When I return to Maui as the seasons pass, I realize how much I've healed over the years.
There is still sadness when I look out over the rolling Pacific and remember the day, six years ago, when I said my final good-bye's to Leroy, but now, there's peaceful remembering too.
And then, I meet new visitors to the island and they are just beginning their healing journey. They've come to this place to forget for a few days the pain they are feeling at the loss of loved ones. Two women, great friends, who lost their husbands to cancer a year apart and have come to Maui to escape their memories.
I see the sorrow in their faces. I see the cancer wrinkles from the worry and care giving. They are trying so hard to be happy in this happy place. It's hard.
One woman swims until she can't swim anymore. Another can't sit still and I'm sure that's because when she stops moving, she remembers: better to keep moving.
Who knows, maybe I'll see them again as the years go by and I'll see them healing.
These cancer journeys have a beginning...the first few steps are the hardest.
PONO...."At peace." "Everything is alright."
Another beautiful day on the island....a peaceful day....Aloha to all...
Out of the shadows we find our way. We're each on our own time table too.
There are two women visiting Maui, both have lost their husbands recently to cancer. They came here to begin the healing, but from the sound of it, they've come to realize it's a process and even though this beautiful island is full of healing places, they still have miles to go before their true healing takes place.
There is no running away from the heart ache. There is no running away from the grief. Those seven stages of grief mean something and we all have to pass through each door at our own pace.
The roots of my healing are here because this island meant so much in my life with Leroy. Each visit brings an additional layer of comfort to my heart.
In a way, each visit paves the way to my future without Leroy. Each year, I grow a little stronger, using his memory to help guide me: good lessons learned and good lessons for the future.
The Hawaiians have a saying: "E ho ikaika Ke ia Mua iho"...
"Much strength for the distant future."
Aloha...good weekend to all.
"Malama Pono," Hawaiian words that mean "take care and stay strong."
Important for all of us who have walked cancer's path....survivor, patient, care giver.
We need these words as we go through our battle, come through our battle, or care for our loved ones as they face their battle.
And for those who have loss from cancer, these words mean so much too.
I look out over this beautiful ocean and watch the palm trees sway in the trade winds and I do get strength from the power that this little island gives my soul. It wraps it's warmth around me and there is a peacefulness here, knowing that my loved one is free from cancer's grasp. He is at peace.
These days here on Maui, have given me the feeling of peace too. Gradually, and it's taken a long time, but gradually that peace is becoming more comfortable.
Malama Pono...to all. "Take care and stay strong."
There are some things we just can't explain.
Some times it's better that way.
My trips to Maui these past six years, first to scatter Leroy's ashes on October 21st 2008, and these years to follow, I have had some "odd" experiences that have connected me to him. As a Maui friend said to me last night, "You never know how, but he always lets you know he knows you're here."
I do a mini "paddle-out" for Leroy every year, a Hawaiian tradition to remember loved ones. Our amazing friends here never forget to make flower lei's in his honor. I bring Fall leaves from home, and his favorite Snickers candy bar and a Mai Tai. Leroy never drank Mai Tai's unless we were here on Maui.
So, with that in mind, it was time to "remember" the Big Guy yesterday....
I had collected all the items, except the Mai Tai and went to the pool bar that was packed with happy vacationers. The bar manager flagged a bartender for me and I made my order. When he turned to hand me the drink, he looked at me and said, "I've added angel's wings." "YOU need an angel today." "I know you need an angel today."
I looked down to see two pineapple wedges placed on the edge of the cup and they looked exactly like angels wings! I looked at the bartender and said "YOU have no idea what you just said." When I explained it, he grabbed my hand, held it in his hands, and kissed it.
My sister and I paddled-out and had our special ceremony and it was special....
Maui....my special place...OUR special place. On angels wings....
The day was much like this one....a beautiful sunshine day.
The trade winds built as the hours passed.
The ocean, his ocean, my ocean would be welcoming.
I scattered his ashes on this day six years ago.
It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. I was filled with so much sorrow and so much loss.
This morning, I walked to the spot, smiled as I looked out on the rolling Pacific and said a quiet prayer. The sun was just beginning to smile on the ocean and therewere just a few feather-like clouds that turned pink as the mist and the sun warmed the air.
A perfect beginning to a day as the sun rises on a remembering day.
