Before I talk about Marlene, I suppose an update is in order. I have finally rid myself of the pseudomonas bacterial infection in my sphenoid sinus. It took 2 weeks of Levaquin but it’s gone. Unfortunately, my cough appears to be from something else, as it did not go away with the curing of that infection. I start on some kind of steroid used in a neti-pot type thing this week. Oh well, hopefully we will get to the bottom of that problem and I can get some relief.

As the holidays approach this year, it’s been tough for me to be excited about them. Both of our families are fractured up. It’s a shame but I asked Tim if he ever thought there would be healing in his family and he said “no”. I am not surprised. As he has said many times, his family will never change. No matter how many friends they lose, they just keep on doing what they’ve always done and that’s not something we want to be around anymore. We’ve been kicked while we were already down way too many times by these people. Then, to top if off, our kid, who has a nice group of friends, is now dealing with her best friend shunning her. And, all because Liv, as I advised her, stayed neutral in a mess that was going on between others, in hopes that it would just blow over. Now, I guess her BFF is ticked that she refused to sever ties with a few girls who had done nothing to Liv, but were not happy with the BFF. Honestly, you can’t win. Reminds me of my sisters-in-law. If I refused to take their side in the immature argument they’d been in with each other for years, I was no good to them. Crazy.

Then, yesterday, I saw a facebook comment about Marlene. She did her auto transplant with Tim back in 2007 and was only 45 then, 52 now. She died yesterday and I was just devastated. I went up to my bedroom and cried. Another courageous, beautiful, funny soul taken down in her prime from this damned disease. I told Tim. He actually walked in the back door right after I read it and I was so upset, he knew something was wrong. I said later, “I don’t know if I should even tell you these things but feel it’s patronizing if you ask if I’ve heard from Marlene and I tell you she died 3 months ago.” He said, “no, you have to tell me.” But, there were several reasons I was crying and thinking about how petrifying it must be for him to have these people dying around him, from the same disease he has, just breaks my heart more. I also feel bad because it’s been years since we got together. There were 4 patients going through transplant at the same time and we became friends and stayed in touch for a while. Met for lunch once or twice even. But, Marlene moved a bit further away, Carol died a few years ago, Jim and his wife life in PA, and, well, you know how it goes. You always think there’s time to get in touch or see each other again. I didn’t even know she was failing. Her sons got married and she looked fantastic in the photos. I’m just so sad. Tim said, “the holidays get harder and harder as we get older.” He’s right. So much going on, everyone you talk to dealing with family rifts. He said he doesn’t blame Liv for not wanting to grow up. He said maybe some people have pretty good lives but too many have health issues, family problems and are losing people they love. Gets harder and harder to pull yourself up by your bootstraps.

Last week, I spoke at a mid-day, Advent service at church. Our Pastor does this thing at our New Year’s Eve service where he invites people to come up and share how God worked in their lives this past year. He extended it to our Wed. services during this pre-Christmas season. Well, a kind deed that a complete stranger had done for me right after Tim’s diagnosis had just come full circle recently. I met the man for the first time in Oct. and was able to thank him, again, in person. Just a few weeks later I found out he’d buried his 21 year old son this past spring, after the poor kid being dx’ed with a heart condition as a toddler and having a heart transplant. Here was this man in so much pain himself but still reaching out to be kind to others. So, I wrote a little sermon about that, as well as a few things that happened in church too. It was a small congregation, but, almost all of them were crying after I finished my talk, they were so moved. Pastor was moved himself, and he asked me to give the sermon again at a Wednesday night service so more people could hear it. So, I did. I read it this past Wed. night. The reaction was powerful and I am very proud of myself. Something sort of amazing happened too. My Pastor’s wife is a very closed-off person. She rarely comes to church and has no friends that I am aware of. I’ve only had one conversation with her. Tim did the wood floors in their house so he’s spoken to her a few times. She is very much a loner. Pastor’s whole family has been in crisis for several years due to their oldest daughter’s battle with anorexia. This daughter is beautiful and talented but struggling badly. The last story I shared in my “sermon” was about the day Leah(their daughter) and Pastor performed Amazing Grace for me in church just a few days before I was having my cardiac ablation 2 1/2 years ago. I bawled like a baby, I was so overwhelmed with their kindness. Leah has a beautiful voice and I love it when she sings in church.

After this service ended Wed. when I gave the sermon, I stood up to get my sweater on and Pastor’s wife, Ann, is walking straight down the center aisle to me with her eyes overflowing with tears. She stands in front of me, looks me in the eyes and says, “Thank you so much for recognizing that in my daughter and saying those nice things.” She is overwhelmed and I thought, “this woman needs a hug.” So I hug her, hoping it will be well-received. It was. She hugged me back and we stood there hugging for a long time, she kept thanking me for what I said. We released and spoke for a few moments but there was a crowd of people waiting to talk to me about my sermon, so she went over and sat with Tim, calming down and talking to him for a bit. It was a proud night for me. This was a “bucket list” item for me and I was glad it was so well-received. But, I have to admit, the most rewarding part for me was that hug with Pastor’s wife, who is a very troubled woman. We shared some catharsis together. Though we are both going through something different, both of us have someone we love dealing with a terrible disease. She told me she is afraid she is going to lose her daughter. It broke my heart. I am afraid I’m going to lose my husband too, so I can relate a little bit. I hope that I can get to know her a bit better now. She needs a friend, and I am willing to be one, if she’s open to it. So, as Pastor told me about my sermon, everyone is going through something. The people who heard it could relate in their own way to what’s going on in my life. And I’ve learned these past few years, that reaching out to help others is a way to heal your own heart too. You can feel so helpless when a tragedy strikes your life. Helping others where and when you can is a way to combat that feeling and lifts you up just as much as the person you are helping.

So, I am going to try to make the best of things this holiday season and look forward to 2015. We finish decorating our tree today, go to a candlelight, choir service at church tonight, and tomorrow we are playing hooky and going in to NYC for the day to see the tree, windows, etc. Gotta just make the best of it. Probably no better way to honor those we love that we’ve lost than to appreciate being alive and grabbing joy when we can.

Happy holidays y’all. Hugs to you from me.