Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Marathon...

I did something on March 27th, that I have been wanting to do since the day Mark passed: I attended the Rock n Roll Half Marathon - the 1/2 marathon Mark ran last year. I went with my dear friends Miles and Sarah Durham. We got there late and stayed for about 2 hours. We worked our way to the finish line and a nice police officer took us to the paramedics' tent right at the finish line. My heart pounded being there and I know that this is what Mark lived during the last seconds he was on this earth. I felt very close to him.

Last summer I went to "the site" and it was so surreal. Right next to where I was told Mark collapsed there was a pole with a yellow sign on it with a big black "9" and the word "yellow". When we were there, I turned to Sarah and said "Wow, it's like he is here saying hello!" The number 9 was Mark's trademark through all his athletic events - he even marked his golf balls with a red or black 9.

At the time I was blown away with that I saw, but it brought so much comfort. It is signs like this that kept me going all year - and they have not stopped. There have been WAY too many to list here...some people refer to them as "God's winks,"...I like that.

Even though you see those signs, sometimes you think that those things happen to get you through that moment, but the more they happen to me the more I see God's reassurance and I hear Him say - "Don't doubt that I am here." So I obey.

Back to the marathon - I asked around to see if I could speak with a paramedic that was there last year. When I told them who I was they looked at me like I was crazy for being there. Finally, one of the paramedics (actually the second one to get to him) spoke to me. She was very nice and tried to remember as many details as she could. She showed me exactly where he fell, what his symptoms were, and answered the most important thing to me - Did he have a chance to know what was happening? She said that he probably did not know what was happening, but that he was conscious enough to hear them tell him that he did finish the race and I know that in those few seconds he thought of my girls and me and God.

I was also able to get the images I have been living with for the past year (ones that I had created) out of my mind and saw what he actually lived, breathed, heard, smelled and saw for the last hours of his life up to the last seconds.

So as all of this is happening, Brett Michael (yes, from Poison), is playing in the background and screaming in his typical manner. Of course, this kind of ruined the mood a little and broke up the seriousness of what I was experiencing. This is something that has happened to me throughout this whole year - when I want to get really down Mark won't let me (most of the time).

We stood there for about an hour and a half or so and before the last couple of runners crossed the finish line the police officer let Sarah, Miles, and me cross the finish line. We stood where they told us it all went down. We said a prayer and right then "Every Rose has a Thorn" started playing. Mark played this on the guitar ALL the time. It was perfect. I was actually thankful for Brett Michaels at that moment. Miles got a medal for me and told me I deserved it after the year I have had and what I have accomplished.

We then saw the last person cross the finish line and the very peppy cheerleader finish off the race and ride off on the hood of the pace car. We joked about how she might have been Mark's last thought - she had a lot of energy! The mood was good and I felt so released from the past year. I don't know how to describe it, and please know I hope this does not offend anyone, but I felt like I could start my life again.

I have felt Mark with me at ALL times. This time, as I was leaving the fairgrounds, I felt him say to me that he would be with me, but in a different way now. To live my life, to close the book on the suffering and loss and instead remember the great life he led and we shared together. To take care of the girls and myself, to look forward to my life. And the greatest thing - that he was okay with that.

As we walked out of there, I felt renewed. I never thought that going to the marathon would give me this much peace, but it did. God works in such mysterious ways. You just have to be open to receiving His grace. It is abundant!!!

I waited a couple of weeks to share this experience because I wanted to make sure it was true. That the grief I have felt has been lifted up. So far, even though I have missed him, I feel like Mariana again, as opposed to the grieving young widow and mom of 2. Don't get me wrong, this is very difficult but I felt re-energized and capable to live my life. I feel we have adjusted.

It feels good to breathe again and most of all, continue to feel the hope, faith and trust I have learned to live with this past year. Regardless of what happens, I know He will provide.

I do want to mention that I could not have gotten to this stage of my life without the help and support of all of my friends, family and people I do not even know. The power of prayer is amazing and it has carried me through this experience. As always, I want to thank all of you for every prayer and support given to us. When I have my down and challenging days, I offer it up for all of you who have prayed for us, that you may see God's grace as clearly as I have.

Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we enter this next year of our lives...

Friday, April 1, 2011


An old friend of mine recently experienced a loss at the high school where he coaches.  A student in the senior class was in a condition similar to Keith's and ended up passing away after a couple of months in that condition.  He emailed me wanting to know certain things and after responding I wondered if other people might benefit from me sharing our conversations.  I copied and pasted the communication then realized it was super lame and decided against sharing it.  When I told him I changed my mind about sharing it he told me that I should because it really might be helpful.  I was very frank in my responses and was going to tone them down for this so I don't end up sounding like a total a-hole, but figured if I was sharing my honest thoughts to him then I should share my honest answers on here.  He told me that the bluntness is what makes the answers effective and that the truth is our friend and should be embraced.  This is just my take on my situation and I know that everyone views and appreciates things differently.  How I thought and what annoyed me might have been what got someone else through a similar situation so please know that nothing is meant to offend.  Anyway, this is it and please remember that the responses were to someone I am very comfortable with.  If I was responding to someone different I would've been much more polite.  Feel free to read it if you so desire:

Okay - I'll do my best to answer these. Although very similar, my situation was also very different based on the amount of time that passed. If Keith would've passed away just after two months I don't really know how I would feel. Actually, he was dying (one of the seven times) close to that timeframe. In July he suffered massive heart failure and I was told he wouldn't make it through the night. He also had the same blood infection that Luke had except he acquired it in May as I was giving birth to Brooks. I was told I couldn't even see him even though I was just three floors up because the infection was so severe. I digress...

What did you want to hear? Was it simply people's presence or words?

I didn't really want to hear anything. People are stupid and they don't know what to say so they end up rambling and making no sense. To me, the only people that get it are those who have been through something similar and they are the ones who speak the least.  Just knowing people were there if I needed them was enough.

What encouraged you? What gave you hope?

See, this is going to be TOTALLY different for them. I was encouraged that I could regain my life and move forward. I believe that I will have a second shot at a happy home because I'm still relatively young and Brooks is awesome. I had and still have hope that the Lord has someone else out there for me. However, that family will probably not ever have another son. It's probably like the Beasleys. Keith is gone and that's all they have. In all honesty, it would be extremely difficult in that situation. I mean, what do you hope for? That they come back? That you don't forget the memories because that's all you have? I don't know. I guess you fall back on the fact that as Christians you will see them again so you know it's only a matter of time before that happens.

Was there a sense of relief, closure, bitterness (the range)?

MAJOR relief. Major. It was time and I believe we both knew that. I think that somewhere deep within Keith knew Brooks and I would be okay if he left us and deep within I knew Keith needed to be made whole. My biggest fear was that Keith would remain in that condition forever - or at least until we were grandparents or something. If that was the case, I knew what my future held for me and it wasn't exactly encouraging. I couldn't make plans, I couldn't go out of town, I couldn't do anything because I never knew when Keith would have a downturn and end up back in the ER, then ICU, then who knows where. When I drive by places where Keith was admitted - Baylor Hospital, the nursing home, Select Specialty Hospital - I still blow kisses towards the building, think of him and say, "I miss you, Babe," but I am SO GRATEFUL that I can keep on driving to wherever it is that I'm headed.

Our school is devastated and we even had counselors in to tell the faculty what to say, what not to say, how to respond to the questions.

I would LOVE to know what the counselors told you guys to say and not say. Please indulge...

He was admired by all and folks are just stunned. I don't know if the time itself helped (not losing him right away)? However, maybe you can answer that for me as well. The loss sucks, but I wonder if the time in the coma helped others reconcile - being able to still talk, caress, pray with and for, read to and stuff like that.

