Bittersweet Christmas

David — 2013 at the Anchorage, Lake Sunapee

If you’ve been following my updates on CaringBridge, you already know that David’s ordeal is over.  The last bit was hard, so I have to be glad for his sake that that part was not prolonged, but being without him seems to stab me at odd moments, and I can’t quite seem to catch my breath.

Time yet again to remember all I have to be grateful for.

Granddaughter Bailey

We had a lovely Christmas with our daughters, granddaughters and future son-in-law, even though by then, David was not strong enough to leave the bedroom. We all visited him regularly throughout the day and he gave us a few smiles, more precious than any other gift.

Granddaughter Felicity

The 26th was busy with rearranging the bedroom to make room for a hospital bed. It turned out David only used it for one night, but it was helpful and we were glad to have the loan of it. David and I shared a few perfect moments in the evening, which I already related on CaringBridge, but here it is, in case you didn’t see the CaringBridge post:

During this entire sixteen months, whenever I didn’t know what to say, I’d say, “I love you” or “I love you to the moon and back” or “I love you to infinity and beyond” or “I will love you forever.” Even when his voice was a mere whisper, he would say back, “Love you.” Until the 26th. He was finally comfortably installed in the hospital bed and it was just the two of us quietly together. Even though he was clearly listening and I felt he was very much with me, he was not replying. When I got a bit teary and mentioned that he wasn’t saying “love you” anymore, he immediately tipped his head up, opened his eyes wide, looking directly into my eyes, and said, strong and clear, “I love you very much, for all time.” It was the last complete thing he said. 

On the 27th, I sat next to David and updated CaringBridge, talked with the hospice nurse when she visited, did various caretaker tasks, updated David’s brother Doug when he arrived in the early afternoon from Portland, Oregon, and generally just watched over David as he slept. I thought we were settling into a new pattern, even if just for a few more days, but just before 4 p.m., David took a few irregular breathes and suddenly was gone.

I’m not sure how to describe the next few hours, except to say they were tender and piercing, touching and wrenching, all at the same time. I had precious time alone with him, but mostly we were all there with him, saying our goodbyes in a peaceful, I’d even say holy space that is so rare in this life.

I don’t really remember the next day, except that it was quiet (no more wheezing, thumping oxygen concentrator) and everyone was very gentle with me. I had a few necessary tasks, but the others managed everything else, taking care of the young ones, providing food for all. Best of all, in the evening, they did something David would have LOVED . . . ↓

Glow Stick Laser Tag

. . . laser tag with glow bracelets and necklaces, out among the trees on the dark golf course. I wasn’t quite up for it, so declined, but every one of us could absolutely picture David, all in, dodging from tree to tree, giggling like a maniac. The next day people started heading home, so that was our last night together during this bittersweet Christmas holiday. It was strangely perfect.

*A Celebration of David’s Life will be held on the 19th at 4 p.m. at Council Tree Covenant Church in Fort Collins, with a reception to follow at our house. More details and a chance to let me know you’re coming here.

 

Memories

David, 9 November 2017

If you have been following David’s battle with pancreatic cancer on CaringBridge, you have heard the devastating news that he is now on home hospice and not expected to make it to Christmas. Considering the fact that we are currently at roughly fourteen and a half months and the original prediction was nine to eleven months of survival, as heartbroken as we are, we are still very grateful to have had this additional time. That said, I can’t pretend we will ever be really ready to let him go.

So many thoughts come flooding in as he rests. Sometimes I need a distraction to keep from pestering him with questions on what I can do for him: if he needs pain meds, if he’ll drink a bit more Ensure or Powerade, etc. Right now seemed as good a time as any to write a post I’ve been meaning to write for months.

