Archive for July, 2008

Miles to go

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Hi Everybody! This is Shayna writing. Though most of you won’t know me, Andrea was my good friend and a wonderful friend to my daughter too. We miss her. (great big sigh) Towards the end, I told my daughter, Jahna that we needed to say goodbye. I told her to think of the things that she wanted to say to Andrea. By this time Andrea was heavily medicated most of the time, so visits were unpredictable. Sometimes she was asleep. Sometimes she was upset. One day, perhaps a week before she died, we planned a visit. Jahna had written out the things that she wanted to tell Andrea. It was a list of all the things Jahna liked about her. We finally got to see her late one night and lucky for us she was awake. It was the last time I talked to her at length and it was really perfect. We told her how much we would miss her and how we loved her so much. She told us she loved us too. She said she wasn’t scared. That always amazed me. As usual, the kids were in and out of the room and Andrea was talking to them, directing them, advising. She was a mother right up to the end, telling Alec what phone he should get, telling Jesse which bedroom he should pick at the new house, talking about clothes for Bailey’s new school. She gave me some good advice too. She told me that when it comes to love that no one is perfect, that everything goes in cycles. She told me to be patient and to stick things out. Then her eyes started to shut. And I just held her hand and Jahna hugged her goodbye. Jahna still had her list, but Andrea was too tired so we left.
These are some of the things from Jahna’s list:
1. Her feet were a size ten (which made me feel better about my feet).
2. She only did her food shopping at Trader Joe’s.
3. She intimidated everyone.
4. She looked beautiful and put on make up even when she was really sick.
5. She knew everybody.
6. She had great fashion.
7. I loved to just be with her.
8. She told good stories.
9. She had a “Looking Good for Jesus” tote bag.
10. Her house was full of good energy.
11. She was totally different from anyone I had ever met.
12. She dressed Clay like a rock star.
13. She was hilarious.
14. When she ordered pizza, she told the pizza guy how to cook carmelized onions because he always did it wrong.
15. She had a mink stole (that always scared me)
16. She loved leopard print.
17. She rocked at board games.
18. She totally loved God and was never embarrassed to talk about it.
19. She really was a punk rock mommy.
20. She always told me how much she loved me

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Last year I walked 60 miles in three days to raise funds for the Susan J. Kohmen Foundation. I walked in Andrea’s honor and it was really fantastic. I raised 2200 dollars in her name. Most of that money came in through people that I had never even met. People that read this blog, that loved her.

Andrea was really happy that I was doing the walk. At one point, I had walked about 40 miles and she called me up all excited. She had just gotten some seemingly good news about a scan and wanted to tell me about it. It was an optimistic time. She told me she was proud of me and said she could never walk 60 miles. I told her that fighting cancer was so much harder– but she said that she would rather have cancer than walk 60 miles! That was Andrea’s kind of humor. Well, this year my step daughter, Erin and I are both walking in honor of Andrea… in celebration of her life. It has been a great honor for me to be a part of her life and her death… and a part of her family. As much as I miss her everyday, I feel so lucky too. So, I do this walk as a thank you to Andrea —for the time she gave and for her six completely awesome kids and in hopes that someday soon research will lead to medicines that give women like Andrea more time. Please visit our sites and thanks to everyone.

http://08.the3day.org/goto/shayna

http://08.the3day.org/site/TR/Walk/SanFranciscoBayAreaEvent?px=1807081&pg=personal&fr_id=1188

Taking it all in stride (one step at a time)

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

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I don’t feel like I get to miss my wife as much as I’d like to. When I do it hits me like a ton of bricks. I hope that soon things will slow down enough that I find time to sit down and remember her and actively miss her. I just worry that being a single parent is so overwhelming and details fade from memory so fast… I just want to hold on to some thing.

Things have been moving along how they do, sometimes easy, sometimes seemingly more than I can handle. Contemplating giving up Slo (the basset pup) as a toddler and a puppy is a bit much for me right now. This is a bitter pill as Andrea was really on me to try to make the puppy work out… Alas I can’t do it on my own and the kids are less than thrilled about training a pup no matter how cute he is. Sooo Any takers ? As for everything else I feel like I am settling into a single parent groove ok but everything else is coming pretty slowly.
I have a bunch of stuff to get organized, Andrea’s stuff to pack a million phone calls to make, accounts to close …ect. I tend to knock about one of these things of my list a day at the most. The list is getting smaller, but still a bit overwhelming. We’ll get through it all eventually. I joined a gym with the boys and they have been trading off days working out with me . This is great for me because it makes me work out every day. They are really enjoying it much to my surprise and I used work out daily for years so I have a lot that I can teach them.

