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We didn’t know it, that first day of Tessa’s swim team practice in the spring of 2010, but our lives were about to be sliced in two.

Before: we were consumed with the end of the school year. There were report cards, field days, deciding on next year’s school, assemblies. We’d had a wind storm the night before that blew our shed off its foundation. Roger was dealing with some serious problems at work that were weighing him down. I was preparing for a big conference and was feeling similarly weighed down.

Little did we know how heavy things would get.

Minutes after Roger told me “I don’t know if I can take anymore. It’s just too much,” his cell phone rang. It was the slash that would govern our lives for the coming year and beyond.

His dad reported that his mom had had a CAT scan for some pain in her side. It revealed masses on her lung and liver.

Over the next days and weeks the full diagnosis emerged: Stage 4 lung cancer, metastasized to her liver, lymph and bones.

How could this be? Grandma Marshmallow had just visited us for Christmas. She spent Easter with us, and we’d gotten up at 4 in the morning and enjoyed a glorious sunrise at Red Rocks amphitheater together. Surely this diagnosis must be a mistake. Not Lisa, a non-smoker who ate healthfully and was physically active, a loving and well-loved person. Surely she would beat the odds with treatments.

We visited her last summer during her early rounds of chemo. We visited in the winter when the doctors said there was nothing more that could be done. Roger and I met his parents in Florida in February while we were on a business trip. We spent Spring Break with her just weeks ago. Those were her waning days when Grandma Marshmallow was all but bedridden, her energy depleted, her spirit straddling two worlds. We teared up at our goodbyes, knowing we’d likely not see or hear her again.

Grandma Lisa died on April 12 at 8:38 in the morning. Roger had gotten to her side hours before. She was surrounded by her loving husband, son and daughter.

This will take some processing, so bear with me.

Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Find Lori’s books on her Amazon Author page, and catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

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42 Responses

  1. I’m so sorry for your loss. Having lost my mom from cancer (uterine, metastasized to the brain) last November, I can imagine a little bit what you went through during her illness and are going through right now. I am glad Roger was at her side when she died. Take care.

  2. I am so, so sorry for her unexpected and devastating diagnosis and her recent passing. May your memories with her in happier times bring your some measure of comfort as you grieve her passing and beyond.

  3. I’m so sorry for your loss. What a whirlwind year this must have been. There’s never enough time with the people we love, is there?

  4. Your journey this past year is all too familiar – went through similar years ago with my mom’s brother. My thoughts are with you and your husband and the kids.

  5. Words are utterly useless so often, but know that you and your family are in my thoughts. This woman who came here to give you all the gifts she had will linger because you accepted those gifts and knowing what little I do of your own soul, you will give them for others to accept. She will ever linger.

  6. I can also just about pinpoint the moment when my life was sliced. It’s very strange to be able to draw that line in time.

    One thing I’ve found amazing about Roger’s family is the ability to seek and find enjoyment together in the midst of sadder times. Some people just wallow, but they/you make the most of the time available.

    You already know how very sorry I am. Having met Grandma Marshmallow a couple of times and having seen her with all of you, I have even more of a sense of how great your loss is.

  7. I am so sorry for your, Roger and your family’s loss Lori. You all have been in my thoughts and prayers, especially recently. I am so glad that you and Roger had that time together with his parents in Florida in February, among others over the past year since your lives were sliced. I can still remember the bittersweet feelings I had reading your Perfect Moment Monday post about the very special time you shared with Grandma Lisa on the beach.

    I was walking and talking with my mom the other day about how more and more of my peers are losing (or have lost) one or both of their parents or in-laws. We talked about the circle of life and how sad and beautiful it is that as we watch our own children grow and develop that our parents also continue to grow and mature (which usually includes more and more health issues). Though I have lost all four of my grandparents, I can’t begin to comprehend what it is or will be to lose my mother and my father or Bob’s mother and his father. My heart aches for you, Roger and your children. I am so glad that you all had such a wonderful relationship with Grandma Lisa and hope that you find some peace and comfort in your memories of her.

    Holding you all close in my thoughts and prayers as you grieve and process the loss of this very special woman in your life.

    “What we have once enjoyed and loved deeply we can never lose. For all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” ~ Helen Keller

    1. Here from the future via Time Warp Tuesday. I can’t believe it’s been two years since Grandma Lisa died. I have vivid memories of you going through/ processing this loss back then. And I know that these milestones/ anniversaries can be so bittersweet. I just remembered the book you gave me at BlogHer in NYC that belonged to her. I must read that sometime soon. Sending peace, love, light, thoughts and prayers your way as you all remember Grandma Lisa. xoxo

  8. I’m so very sorry for your loss, Lori.
    I’m so glad you had that time with her, with Roger, with your children. I’m so glad he was with her in the end.
    Still sending much love and light to your whole family.

  9. Oh, Lori. I’m so sorry for you loss. There are no words to make this right, but know there are so many out here holding you and your family energetically and wishing you peace.

  10. Oh my friend, Im so very sorry to hear about your loss. I had been keeping her and you all in my thoughts–and I hope you know you will remain there. Sending lots of love and hugs your way.

  11. Oh, Lori! I am so, so sorry for your loss. I wish you peace as you navigate this difficult time in your life, and hope you are able to draw comfort from the wonderful memories that you have of Grandma Marshmellow and from the gift that she gave you in the form of Roger. Gentle hugs to you, my friend.

  12. I am so sorry, Lori. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. May wonderful memories sustain you thorugh this difficult time. Huge hugs to all of you.

  13. I’m so truly sorry for your loss. It’s good to know that you thought so much of you mother-in-law. So many times there isn’t a good relationship that way. Hugs to you all.

  14. Lori, I am sorry.

    She will be remembered always.

    I am hoping that you, your hubby and kids are finding a way to come to terms with the new reality. It must be so hard for your FIL too.

    And Cancer for somebody who had healthy habits is another stick thrown from God’s bundle of irony.

    Warm, warm hugs.

  15. OH Lori, oh no. I should have read this one first. I’m so sorry…the tears are flowing on this side of the computer, my heart is holding yours and your family tight.

    Oh, I am just so sorry for your loss. *hugs*

  16. I am so sorry for your loss. Loosing a parent is truly a difficult thing. I will be holding your family in my thoughts and prayers.

  17. Oh, that is so sad. I am very sorry for the loss of a mil, grandmother and mother.

    Having lived in a house with elevated levels of radon, I always wonder if this is what causes non-smoking lung cancers.

  18. We have lost a beautiful light on this planet, yet gained a radiant angel. Rest in peace, Grandma Marshmallow. You have left behind a legacy and your grandchildren carry many beautiful stories about your time together. Keep watching over them!

  19. Pingback: On death and dying
  20. Belated condolences (finally getting through my backed-up blog reader). I am so very sorry. 🙁 It seems like it never rains but it pours, and yes, cancer is a b*tch. 🙁 Your MIL sounds like she was a wonderful woman & I’m sure you are all going to miss her. Take good care! (((hugs)))

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