In July we flew to Michigan to celebrate the life of David’s cousin Pete (another dear one cancer has taken from us). After a touching evening with family, the next day David and I took a small road trip south for a bit of nostalgia. Brittany was the only one of our daughters able to join us, but two of David’s brothers, Eb and Doug, had one night to spare, so we drove two cars down to Dayton, Ohio. We were actually headed more specifically to Oakwood, the suburb where David and his sister and brothers grew up. First stop, Marion’s Piazza for lunch . . .

From left, brothers Doug and Eb with David at Marion’s Piazza, Dayton, Ohio

. . . then a stroll around the old neighborhood.

103 Beverly, Oakwood, Ohio, where David and his siblings grew up

Since we were standing out front of their old house, Doug decided to go ring the doorbell to let anyone inside know why we were lurking and taking photos. The woman who came to the door was so kind, she actually invited us in, so we had a chance to see the setting of so many of the stories we’ve heard over the years.

Driveway and back of 103 Beverly, Oakwood, Ohio

After a few more stops, we sent Brittany with Doug and Eb, since the three of them had flights the next day home from Detroit. David and I had an extra day, so we headed to Indianapolis, where we met in 1978.

Definitely on our agenda was the Indianapolis Museum of Art where we had our first date. The grounds were still as beautiful as we remembered . . .

Grounds of Indianapolis Museum of Art

. . . but the Garden on the Green restaurant was no more. The building is now only available for special events. Still fun to see the building and remember that we were sitting right inside these corner windows . . .

The former Garden on the Green restaurant, site of our first date

. . . when we both realized we would marry each other. This was four days after we met. I know, sounds crazy, but it did work out rather well! Our 39th wedding anniversary is this Saturday, the 18th.

Later that day we started heading north to get back for our flight home from Detroit the next afternoon. It was a quick trip, but what a sweet one. This little nostalgia tour was all David’s idea, and I love that we had a chance to make a few more memories and revisit the scenes of old ones.

In case you have not yet had the chance to see it,  below is a YouTube link to a tiny video of David a few days ago on the 12th. He had a pretty good day, which was nice since it was Brittany’s birthday. He gets a bit confused occasionally and sometimes uses one word when he means another (you’ll hear him say “gracious” when he meant “grateful”) but overall thought you might like to see this word of thanks from David.

https://youtu.be/zkJFfVy2nKs

Thanks for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers during this heartbreaking time. You are appreciated!

 

 

Celebrating One Year of Survival!

David in June, shortly after we got back from France

Today marks one year from the day David’s cancer was discovered, and we are so very grateful that he is still here with us! We know each day is a gift.

Since the events described in the last post, we finished our time in France by showing Tom and Lexi around some of our favorite spots in Paris: certainly Musée de Cluny — Musée National du Moyen Âge, where we admired again my favorite tapestries . . .

La Dame à la licorne
Stone Chapel in Musée de Cluny

And this very cool stone chapel David discovered on our first visit to this museum.

Then we were headed back to our Airbnb appartement,  when  David had a much better idea since it was seriously toasty in Paris, even though still only the end of May. His suggestion: Find a café for a beer. This place, Maison Sauvage, was half a block from the apartment and became our regular afternoon refreshment stop.

Maison Sauvage, Paris

We mostly called it “Wild House” for short, which had the benefit of not requiring David, Tom or Lexi to attempt any actual French pronunciation (although Lexi’s not too bad, actually).

The next day, Musée d’Orsay . . . 

Musée d’Orsay looking out to Sacré Coeur
Sainte-Chapelle, Paris

. . . plus Sainte-Chapelle . . . plus ice cream at Glacier Berthillon on the Île Saint- Louis . . . then the OUTSIDE of Notre Dame. They flat-out REFUSED any more of the forced march for that day. Um . . . I can get a little carried away.

The next day we took the Batobus (boat bus) to the Tour Eiffel (we let them climb while we rested and watched the vendors entice tourists with scarves and trinkets, then on to Notre Dame and back to the apartment (or Wild House) for Tom and Lexi.

