I lost my wife Julie to cancer on 10 Dec 2017. She loved me and I loved her. I feel lost without her. I am broken, trying to put myself back together around her memory. I will never forget, I will never stop mourning. Her legacy is her family. This is her story...
Julie past from this life two months ago today. This final post is taken from a portion of my speech at Julie’s funeral. As a preface to this I would refer you to part-2 of her life sketch, To Beautiful Mama
Julie loved her high school days and she missed them. She loved being a cheerleader. She loved pep assemblies and football games, and getting up in front of the crowd and yelling. Not only was she a cheerleader, but the cheerleader leader, or cheer queen they used to call it. For many people who knew her later in life that was a shocker. I think that’s because she was not boisterous at all. She was proud of being a cheerleader, but was embarrassed when I mentioned it to others and teased her a little, and she would tell me to “stop.” But she was not shy, and she loved people and getting to know people.
Julie had a wild, non-conformist side to her. When I was dating her, she wore two ear peircings in one ear, and just one in the other. At that time in Idaho Falls 1987, that was a little crazy. I thought it was a good sign and I liked it. But Julie would never have done that if she were a young person today, because she would always follow advice from the LDS prophet. She was daring to go against the cultural grain, but not against her religion. She was always true to her faith and family.
Julie and I started or lives out on the road. On our honeymoon we drove to the Oregon coast and back. We camped in a tent once on the way there and once on the way back. She was fun to drive with. We sang all the way, and she taught me these crazy songs she learned either at girls camp or from her Mennonite kin. We have driven through 40 states singing and talking. She was so much fun. She was my best friend. Julie was also brilliant, the wisest person I have known, and I always looked to her for advice, and now I am aways trying to imagine what advice she would give me.
Julie was not perfect, and it concerned her. She would get frustrated with herself and what she thought were her problems. I always told her that I loved every imperfection about her, that they were what made her perfect to me. I loved those so-called imperfections.
Julie had a great fear of water in her face, even in the shower she didn’t want the water to splash or run down her face, yet when in Hawaii she fought her fear to go snorkeling and she put her face in the ocean and beheld the great beauty below. She was deeply afraid of the pain of having children. Yet she chose to have seven children. On one occasion while sitting in church with her two month old baby on her lap, there was someone else blessing their newborn baby just two weeks old. Julie turned to me and whispered, “Oh, I want to have another one.” I thought she was crazy.
Fear and courage dwelt in her heart. Julie had enough courage to face what she was afraid of, although she definitely did shrink at times. The rewards of her courage were beautiful children, and seeing the beautiful ocean below the surface. But what is the beautiful reward at the end of her life, for facing her fears and enduring to the end?
Many times over the course of her illness, she cried out to me, in great anguish of pain, fear and sadness. Sadness mostly about loosing her family, and fear of the changes that were happening, fear of the nausea, fear of the pain, and ultimately fear of the death she knew was coming. It was the saddest thing to witness so intimately and repeatedly. It was so moving and heart wrenching, that I decided I needed to share it with others. She actually liked me doing that.
You who have read my blog know of how with anguish she would cry out words like, “This is not who I am, this is not how I want to be remembered. I want to run and play. There is so much I want to do.” And sobbing and shaking she cried, “I just wanted to live so bad!” A week before Julie passed away, she told me she wanted to talk. She told me that she wanted it to be over. It was finally too much to fight against any longer.
Julie is only one of many, many people who have experienced this degree of fear and sadness. It happens all around us. Once when I was in a hospital room with Julie, from down the hall I heard a loud, mournful yell and cry, and it went on and on. Then it would stop for a while and then start up again. It was from a woman who had just found out that her cancer treatment had failed, and there was nothing else left to try.
Why do I tell you all of this? Why do I want you to feel bad and cry? I think it is because I don’t cry enough. I need to be moved. I want to feel more. I want to feel love, and the pain of my loss, and be struck through the heart so deeply that I stop caring so much about my petty ego and my frivolous wants. I want to be moved to help many others. I want to find those who need a friend, just the way that Julie did, and the way you have. I want to set aside my vanities, and my pursuits of having to be better than the next guy. I want to help many others, and not just my friends. Writing has helped me feel more, and cry more. And I hope reading it helped you feel and cry more. Being moved to tears brings us closer, and makes us look deeper inside ourselves and others. Tears bring empathy and compassion. Tears help us feel better, and even laugh stronger.