Yes, the time helped FOR SURE. Because it was so sudden, the time allowed me to wrap my brain around what was happening and let me get used to being on my own. I still had Keith there so I could go and talk to him, cuddle with him, and try to hash out our situation even though he couldn't respond. The more I did that the more I realized that I COULD do it without him. I wouldn't trade those 18 months for anything. However, I wouldn't wish them upon anyone either. My situation worked for me and it was what I needed to be able to deal with everything. I can't help but believe that your friends had the length of time specific to their needs as well. At least that's what I hope. I hope this is what you were looking for and that it helps in some way. If my answers produced more questions then send 'em over. :)

I think the Srs to whom Luke was close go day to day and are now struggling with the guilt of enjoying themselves, having fun, etc. It was tough because he was such a dynamic young man, ton of integrity. He just drew people to him. He was a starter in baseball, football, basketball and in fine arts as well. Stud. The next big Sr markers: graduation, Sr trip, those might be tough.

If it comes up, tell them there should be NO guilt. Luke would want them to have fun and do things the same as if he was there doing it with them. Of that I am sure. Oh, ha, that reminds me of another thing that people did that was SO ANNOYING. They would send me forwards of stuff that was really lame. The one that comes to mind based on what you said about him is a poem about how God only takes the best. That's how he chooses who to call Home - only the best. It said how Heaven needed that person more than the people left on Earth. This type of stuff drove me crazy because 1) it's lame and 2) it's foundationally wrong.

You had a great trip to *Eden* I see! How are you these days?

The Virgin Islands were SO MUCH FUN. Jessica and I had a blast. It was tough, though, because that was one of the last trips I took with Keith. Jessica and I stayed at the same house and ended up doing a lot of the same stuff (restaurants, beaches, etc) from when I was there before so it's like I saw Keith everywhere. However, by doing that I think I am crossing bridges that will ultimately take me to where I want to be.

I think what was most striking/cringe-worthy was the 'prophecies' the family received and probably you, too.  "Your son will wake up on the 40th day!"  Uh, no, he didn't and he died on the 72nd day.  I know folks meant well, but that stuff in the midst of our prayers may have been a buoy to them for a moment.

The prophecies and visions made it much more difficult. I've wondered about it because on one hand it gave me hope, but on the other hand the people were wrong. Hope is good, but it made it that much harder once Keith was gone. Of course the people meant well, but it was still a pretty crappy deal.

We got the news on the way home from a baseball game and I had one of his best friends in the car with me. I told him and he just sobbed all the way home. You know, Luke was essentially ‘gone’ but the finality of that moment really struck me. For you, what was that moment like when it was ‘final’?

The final was one that I dreaded. I didn't want to be there. Of course I was each time they said it was happening, but I never wanted to actually see it. I would go to be there for Keith, but deep down I didn't want to be there. I didn't want to see him take his last breath and realize he would never take another. It's not how I wanted to remember him. Consequently, the day it happened I wasn't there. His mom was at the nursing home and the nurses asked her to step out while they bathed him. He passed away during the bath. When she came back in she said that he looked different, something was different. She called me immediately and said, "Judy, honey, you need to get up here now." I could tell by her voice that something was different. I knew what was going down and I took my time getting ready. I didn't just change clothes real fast, I decided what I wanted to wear. It was really strange because I thought: what am I going to wear the last time I see Keith? I did this before at the hospital when I stopped his medicine and blood pressure medication. His family flew in and I remember wearing my shirt that appropriately says: Save Me. Anyway, the phone rang a minute or two later - not more than five - and I was simply told, "He's gone." My shoulders relaxed and I let out a deep breath. My mom gave a loud wail and we hugged while she said, "He's at peace. He's whole. He's with the Lord." Then I dried my hair and went up to see his body. It's a very strange and surreal situation. It's so crazy to me that I even have that story to tell.

So, is it cathartic to go through the details of the 'day' or does it just suck the life out of you?  Yeah, when do you start to process "I'm available"?

Nope, not cathartic.  At least not yet.  It just pretty much blows - for lack of a better term.  I found out the other day that he's still frozen.  That sucked too.  It's exhausting.  Takes a bunch out of me.  I actually blogged about it earlier since my wheels were turning after emailing you. 

Thanks again for taking the time to respond. Cory and I pray for you often and my prayer specifically for you is for Brooks to have a father that loves God so much that all he can do is have that love pour out to you and Brooks…and that he has lots of money!

Hahahaha - keep that prayer going...I like it. You hit the nail on the head!  :)