David at the outdoor Ritz Bar, Paris

David and I finished our France adventure by walking over to the Ritz for a final drink in the Ritz bar. Helen had asked us to raise a glass there in memory of her husband John, who died earlier this year. He had treated her to a surprise trip a number of years ago (at her half-serious request for a drink at the Ritz Bar to celebrate her 60th birthday), and they made a pact to come back at least to raise a glass to the one who had gone on before when that time came. She wasn’t quite up for the trip, so we raised a glass in her stead.

And then we raised another glass to us and our 2017 France adventure!

By June 2nd, we were back home and David was back in chemo on Monday the 5th. The last couple of months have been tough, and many things are uncertain. But he is still here and I thank God every day for that. Remember regular updates are on CaringBridge.

David at Logan Airport 14 August 2017

As you can see, he never lost his hair, and even though we cut it short (just in case) it is now getting pretty long again and now it’s super curly in back, like it never was before. Makes us smile, and trust me, ALL smiles are welcome!

We’ve even managed a couple of other trips in the last month or so, but they will have to wait for another post.

So, wherever you are, even though it is probably NOT the Ritz Bar in Paris, raise a glass or an amen to David’s one year survival against all odds. All your thoughts, prayers and supportive comments are so very much appreciated. Bless you!

La Rochelle with Glossis

I promised WEEKS ago to tell you about our last week in France, which we shared with our good friends Tom and Lexi Glossi.

Lexi et Tom chez Pascale et Jacky 26 mai 2017

June flew by with various challenges and July has been about the same, but I find myself with a small lull, awaiting test results and doctors’ recommendations (see CaringBridge for updates), so thought I may as well enjoy a few moments reminiscing.

The one fabulous thing about sharing a favorite place with new people is you have an excuse to see it again. Tom and Lexi arrived on May 19th, and the first few days were a bit rainy and cool. Fortunately, I knew exactly where we should go. I love the La Rochelle Aquarium and especially photographing the strange and the beautiful (and sometimes the strangely beautiful), but I lost most of my photos from 2014 in a hard drive crash. With the Glossis, I had the chance to get some new shots . . . . ↓

When the sun came out the next day, we were off to climb the three famous towers, while David enjoyed some people-watching down below. David is actually in this photo on the right (okay, he’s a tiny speck, but still). Hint: he’s leaning against a rail near the water’s edge.

Tour de la Lanterne

 

 

 

Tom is not a huge fan of heights, but he never complained, even when we were trapped–for a WHILE– between two dawdling groups and had to simply breathe and take in the view from the narrow walkway near the top of Tour de la Lanterne. Not the middle walkway. Nope. We were stuck on the TINY ledge you barely see about two-thirds of the way up the tower. And yes, the railing is only about waist high. Seriously, not one complaint. Well done, Tom.

Meanwhile throughout the week, we had several opportunities to introduce Tom and Lexi to Jacky and Pascale and spend some time together.

Counting on me to translate! (photo by Pascale)

More friends with whom to celebrate another birthday in France . . . .

Birthday dinner at Les 4 Sargeants

Then out into the beautiful La Rochelle evening . . .

Rue St Jean du Pérot (photo by Pascale)

Before we knew it, it was time to say au revoir to La Rochelle and to Jacky and Pascale. À très bientôt, j’espère!

On to Paris for a few nights, though, before heading back to the states. What a treat to have had the opportunity for this French adventure. And what a nice pause from our current concerns to pass a few moments remembering good times.

Rhythm de La Rochelle 2017

After our tourist weekend with Pascale and Jacky, we settled back into our regular La Rochelle rhythm: mornings down to the marché . . . . . . to buy strawberries (definitely), cheese (often), and whatever else looked good, then over a few blocks to my favorite boulangerie for a fresh baguette, then maybe across the street for a bottle of wine. Once we had dropped everything off at the apartment (we LOVED the central location), we’d head to the vieux port, where we’d stroll a bit, sit and people-watch in Cours des Dames, and eventually choose a restaurant for lunch. We could choose a brasserie, bistro, café, or restaurant, depending on our mood and how much we wanted to spend. Although it was always clearly popular, we never got around to trying this one . . .

