Thursday, August 20, 2015

Don't be mad

I'm feeling completely overwhelmed tonight.   I was lump-like on the couch looking at the mess surrounding me and I felt like I needed to escape to stay sane.   I headed to the cemetery and  walked around in the twilight,  feeling like a miserable failure.  I was angry at myself that I couldn't muster more energy, I heard Alisa's voice tell me, "Don't be mad at yourself, Sonja." 

It struck me again what a gift her last words to me were.  I don't think I've written down yet the story of her last words to me.  I say "last words" a little loosely, as we had a conversation about many things on that last day she was conscious.  She asked me to write her obituary and to help Josh pick a headstone.  She told me that she wanted a plain headstone with nothing on it "Not even my name."  She was not entirely herself that day and some of the things she said she weren't quite right.

Her friend, Jennie, had texted me and told me that I should come see Alisa that day, that she was slipping away fast.  She said that she had been with her for a couple of hours and only a few things she said were really appropriate for the context.  So I made arrangements and went down.  I'm so glad I did.

As I drove, I considered what I wanted to tell her.  Josh was in the room and he got to hear it too.  I wanted her to know how much she has meant to me in my life and how much I truly love her.  I told her so and told her how sad I was that it had taken cancer for me to stop being jealous of her.   I had written her a long letter about it, thanking her for loving me no matter what and for helping me with so much throughout my life.  After I started telling her some of these things in the same spirit as the letter, she told me she had read it.   I can't remember what else she said, but then she said, "Sonja, don't be mad at yourself." Then in a bossy tone, "Josh, don't let Sonja be mad at herself."  Josh and I both laughed and Josh assured her that he wouldn't.  It seemed like a strange comment in the context--a bit of the delirium of someone whose mind was failing.

But it stayed in my mind and I wondered about it as I drove home that night.  The next day I was going down again and was picking up my sister, Kirsten, so she could go see Alisa.  I was late getting out the door and knew I'd have to almost turn right back around to pick up kids from school.  As I was backing out of my driveway, I was cursing my perpetual tardiness and I heard myself say, "I'm so mad at myself!"  As I said it, I realized that it is a phrase that often passes through my mind.  And then just as strong, I heard Alisa's command, "Sonja, don't be mad at yourself."

Many times in the past few months, I've caught myself getting angry at my weaknesses.  And many times I hear her last advice to me.  I can't tell you what a powerful gift they are.  She knew me so well--maybe better than I know myself.   By the end of her life, Alisa had such a beautiful and merciful life perspective.  I think she understood that negativity was wasted energy and time and just did her best and left it at that.   And so with her words and her example, I plan to remember that just like everyone else, I am doing my best.   And while I can certainly strive for better, being angry at myself wont help.

My beautiful sister on her 35th birthday

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A trip to Lava Hot Springs

Several years back, Alisa had this fun idea to have an "originals" day trip to Lava Hot Springs.  So my siblings and parents (without spouses or kids) all met in Idaho.  It was so much fun.  I have so many siblings and we are spread out enough that our parents used to take us on separate vacations.  We think that this was the first and only vacation that was with all of us and only us.  

It was such a fun memory.  Alisa and I often talked about doing it again with our kids some summer day.  But it seemed like there was always something else (like cancer treatments) holding us back.  

One day in July I suddenly had the thought that we should make that trip happen for Alisa and her boys.  I almost felt like she had whispered the idea in my ear.  So I set a date and made plans.  And we did it!  It was a rainy day, but the hot springs make all the water warmer so it was really fun and not crowded at all.  We all pushed past some fears and were brave like she was.  Josh jumped off all the platforms and I went down the big slides.  Luke braved the river.  It was just a great thing.  I felt like she was bringing us together. 

Here are some pictures from both trips.

The ride up--not a flattering picture of me, but I can't help but smile when I see it anyway.
All of us
She was a brave one!

Steven and James down the river.

Out of fifteen pictures of us on the river, this is the only one I don't look absolutely terrified in!  And you can't see it, but we have Steven's leg in the middle of our tube.
Tubing the river is my favorite thing there--and it's the only thing we took pictures of.  Don't miss it if you go to Lava.