Make no mistake, Julie was very afraid to suffer, to hurt. She was very afraid to leave her children and me. These fears were opposing. She constantly chose to face the suffering rather than death and separation. There was a courage in that. The beauty of Julie’s courageous life and struggle, is that we are all better for it. I will be better, you will be better. I hope she can see that.
Julie and I believe in Jesus Christ. I am glad it is Christmas! We are celebrating the birth of the Son of God. Jesus is a gift. Our salvation. It is a mystery, how it happens, but through the death of Jesus Christ, we are saved. We are reborn. We are lifted to help others. We are bound together as families. Think of all the beauty there is in the world, all because of the courage of Jesus, and his struggle in life and death.
My friends. You are so good. You are so kind. I love you. I will try to do unto others as you have done unto me.
Julie was a marvelous example. She was a perfect wife to me. Jesus is our perfect example. He is the way. He has made it happen, that I will get to be with Julie again. I love Him for that. And I love you my precious wife, Julie.
This post is part-one of Julie’s life sketch. It was written and presented by her brother, Steve Hobbs at her funeral. It was edited further by me for posting here. Part two of her life sketch, To Beautiful Mama is posted below.
Julie Lavon Hobbs was born April 23rd 1969 in the LDS Hospital the child of Billie Lee Hobbs and Joy Adrene Felsted Cotterell Hobbs. She had an older sister Connie, and three older brothers, Dad, Steve and Mike. After 10 years of not having children, Julie was a surprise blessing to the family. Dan, Julie’s oldest brother was 16 and was at the hospital with Dad when Doctor Smith came out of the delivery door room and made the big announcement, “Its a girl!”
In a personal history Julie wrote, “Mom recalls how happy she was that I was a girl. She thought for sure that I would be a boy and did not want to get her hopes up. She had 3 boys previously. Since all of the boys were 3 years apart, she had been through 9 years of cub scouts as a den mother. Mom had Dad were undecided between naming this new baby Jennifer or Julie. They chose Julie because they say that I was just a jewel to their family. Dad nicknamed me Pud (short for pudding). My brother Dan called me ‘squirt’. He said I was a little squirt.”
Julie was a very happy baby and very easy to take care of, but very sensitive and tender hearted. If anyone raised their voices, Julie she would start to cry. Mom and dad and the three boys would read to her often and she learned at a young age to love books. Julie carried that legacy on to her own children.
Bill loved his baby girl. Julie wrote, “He would always tuck me into bed at night. At the same time each evening he would talk to me and read stories. I don’t remember my father missing a single night of putting me to sleep.” Bill would often make Julie a milkshake and bring it down to her bed, something that never happened with his boys.
Of growing up with brothers Julie wrote, “Steve, Mike and Dan spent many hours playing catch, dolls, and reading books with me. My brothers were constantly getting me to grow up. My brothers didn’t let me learn how to crawl the normal way. They didn’t lay me on my stomach.” Julie never did crawl, she just scooted on her bottom until she could walk.
Julie loved bugs and spiders. She treated them like little people and would build houses for them. She was always fascinated when someone would show her another insect. Her interest in bugs dwindled as one of them bit her.
Julie was like a little mother to everything. She loved to play with tiny dolls and she would often sing to them and play with them, and she cherished her collection of Madam Alexander dolls. One Christmas Julie got a doll she called Raydie. As the family opened presents, they realized Julie was gone from the living room. They found her in the bathroom with her new baby bathing it in the toilet and applying shampoo and baby powder. She also had the perfume ready for her baby. Julie loved to dress her dog Christi up in her dolls clothes. That dog was so patient and loved Julie. She was always trying to be a mother and nurturer.
Julie had fond memories of Christmas parties at Stoddard Mead Ford where Bill worked. She wrote, “They always were so good to the employees kids. I remember I was afraid of Santa because of his big beard. Each year at these parties, Santa would come and give every child a present and a big stocking full of candy, fruit, and nuts. I would always eat the candy and leave the fruit until last. By the time I would go to eat the fruit, it was always rotten.”
Julie was babysat quit often by an older lady across the street that all the children loved. Her name was Vona Richman. They all called her aunt Vona. Aunt Vona had a special little table and chair that only Julie could sit on. Her favorite meal she would make was cooked cabbage with butter on it and Vienna sausages. Julie’s middle name Lavon was after Aunt Vona.
Julie loved that her Mom would always sew Julie pretty dresses and matching dresses for her dolls. Julie wrote, “I loved that Mom did that for me.” Julie really liked to dress up and look fancy.