Le Petit Bleu

But this petite rue also has lots of choices . . .

Or here . . . 

We would often eat at Brasserie des Dames, under the white umbrellas you can see in the distance on the left, right at the beginning of Cours des Dames. But we also liked the friendliness of the staff and the moules frites at Le Pass’port (far right).

Then David would head “home” to the apartment and I would head to my French lesson with Natacha (three to four times a week). She lives over on the other side of the park, so I’d often walk through the parc animalia. There’s one enclosure with about eight peacocks, and weirdly, a few chickens. This year there was also an enclosure with a Jersey cow. Yup. Not your usual zoo fare.

Then, after an hour and half or so with Natacha, I’d head back to the apartment to start work, which would last as long as I could stay awake, somewhere around midnight. I’d do homework during lulls, finishing in the morning when there weren’t enough lulls.

The next morning it would all begin again. We loved the rhythm of our days in La Rochelle. Fortunately, as people who have been known to dance on occasion, we can also enjoy other rhythms!

Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul. ∼Plato

Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances. ∼Maya Angelou

Here’s hoping the rhythm of your days makes you feel like dancing!

Next post: Tom and Lexi in La Rochelle

 

Saint-Émilion 2017

We’re back home in Colorado now, and David has had another round of chemo. See CaringBridge for updates on David’s battle against pancreatic cancer. The break seems to have been very good for him, and we are very grateful it was all possible and went so smoothly.

Toward the end, I was so busy trying to fit everything in, I decided to wait until I got back to share a bit more about our France adventure, so a quick review to get you oriented:

12-14 May 2017 — We spent much of Friday on Île de Ré, then Saturday morning we were off to Bordeaux. Click on the links to see previous posts for details. Here’s part three of the weekend:

We had a lovely evening at the Château de Sanse in Sainte-Radegonde:

Dinner at the hotel. David hamming it up for the camera, apparently, or maybe not convinced about what I’m saying!

The next morning, après petit déjeuner, bien sûr, we headed back west a few kilometers to Saint-Émilion. David and I had been there very briefly on our way south in 2013, but this time we were really going to have a chance to see it. Pascale had done some investigating ahead of time, so here’s what we did first . . .

On the Great Vineyards Train

This little “train” drives around the perimeter of Saint-Émilion, describing the various famous vineyards of the area. We chose the ticket that allowed us to stop and tour one vineyard, complete with a tasting. It was all in French, with a very abbreviated English translation for David, while everyone else looked at David and waited for the real tour to resume.

On the Great Vineyards Train — Saint-Émilion in the distance
Medieval ruelle of Saint-Émilion

Then back to town for lunch. The best restaurants seemed to be on this . . . er . . . street, which we walked down, then back up a few too many times that day. Not easy. The hand rails were actually necessary at points, especially with the ancient cobblestones trying to throw us off balance. But seriously picturesque, non? We ended up in the same restaurant David and I had found the last time we were here.

Then Pascale wanted to see the largest monolithic church in Europe, which happens to be here . . .

Église monolithe de Saint-Émilion

In 2013, David and I had walked right by, snapped a few photos and hit the road. We were on a fairly tight schedule, but still. This time we all climbed back up the little medieval road and went to the tourist office for tickets to get in. The next two tours were sold out, so we had time to seek out a less steep route back here to Place du Clocher (above). The sun came out, which we loved for about ten minutes. But with all the stone it soon got TOASTY. See that tiny corner of shade in the photo? Yeah, we all four crammed in there. Fortunately, the shade expanded as we waited.

Then the tour. No photos allowed, but wow. David made us promise not to reveal that he didn’t understand French; this time it would have been 30 people staring at him. We’d both read the English translation of the info sheet while we were waiting–when we weren’t using it as a parasol–so had the gist, and I translated a bit in whispers as we went along.

