------
On Wednesday, Ian still had quite a bit of fluid and an awful, drowning cough. I started to witness "seizure activity," something he'd never experienced before. The last straw was when friends moved him up in bed, and he finally got a cough out ... but it contained blood. It was clear my ability to handle this at home (read: alone, overnight) was done, and he was transported to in-patient hospice.

The nurses deemed his breath "extremely labored." It sounded like a snore ... but in double time. And loud. In the middle of the night they woke me to say he had experienced another decline. They helped move him, and I spent the rest of the night by his side. At 6:30 I realized I hadn't heard that awful noise ... I sat up a little ... and I knew. I held tight. I sang him a song. I called the nurses in and they confirmed.

It was surreal, and horrible, and beautiful, and cold and warm and sad. I didn't sob. I breathed.

------------ [private family grief stuff] ------------

---------------------- logistics ------------------------
Ian was an organ donor. I made the decision a few months ago to pursue having his brain donated to the cancer center, in hopes that someone else would soon be spared this awful disease. (Yes, Ian was on board with donation of any kind).

We had many "final arrangement" discussions, and Ian had always requested whatever was "easiest and cheapest" ... the old "pine box or ashes dump" kind of conversation. Then he would look at me and say, "of course, you're going to do what you want anyway, so ..."  Funerals are for the living, and in our case, for the children; it is for them that I make these decisions.

So now I had thirty minutes for the actual choice; send Ian's body to Pittsburgh for the autopsy, or zoom to camp and back with the kids to say goodbye again*, negating the ability to donate but affording them the opportunity to see him. If I'm doing all this for the kids, what makes the most sense?

I chose the former; I didn't want to rush their grief. "Hi, I'm here, guess what happened, pack your stuff, let's go see him" just felt wrong.

----------------- my amazing children ------------------
I had prayed and pleaded with God ("Please, God, let the kids get through two weeks of camp - to be kids, make friends, have fun, and to not associate camp with me coming early because Dad died.") I had the "gathered at bedside at home" picture. The final words thing.

And God said, "How about this? How about I have them go to camp, meet new friends, share their situation and be prayed over and loved on, still get to be kids in light of this trauma but be separated from those very last, non-Dad moments. You will bring them home and hold them close, but they will return to that fragile but deliberately constructed nest to again be loved on and prayed over by a giant group of Christian peers and counselors. And they won't associate HOME with his passing."

Ah. Right. It's the whole "My plans/your plans" thing. Noted.

So the kids came home, albeit reluctantly, that evening. We had a private viewing just for them at the funeral home the next day, and after choosing some happy Dad pictures, back to camp they went, munching snacks and grieving in little pieces but smiling as children should.

There are many things I could post about the things they said and did, but I will not out of respect. I will say this: I allowed them to grieve as they wished -- to choose what they needed to do and say and think. I honored, as much as possible, their desires both to be given space and to be held. And I assured them that all thoughts, including, "can we just get back to camp now?" are good and okay and acceptable.

---------------- prescriptives -----------------
Do NOT tell my son he's the man of the house, and to take care of mom. HE'S NINE. HE ALREADY HAS A COMPLEX ABOUT KEEPING EVERYONE HAPPY.

Do NOT tell my children how their "dad would have wanted them to" respond/live life/think of him.

Come to think of it ... just tell them you loved their dad and know that they miss him and that things are hard and it sucks.

Because it does.

----- the obit: summing up a life in several paragraphs -----

~our last family moment~


  1. John and Sandy WrightJuly 14, 2016 at 1:02 PM

    He was an inspiration from the time we met him, even before his illness. God blessed us with knowing him and pray for God's peace for your family.

  2. What you did was awesome and brave. I admire you greatly Rachel, now I pray for peace to mourn and reflect and whatever else you need. Contact me anytime

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this, Rachel. I'm touched beyond words. And, thank you so much for all you did, all you do and all you will do.

  4. Praying for peace and healing for you and your family.

  5. Thank you for sharing this. You are a great mother, wife, friend, daughter, and especially a 'child of God'. Just remember I can the local 'grandma' or 'mom' if you need something. Go dBless you!

  6. Ian was a great person and I'm glad that I helped him at VBS one year at church.. I love him very dearly, and as a friend. I love you Rachel and the kids. And your family is always in my prayers. I'm here for you Rachel

  7. May God hold you all close and comfort you in the way that only he can. We are sad for you but glad that Ian need no longer struggle. He is with Jesus now! Our prayers ascend as you navigate the days and weeks ahead.

  8. May your memories and assurance that Ian is now healed and rejoicing with our savior bring some measure of comfort on those days when you need it most. Thank you for opening yourself up to us and allowing us the privilege of lifting you & your family in prayer. Continuing to pray for God's peace as you all grieve.

  9. God has his arms around all of you. I am so sorry for your loss.

  10. Dear Rachel,
    Thank you for sharing your life, struggles, joys, and sorrows so openly. Ever since I heard, I have prayed for Ian's healing, knowing it was more likely to be at the throne of God than here on earth. May God continue to hold you in his arms and comfort you as you deal with life with "No Sugar". We continue to lift you up in prayer.
    Blessings, Susan

  11. This is beautiful. Your children are blessed to have a mother who understands them, their needs, and loves their father. I'm praying for you. May peace, love, and support continue for all of your lives.

  12. My sincere condolences on the loss of your beloved Ian. I admire your strength and wisdom during this difficult time. My prayers are with you and you children.

  13. Rachel, you know I didn't know him, and I don't know you very well either, but I'm so glad that you love God so much and it's clear that He's got you. Thank you for sharing your lives and your thoughts. I pray you burrow into His grace and peace and comfort and love even more, because I know and I know you know that somehow, surprisingly, incredibly, there is More. Praying for you all in the sucky parts too. Love, Becky Kennedy

  14. Rachel-
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, perspectives and most importantly your world. You are strong and courageous and it has been truly a blessing to know you, Ian and meet the kids. I will always keep you all in my prayers.

  15. Dear Rachel,
    You continue to be in my prayers, along with Audrey and Ezra. With the start of a new school year for the kids and you returning to work, it brings a sense of sameness and yet different because Ian isn't there. I know you probably still stop and think about picking up something he would like when you are at the store. Hang on to those memories and may God continue to comfort you as you grieve.