Bill and Joy loved to backpack and Julie learned to love the mountains and outdoors as a young child. Her brother Steve wrote, “I remember her first trip to the base of mount Heyburn at Redfish lake. Me and mike and Dan would take turns packing Julie on the top of our back packs.” They backpacked a lot as a family and with friends.
Visiting Yellowstone with the family for square dancing trips was one of Julie’s favorite childhood memories. She and a family would explore around old faithful and loved laying in the pine needles and dirt, and making make believe homes, while their parent were dancing.
In elementary school at A.H bush Julie received the Hope of America Award. In 7 grade at Eagle Rock Jr. High she was class secretary. In the 8th grade she ran for president and was elected. Julie was so outgoing that she decided to run for cheerleader in 9th grade and made the team. She loved cheering and was a cheerleader all through high school. Her senior year was elected as Cheer Queen at Skyline High School. She loved yelling at games and pep assemblies.
Julie was always going to school dances and never missed a dance. She entered in her journal all the dances she went to and the boys she went with and what they did. She dated and went to dances from boys at rival school and from Skyline. At church dances Julie would watch for the boys being rejected and she would go and ask them to dance.
Julie was a talented pianist. She was very good at sight reading and was often asked to accompany groups or solo singers. In went on to teach all of her children to play, and was their first teacher.
Julie was not the type to seek out friends in the popular crowd. She had many friends from all walks of life. A high school friend of Julie’s recently wrote this that describes the type of person Julie is:
“Tonight my heart is broken and I’ve shed a few tears of sadness, Julie Hobbs Hatch was the kindest person I knew. She was a cheerleader and was very popular at school, but she never let her popularity get in the way. She would talk to everyone including those of us who were not in the “in crowd”. Julie wanted everyone to be happy and she always had a smile on her face. She was a pure example of the love of Christ. She was always finding service to do and ways to help those in need. She never looked down at me or anyone for that matter – she accepted us for who we were. She had such a strong testimony of the Gospel and was an example to all who knew her.”
Thank you Julie for your example of how we should live our lives. Thank you for your zest for life, the precious moments you have blessed us all with. We will remember you often as we run and play, whenever we are in the mountains. You are our Hero. We love you and will see you again.
It has been exactly a month since Julie passed away, 10 Dec 2017. I couldn’t have imagined feeling such loss and despair, and it worsens rather than lessens. I will forever be heartbroken. But this blog is not about me. It is about the woman I am in love with.
After Julie’s memorial service, a friend told me, “You did Julie justice today!” I know we did, and that she is happy with us for it. I know many who expressed love for Julie who couldn’t attend her funeral. I will share parts of her funeral here, first I will post her life from high school on, then later post from birth through high school. I will try complete two more posts this week and finish up this blog.
Also, here is a link to her obituary page at Wood Funeral Home, with her tribute video slide show
Life sketch of Julie Lavon Hobbs Hatch, from high school graduation, presented by Kendall and Jonathan Hatch:
A month after graduating from Skyline High, Julie went to a young adult parking lot dance at the Iona Stake Center out on the Ririe Highway. She must have been ready to start dating more mature college boys. She saw a tall handsome boy at the dance with summer bleached hair and blue eyes and later said, “He was the only good-looking boy there.” This was Brad Hatch, an Iona farm boy, home for the summer from BYU. Brad was meandering through the crowd looking for his next target when a girl bounced right in front of him. She was 5 foot 2, dark brown permed hair, white jersey blouse with a simple laced collar, black jeans, and a naturally playful smile that reveled laughter inside. This was Julie, and boy, what a first impression. Stylish, pretty and exuberant, she just looked fun. He instantly asked her to dance. She smiled the whole time that playful smile and had an unrestrained bounce in her dance step he had never seen before. There were introductions, a few dances, and then parting. Brad wanted to ask her out for the following night, but at the end of the dance she had vanished. Brad looked for her at all summer young adult dances for another month before he was able to find her again. They dated the rest of the summer and Brad went back to BYU and Julie to Ricks college.
Julie continued to date a lot of other boys at Ricks, but kept a long distance romance going with Brad too. They went out on weekends when Brad came back to Idaho, and things got serious over Christmas break. After a New Years Eve dance and kiss, the couple went to Brad’s family farm in the wee hours of the morning, and a winter walk down the tree line lane that bordered the farm. It was a very cold, clear moon lit new years morning as the couple walked with hands clasped. Julie was bouncing again and was feeling unrestrained and proclaimed in poetic rhythm, “I like the snow, I like the trees, I like the moon, and I like you.” She would get a little embarrassed in later years when Brad reminded her of that cheesy line. But he loved it, and he loved her. Neither Julie or Brad parents seemed to mind them staying out until 3AM, they all must have approved.