The tour included the cave of Saint Émilion, the catacombs, and the monolithic church–some of the most ancient things I’ve ever set eyes on and very much worth the hot wait. Then goodbye to Saint-Émilion . . .

Saint-Émilion

. . . and back home to La Rochelle.

I wonder how many other treasures I’ve obliviously walked right past? What a treat to get a second chance.

i thank you God for most this amazing day

for the leaping greenly spirits of trees

and for the blue dream of sky

and for everything which is natural

which is infinite, which is yes

∼e. e. cummings

Wishing you adventures with dear ones, treasures to appreciate, and second chances if you miss them the first time!

Bordeaux et Chateau de Sanse

David ready for another adventure

The day after our adventure sur l’Île de Réwe packed a bag for the night and were off again with Jacky and Pascale. We were leaving Saturday morning, when the huge marché was in full force and no cars allowed anywhere near our apartment, so we walked a few blocks toward the port and waited there. Then we were off. As always, Jacky drives no matter how far without complaint, and Pascale navigates, aided–sometimes hindered–by the GPS.

We arrived in Bordeaux about two and a half hours later, found parking eventually and started walking. Everything in Bordeaux is BIG . . .

. . . and impressive. The drizzle made everything a bit dreary, but the bistro Pascale had found was cozy and the food was very good.

If you look carefully you can see all four of us in the reflection, mostly David in the center (and an apparently faceless person with light hair, which is me taking the photo).

After more strolling around Bordeaux, a bit hindered by the on- again, off-again rain, and the attempt to avoid making David walk too far, we got back in the car and headed east toward the Saint-Emilion wine country and our hotel.

Sounds easy, right? No, as it happened. Someone had hit one of the signs necessary for pointing us in the right direction, and the sign was now on the ground or otherwise MIA, so we drove around tiny winding roads among the fields and vineyards, looking for someone, ANYONE, to give us directions. The instant we FINALLY found an actual human, Jacky slammed on the brakes, and Pascale leapt out of the car and ran across the road to ask for assistance. It turns out we had been within five minutes of the place for forty minutes or so, but at least it was lovely and green and we were all still laughing about being lost. And when we found it, ahhhhhhhhh.  Here’s the view . . . ↓

View from the terrace of Chateau de Sanse, near Sainte-Radegonde, France

David found this spot immediately . . .

Chateau de Sanse

What a peaceful respite from the crowds this place was. AND, we had left the rain behind!

At the request of Jon Lachelt, here’s a paragraph in French, written as an assignment for my tutor. I think I’ve corrected all the errors she pointed out, plus a few I noticed later that she was too kind to mention, but no promises!

Nous avons passé samedi soir dans un endroit bien paisible et beau. Tout est vert et verdoyant. Après avoir passé l’après-midi à Bordeaux parmi trop de monde, sous la pluie, dans les rues de pierre, dans l’ombre des bâtiments énormes où tout était gris, les arbres, les fleurs et les vignes nous ont laissés respirer, se détendre et décontracter. La vue depuis la terrasse était tellement belle. Même regarder les vaches de l’autre côté de la vallée pouvait me donner un sens de paix. Le bleu du ciel était reflété par le bleu de la piscine, tranquille ce jour-là sans nageurs. Un petit chemin partait de la piscine et descendait dans un bois. Il nous a tenté mais nous n’avons pas envie de remonter la colline. Un autre jour peut-être.

The gist in English, short version: We didn’t really see Bordeaux under the best conditions that day, so it seemed rather grey. On the plus side, that made the green beauty of the hotel and its environs all the more welcome.

David is still doing really well. I posted an update on CaringBridge earlier today, so check that out for details. Way too much fun for one post, so I’ll tell you about Sunday in Saint-Emilion next time.

Wishing you adventures with friends and green oases when the grey gets you down!

 

 

 

Adventures in Wanderlust