Finally I just want to say that I miss writing what I call the Morrisey blogs, You know sugary sweet and all about love. Sorry it turns out that I was writing those for Andrea and you guys got to read along, the thing is now I don’t feel sweet about much… cept clay, I try to be hard but he cracks me every time.

thanks for stoppin by
Kelly

Growing Pains

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

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Our grief seems to manifest itself in many strange ways. Collectively we have: Building a blanket cave in our room and living there, not doing chores, calling the puppy names, pooping in the tub (ok that may just be because he can), starting fights over dumb stuff, starting fights with everyone in the house, professing unrequited love to a close family friend, unsuccessfully looking for blind dates on the internet, retail therapy, playing video games well past bedtime, still not doing chores and acting confused when it is brought to ones attention that the house is a mess, answering every question with “I Don’t know”, being uptight with those only trying to help, living on the internet… ect.

I guess we are all right on track, beautifully F’ed up. Seems pretty much perfect for now. The trick is to catch one self or call each other on it. I frequently have to remind the kids and myself that things are seldom what they seem. When we are jammed up about the “little stuff” if we take a minute to feel we will usually arive at “Damn, I miss her.”

Other than that I have been working my way though a little bit of the stuff I need to every day. Car insured, license renewed, ect. Apparently the social security benefits that Andrea though the kids would be getting don’t exist. Apparently she didn’t work enough in her lifetime to have the government do anything for the kids. Lousy, because that was to be a big part of my child care fund. Folks are always asking if they can help… so yes, If you are good with kids (and I know you) if you want to take Clay somewhere and do something with him for a few hours here and there ( especially during the rest of the summer) so I can have some time to pack, make appointments, go to the gym, make an AA or church meeting…. That would be super helpful. If you want to come over some night and cook our food and have dinner with us… That would be supper helpful (ha ha get it). I get a strange pleasure a out of knowing that Andrea would be rolling her eyes at that last one. In case you didn’t know I married the queen of the eye rollers.
I feel like the universe (that means you) has already been more than generous for this lifetime, But fyi any donations to the paypal account at this point will most likely go to childcare… And that would be helpful. I am trying to do the best I can as a single parent and some days are better than others. Unfortunately I can’t multi task like the missus used to.

As we of the secret handshake like to say.

This too shall pass.

Kelly

measured in moments

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

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My apologies for making you all wait it out. Its hard to be here right now. I want to honor my soulmate and at the same time am struggling hard to get out of cancerland and on with the business of living. Single parenthood has its ups and downs but I am so in love with my little man that its worth every exhausting minute. The other kids I love equally but they are easier (they can talk) and Andrea did such an amazing job raising them. I have been busy taking care of as much stuff as I can before I go back to work 3 days a week. Some moments I feel free to laugh with friends, other moments an overwhelming emptiness washes over me. I’m sure it is the same for the kids. It manifests itself in different ways with each, but I know them so I see it. Being a widow is strange. It is not being single. Being the widow of someone as well loved as Andrea makes me feel both like royalty and totally untouchable at the same time. To a certain degree this is true ( I did a reality check with a few close friends and they agreed.) Grieving, I think for men seems to intensify you baser needs. I feel guilty for being that cliche. I guess I miss being held at night the most. Andrea was my true love, so much so that I got the words true love tattooed down the backs of my arms shortly after meeting her like some decoration of purpose or saying I believe in true love. Cancer is so hard to go through with your lover. The loss gets deeper as you go but you need to make it ok for your partner. Loss of breasts… People would say “they’re just breasts” in trying to help. As if I shouldn’t feel loss over this. They were beautiful breasts and as a husband they were often quite comforting. The loss continues and one by one things that I love about my wife disappear. Probably the hardest was the last 3 months with the growing need for pain killers. I began to miss her before she was gone. This was not the woman I fell in love with although enough of her shone through that I was still madly in love. Now that she’s gone I feel a little bit empty and scattered. The familiar doesn’t always comfort me in the way it used to. I guess I equate it with loss. When I step outside my social circle I don’t have to talk about cancer if I don’t want to and that is nice. I am starting to focus energy into taking care of myself again. This is something that I did little of in the last 6 months. I have to be doing things now that are healthy for me so that I actually have something to give the children because I feel about empty now. It would be nice to be on speaking terms with God again. It’s not that we aren’t talking its just that my understanding of God got a little rocked in the long hours of Andrea’s death and is now in flux. It is what is and I’m really hoping not to get 100 spiritual advisers on the comment list. I hope this still helps people out there. I’m no punk rock mommy.