"A hui hou" ...Till we meet again.
I have so many pictures of Leroy at so many different stages of his life.
They begin when he was just an infant sitting on the grass at home in Southern California. It's a sunny day and he's smiling and I see that little face and even at that young age, I see the man. I see the adventurer, I see the smart guy, I see the little boy who would grow to be 6 foot-5 and I can almost hear the laugh.
I have two pictures near the computer where I'm typing and they are among my favorites. He's standing with a glass of wine in his hand, his other hand is on his knee and he's relaxed and there's that smile again. The other photo is from Iraq. He's dressed in his camouflage gear, a bandana over his hair and he's in the middle of the desert with tanks everywhere. But, there's that smile. A huge smile in the middle of a war, but he's with friends and he's in no danger...at least not in that picture.
Some would say I probably have too many Leroy pictures and Leroy memento's around the house. I couldn't disagree more.
At one point they were hard to look at because they made me so sad. But now I look at them and they bring a smile to my face. I've broken through that deep, sad time when even his name would bring a tear. Now, I've pushed away the force that worked so hard to keep me from remembering that these pictures were moments in his life that made him real: they made him alive and he was living in his time.
These pictures captured that lightning in a bottle moment that was Leroy Sievers. I was lucky enough to spend some time inside that bottle.
I'm even luckier to be able to relive some of it in pictures.
I looked down at the ground this morning at all the leaves. Most of them are yellow and various shades of brown. That's how Fall always begins: with the early, worn out leaves of the summer. But just a few feet away there was a little sprinkling of what's to come....bright red maple leaves, brilliant in their Fall clothes. I gathered up the few that were on the ground and they are now tucked away for a long journey West.
Six thousand miles from here, they will find their way to an ocean shore. They will bring a little piece of "home" to Leroy's resting place.
It's tradition that I bring with me some of what he loved so much about being home. Fall was always a favorite time of year because of the colors. Our canal walks had a better pace in the Fall because the air was so crisp. We would watch the colors along the C and O Canal Towpath change by the day.
It's almost like someone gives those trees a brush stroke of color every evening so they greet the sunrise with new Fall color until they almost glow in orange and red and yellow hues.
I'll gather other important pieces that will be a part of my annual remembrance on the beach. The Snickers bar, the Mai Tai, so many of his favorite things.
It's hard to imagine it's already been another year.
I wonder if he wonders where I've been?
There is no escaping it. We all go through it at some point in our lives. Some of us go through loss earlier than others, so we're introduced to grief at an earlier point on our journey. No matter when, it is painful.
I was introduced to a woman over the weekend who is suffocating in her grief.
Her loss, the death of a parent, has enveloped her totally. We took a long walk and she talked about her lack of motivation. She stopped working. She doesn't exercise any more.
I could tell just by looking at her, that she's not sleeping and she's probably not eating well either. She's sad...so sad. The world has turned gray.
As we turned corners and covered the neighborhood, slowly she opened up and the sadness poured out of her. I felt like she hadn't exhaled in months.
After convincing her that she needs to start living again and stop dwelling on what's been taken from her life, her clouds parted, in a manner of speaking...
"I used to be a sassy girl," she said with a faint smile.
I told her to go find her "sassy" because it's still in there, it's just been covered by so much "sad."
Remember when clinical trials in cancer world really were just that: a trial balloon that most patients stepped away from for fear of getting some strange drug that would hasten their demise. Cancer trials USED TO BE scary stuff.
Now doctors and patients alike, look for trials that will fit where they are in the progression of their cancer. Trials hope to be the standard treatments of tomorrow, but plenty of them are being used today to help kill some cancers.
A friend of mine who lost her husband to a blood cancer a few years ago, heard about a trial that may have made an impact on her husband's life IF it had been available just a few years ago. It's moving into phase III now, so plenty of patients are applying to make it into the study. HOPE has stepped up to the plate with this new drug because it's shown signs of lengthening lives and providing a better quality of life for those with this type of cancer.
Clinical trials are HOPE, wrapped up in new emerging treatments and drugs that blast away cancer cells like never before.
We've talked about "paying it forward" here so many times and there's no better way that to enter a study.
Researchers learn from these trials, some patients get a longer, better life from these trials and cancer gets clobbered in a new, dynamic procedure.
That's an equation that adds up to HOPE