If you’re lucky enough to be in the mountains, you’re lucky enough!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

In Memoriam

Carolyn N ~ 1944-2010

We generally don't put much up on the blog aside from running, but this morning I need to have a few minutes to write out some thoughts about my mother-in-law after she passed from this life today.  For the past seventeen months, Carolyn has battled appendix cancer which is very rare and, as we would find out in the process, a very disgusting disease.  I have thought of many things over these past months that I would say about cancer, but none of them seem appropriate now.  It is a beast, it steals life from the strong and weak alike, and I honor the men and women who devote their lives to matching wits against it.  Yet cancer reveals things below the surface that may stay hidden otherwise.  Carolyn's indomitable will to live in the face of a grim outlook and horrific suffering confirmed a character that we knew all along.  As I mentioned yesterday, it was a battle of the titans between her and cancer and her legacy was cemented by the fierce battle she waged.  When she finally put down the sword, there was nothing left to give to the fight.  Though robed in sadness at our loss, we are proud of her and will be forever.  
As I mused the past few days over the colossal clash unfolding, I was drawn time and again to one of the epic poems of the English language, Milton's Paradise Lost, as he attempted to describe what the battle in the heavens of good versus evil might look like, and I relate it in my mind to the battle between life and cancer:

Excerpt from Paradise Lost, Book VI:

... The horrid shock. Now storming fury rose,
And clamour such as heard in Heaven till now
Was never; arms on armour clashing brayed
Horrible discord, and the madding wheels
Of brazen chariots raged; dire was the noise
Of conflict; over head the dismal hiss
Of fiery darts in flaming vollies flew,
And flying vaulted either host with fire.
So under fiery cope together rushed
Both battles main, with ruinous assault
And inextinguishable rage. All Heaven
Resounded; and had Earth been then, all Earth
Had to her center shook. What wonder? when
Millions of fierce encountering Angels fought
On either side, the least of whom could wield
These elements, and arm him with the force
Of all their regions: How much more of power
Army against army numberless to raise
Dreadful combustion warring, and disturb,
Though not destroy, their happy native seat;
Had not the Eternal King Omnipotent,
From his strong hold of Heaven, high over-ruled
And limited their might; though numbered such
As each divided legion might have seemed
A numerous host; in strength each armed hand
A legion; led in fight, yet leader seemed
Each warriour single as in chief, expert
When to advance, or stand, or turn the sway
Of battle, open when, and when to close
The ridges of grim war: No thought of flight,
None of retreat, no unbecoming deed
That argued fear; each on himself relied,
As only in his arm the moment lay
Of victory: Deeds of eternal fame
Were done, but infinite...

The ridges of grim war.  No thought of flight?  That was mom's heroic stand.
When I first met Kathleen's mom in December 1987 on a Christmas break trip to California, I knew from day one she was a tough cookie!  She was at times both a ferociously protective mother and a kind, caring woman.  Over the years, I cannot say that her stubbornness had not caused a spot of friction here or there.  I don't believe anyone has freedom from that in a family dynamic.  And though at times her tough exterior persona kept her emotions under the surface, Kathleen and I both knew that if things ever got sideways with anything, anywhere in our lives, she would step to the front of the line to fight to the end for us.  So now, we move on with part of Carolyn woven into the fabric of our daily living and we are better for that thread in us.  Over the last years, we did not see Kathleen's parents frequently as they moved several times trying to find the right fit for their retired years.  But we were always able to fit in a trip here or there where we could meet up and enjoy some down time with them.
Here we are in Estes Park, Colorado a few years back.  We met there and spent some time in Rocky Mountain National Park. 
Our last big trip before cancer - We met up in South Dakota for some time in the Black Hills.  Great trip, awesome memories, and for the 4 of us, the first time ever to Mount Rushmore.  There was a point on this trip with some issues at the cabins where we were staying that involved Carolyn about to throw down with the people who owned them because she thought they insulted her daughter.  The stubborn fighter was always there!  The last couple trips have been more somber.  With her not being able to travel far, we were resigned to visits in Iowa and a growing knowledge with each visit that long-term would no longer be measured by years, but days and months.  When I got Kathleen and Kerrie ready to fly from Denver Tuesday, I knew when we parted that the next time I saw my love she would be starting to mend the hole in her heart left from a daughter losing her mom.  I am ready for the task at hand.  We miss you mom - rest easy and suffer no more!


Slomohusky said...

Amen Steve. Well written and read with a few tears in my eyes. Tears because I can easily apply some of what you write to my Sisters battle just one year ago with the same "beast". Thanks for sharing this personal message. My prayers are with you and your wife.

Julie said...

I am so sorry for your sad and painful loss. I too could not stop the tears from falling down my cheeks. I want you to know that my thoughts are with you and your family. What a wonderful post

Tina @GottaRunNow said...

What a beautiful smile she had! So sorry for your loss.

ajh said...

I'm sorry for you and your wife's loss. She sounds like she was quite a woman.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for you and your wife's loss! I hope for better day's to come. It is allway's a great loss to cancer, it is all around us everyday.

Ace said...

My condolences. Your words paint a beautiful picture of a beautiful woman. Those are the ones that truly make an impact on our lives for the better.

Meg said...

BIG hugs to you both and to all of your family...you're right, we all have the drama and conflicts but that doesn't make loss any easier. Often, these "tough" and fiesty family members are the hardest to say goodbye. My prayers go our to you and K. I'm sure she'll be touched by your thoughts.

Danni said...

That made me cry. I'm so sorry about your loss. Cancer does suck.

Ewa said...

This strikes so close to home. My mother in law is in a fight of her life with last stage bladder cancer. I know what both of you must have been going through and how difficult this time must be for you.
Thank you so much for your beautiful and thoughtful post. It certainly helps me to focus on what is important.
My heart goes out to you.

HappyTrails said...

Thanks for all the kind comments - I was undecided on posting something heavy, but it helped process my grief some and she deserved a good memoriam from me!

Sunshine Girl said...

Our condolences to you and Kathleen and good thoughts your way.

Leslie and Keith

Happy Feet 26.2 said...

Steve - what a thoughtful message in honor of your mother-in-law, and great support for Kathleen. I am so sorry for the loss. For me too, running and writing is helpful. I hope that both of you will find peace knowing she is no longer suffering.

Cynical Dirt Doll said...

Big, huge, peaceful hugs to you both... thanks for the glimpse of the strong, fantastic woman who helped make Kathleen the fantastic woman she is.

Tara said...

I am so very sorry for your loss Kathleen and Steve. What a WONDERFUL post and tribute to Kathleen's mom. These are great pics and I'm sure that you hold beautiful memories of her. You are in my thoughts and prayers guys...

Jill said...

I am truly sorry for your loss. What a heartfelt memoir. You're in my thoughts and prayers and hoping you get out and enjoy the great sunshiny CO warmth in honor of Carolyn soon! Big hugs to you both!!

Pinkcorker said...

Kathleen and Steve,
I just want you to know that I really feel for what you are going through. March 8th was 18 years since my dad died - I still miss him! I'm thankful for the memories I had with him; sounds like you all were able to enjoy some good time with her...those good times will be sweet memories as the years pass. Thank you for sharing your life with us and letting us in. :)

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