Batman and BBQ

Friday, July 18th, 2008

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Today was the day we had decided to celebrate Alec’s 18th B day and Bailey’s 11th. We went to see the dark knight movie and ate barbecue till we were stuffed at famous dave’s. It was a fun time for all the kids and our extended family of adults as well. Things like this are still hard for me, I miss my wife and sometimes being around the whole crew that has been there through the last few months of Andreas life makes me a little uncomfortable. I feel like I’m still stuck in cancerland. My wife really made it all tolerable. Starting over is really hard. I think I’ll feel a lot better when I go back to work a little more in a few weeks. I did get to watch clay eat his first rib and that made my night. He intently gnawed on it till there was no meat and his face was covered with sauce.I really need to thank everyone who has helped out over the last year in any way. Those of you that helped out financially really allowed me to be there for Andrea over the last couple months and now with the kids full time for another couple weeks. I’m not sure you can understand how huge that is unless you’ve been there but let me tell you it is appreciated.

Stay Classy Blog Readers
Kelly

Love letter from the other side.

Monday, July 14th, 2008

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Andrea’s memorial and a private party at Tattooed Moms happened today. I will write more about this later, but for now I wanted to post the eulogy that I paraphrased today at her memorial.

Hello friends. Welcome. I need to take a moment speak for Andrea and thank you. This is her farewell, as she planned it and I don’t doubt that she is here smiling upon all of you.

Ephesians 2:8-10
8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

I don’t crack a bible nearly as often as I should, and when I read this I wept. These words spoke to me because I cannot think of a verse that more accurately embodies Andrea’s story. I believe that god spoke though her to many in an organic relational way that allowed them to see the beauty within her soul. Her spirit was so much larger than life that even in dying she gave strength to those around her.

Those of you that know me will tell you that as far as the women go I have a type. That said they will probably also agree with me when I say when I saw her outside the bean on south street, I didn’t stand a chance. After a 5 minute conversation about nothing much, I thought about her non stop for days. Fortunately God (or was it Fran) handed me her number and I soon found out that she had been equally rocked. We talked on into the night (7 hours to be exact) and I fell deeper and deeper in awe of this woman. Over the years She has become, my lover, my partner, my best friend and most worthy adversary, my student and my teacher, and the mother of my son. Though I wanted so badly to grow old together and enjoy what John waters refers to as our Autumn years together, I will try not to be greedy, for God has spoken volumes to me through Andrea and my cup will remain full with her love and memory for years to come. The last thing Andrea taught me was the true essence of love between a man and a woman. Cancer is not pretty, It consumed the things I was originally attracted to, Pain meds are not kind, they provide relief but take away clarity, in the end looking into her eyes was my only solace, and that was enough. I know love and I am blessed.

It is impossible to think about Andrea without thinking about motherhood. It seems that almost everyone from the Philly punk scene days has a nick name and she was frequently spoken of as Andrea with all the kids. These days she is known to thousands as the punk rock mommy. Andrea was always on when it came to being a mommy. I remember her seeing a crying child sitting alone in pendot. She walks over to the child and says where’s your mommy? The child keeps crying. She says do you want me to pick you up? The little boy nods yes. The mother soon returns holding a newborn and grateful to Andrea for calming her child. I remember thinking that if I did that I’d probably get arrested. Andrea honed here unique style of outside the box parenting over the years and loves to talk shop with other parents. She liked to say she was raising productive members of the revolution. I probably shouldn’t speak for Tony, but I will, in saying that being a mother is work and being a great mother to some of the most amazing kids that most folks will ever meet is a full time job and I think we are both proud to have been a part of that. Financing a small army isn’t always easy. Parenting beside Andrea for the last four years have been the best times of my life. They have been years filled will laughter and amazement. She taught me how to do this and it is my honor to carry the torch for her and continue raising them as she would. Keeping promises I made to her and respecting her wishes for them. Alec Jesse Asa Tucker Bailey and Clayton, You may not know this but I fell in love with you guys at first sight too.

Andrea was diagnosed with cancer the day after she finished up her BA at Temple. She was diagnosed with stage three inflammatory breast cancer (which is a rare and aggressive form of hormone driven cancer). After the first round of scans her prognosis was changed to stage four or terminal. Andrea accepted this with little self pity and went about the work of fighting her cancer if only to have a little longer with the kids and I. It took me a little while longer to come to peace with the thought of losing my wife. Andrea spent the next three months on a toxic cocktail that made her ill most of the time. I spent that time withdrawn and terrified of getting my heart broken. It was beautiful watching the loving and smart way she broke the news to the kids, always the mother always the teacher she launched into the perfect unrehearsed lesson plan kind of like mommies dying of cancer 101. It was amazing to watch, who does that? Andrea approached her disease with a level of acceptance and measure of grace which I can only view as gods light shining through. She started a blog with spiritual overtones that touched and inspired thousands. She pulled herself out of her nauseous comatose state to go to fund raisers and other cancer related events taking the time to thank and embrace her friends. Bands broken up for years even reformed in her honor (if only for one night). She received quite a bit of press both in news papers across the nation, and radio and television interviews. I frequently teased her that she had celebrity cancer. She walked into chemo with her spirits bright and her head held high while it seemed that some of those around her felt dead already. I began to look forward to chemo day as well because it became like a date for us. Andrea played what we began to call the C card hard fast and often when it came to her children. She made the right connections to get her children into amazing schools and made sure they would be well taken care of. I could go on and on but my point is that Andrea turned this tragedy into a gift and gave it to all of us. Her spirit was so strong that sometimes it was hard to believe she was sick at all. Cancer may have killed her, but still did not defeat her as she lived and laughed and loved till the day she died.

A Day To Remember

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

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The memorial is Monday July 14th at:
New Life Philadelphia Presbyterian Church
425 East Roosevelt Blvd (At D Street and Bingham Street, next to the park…looks like a synagogue)
Philadelphia, PA 19120
Phone: 215-324-4566

The memorial is scheduled to start at 9:30am

There will be light refreshments afterwards.

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

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My lovely wife passed away at 10:30 this morning. She had a long slow decline from breathing complications that started at around 4 in the afternoon on the 4th. Perfectly fitting as she always loved fireworks so much in fact that she tried to talk me in to having our wedding on the fourth of July. Take a moment to think of her when you see the sky light up. Last night was by far the hardest night of my life (which says a lot), but the peace that remained and the knowledge that the pain is gone was truly awe inspiring. Orion and Naomi will go down in my list of saints forever as they stood by me through all. The children got to hold their mommy and whisper sweet nothings into her ear one last time as I called them home from the forth of July festivities when I became sure that she would cross over soon. She was well medicated but responded to them in a way that was painfully beautiful to watch. I have been up since 6 am yesterday and am grieving the loss of my best friend, but know that I am lucky to have shared the kind of love we had with her. If you want to know how you can help, you can… Pray for us, give us some room to grieve, hug your children like never before, and if you want to share $ I will be dividing the paypal donations between a trust for the kids, summer fun for the kids and clays child care.

I am so sorry to bring you sadness

Kelly

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

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Rest

In

Peace

My last blog

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

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If you are reading this, it means I have passed. I decided to put some final thoughts together in the hope that it will be of comfort to my friends and family. But also to those of you I never met but who felt a connection to me through this blog.

Blog. I hate that word. It is so silly and trivial. I thought of this as an online journal. One designed to keep my loved ones aware of what was happening to me. I wrote as honestly as I was able. I have looked at many older entries and realized that my feelings about death, dying, and cancer changed as I grew more sick. While I never feared death I often feared treatment.

Cancer treatment is hard. Really hard. The chemo, scans, medications…it is physically daunting. I was willing to subject myself to it all to have even a little more time with my husband,children,and loved ones. It was worth it. I would say that I packed a lot of living into that year while I was dying. I was still me. I was still engaged with my friends. I still was able to love and be here for all of them when they needed me. I still changed diapers and played games. Kelly and I fought like a married couple and loved like one too.

I learned a lot over the year that I battled this dreaded disease. I learned that it is not in our best interest to hold out expectations to God. He is not Santa Clause. He does what is right and good. This was my path. My journey in this world was difficult and painful but important in my spiritual growth. I learned that we have to be happy despite our circumstances. We can’t say I will be happy when…. No sweeties be happy now because today is all you have.

I learned that all the small stuff is very small and not worth your time and attention. Gossip and resentments,worrying about things that never happen, fearing the unknown. Let it go my lovelies, breath and just be good to each other. I realized not long after my diagnosis that life is too short to spend it hurting people and holding onto the anger we have for those around us. I am no doormat, but I just let go of all that hard core resentment. God forgives us through the blood of His Son. He forgives those who hurt us as well.

I am sure that some of you are profoundly saddened by my passing. Death is far more about the living than the dead. But I believe in my whole heart that this is what was meant to be for us all. My friends rallied around us and supported us in every way imaginable. What an incredible gift. That was a lesson in selflessness for them. And in acceptance for my family. My children have many wonderful people to rely on. Their father, step father, grandparents, and friends. I have no doubt that they will be devastated. But in time these wounds will heal and reveal themselves to be battle scars that serve as a testimony to their inner fortitude. My children will move mountains.

Kelly wants to keep the journey going. He intends to chronicle about their lives without me. About the loss and the recovery from tragedy. Maybe you will all be as uplifted and comforted by his words as well. My children will write too, sharing their experience. Thank you all for participating in my life. For providing sweet words of encouragement and prayer. I pray that none of you will ever get cancer, it sucks. But if you do or someone you love does I pray some of my words are a comfort to you all. Have a wonderful life. I will have a wonderful afterlife.

Andrea Collins Smith