One thing that impressed Brad about Julie, was her deep desire and preparations to be a mother, and he knew she would be would be incredibly dedicated. By mid May, Brad had got up the courage to asked Julie to marry him. When he did, he got the surprise of his life. Her playful smile disappeared, eyes opened wide, and she backed away and started to cry. The answer was no. She wanted to go on a mission and experience so much more before marriage. They still had a nice weekend together, and Brad told her that he loved her, but could not promise that he was be able to wait another 3 and ½ years for her to be old enough to serve and return from a mission. Two weeks later, on memorial day in 1988, Brad proposed again and was successful.
Julie and Brad married in August and Julie enrolled in BYU and continued her studies in special education. Her favorite classes were child development, and a class about children’s literature where she was greatly influence by a book about reading out loud to children. In the years that followed, Julie began reading out loud to her babies, first picture books, then story books. She had an amazing gift to be a captivating reader. The children were always still and quiet as she read, and would nestle and lean into her as she read, often one on each side, and a third laying on the back rest of the couch above her, all three peering at the pages she read. She read countless hours to them, favorite books included Old Yeller, A Wrinkle in Time, A Cricket in Time Square, Where the Red Fern Grows, Redwall, My Side of the Mountain, Julie of the Wolves, A Banner in the Sky, Incident at Hawks Hill, Holes, The Mouse and the Motocycle, Inkheart, Ella Enchanted, Harry Potter, and many more.
Julie attended BYU for a year and a half before giving birth to her first baby, Jordan, 28 years ago this month. She had just finished her last final exam, and her water broke an hour later. When Jordan was born, Julie decided she was “done” with school. She never had even the slightest desire to return. Brad would sometimes try to encourage her to finish her degree, but she would look at him strangely and ask “why.” All she wanted to do was devote all of her time and energy into mothering and that is exactly what she did for the next 28 years.
Julie was careful with money, something she learned from her parents. She managed the family finances and kept the family out of debt. She encouraged Brad to be frugal. The couple did not have a working TV for the first years of their marriage, and they spent about $50 a month on food until Jordan was born. Two nights of their honeymoon were spent in a tent to save money.
Brad applied to medical school and soon graduated from BYU. Brad wanted to stay as close to Idaho as possible for medical school, but Julie wanted to get away from Idaho and Utah culture and experience something new. She had no desire to hang around here, and like George Baily in It’s a Wonderful Life, she wanted to go places. So the couple joined the Air Force and moved to Washington DC.
Julie loved being a military wife. She loved seeing Brad in uniform. She loved living on the Air Force base and meeting other military families. While living in Washington DC, Julie had two more children, Kendall and Jonathan. After medical school in Washington DC, the couple moved to Texas and then Alaska. Julie thrived in new experiences, loving that each place so vastly different from the other. Julie loved the Texas Hill country, the live-oak trees, the bluebonnets, and the old limestone buildings.
While in Texas, Brad was gone most of the time, and Julie became very involved in her church callings as a Primary Chorister and then Primary President. She loved to sing primary songs and read gospel stories to the kids. She began a tradition then, that persists today. Every morning, before the kids went to school, she would have a devotional. This devotional was short and simple, according to the attention span of the children, and the hurry to get them to school. Devotionals consisted of a short story from The Friend Magazine, a few verses from the Children’s Scripture Reader, a primary song, and a prayer.
Being away from Idaho, Julie began to experience new foods, she liked Thai and Indian food and the Tex-Mex fajitas. Friends introduced her to Sushi for the first time in Texas. She was not impressed at first, but later it became her favorite food, and her preferred dining experience. Every date night Brad knew where to take her, but she would let him choose first, knowing that he wasn’t in the mood for sushi every week. So about every other week was a sushi night, and they became known as regulars at the Blue Hashi, until about a year ago when Julie lost her appetite for sushi. They also were regulars at the Gangplank where Julie loved to eat fried cod and the fried whole-wheat scones and honey butter. The family had a tradition of going to the Gangplank for Julie’s birthday every year.
Getting back on the timeline, Alaska was a dream for Julie. She had two more children there, Heidi and Nathaniel. The couple explored the state with their children. Brad would fish and Julie and the kids would read by the fire on the gravel bar, and the kids would shoot rocks with sling shots at the gulls. These were idyllic times for Julie, who loved hiking with the kids in the arctic brush, and cross country skiing in the long cold winters, sometimes skiing at 25 below. She would sometimes ski by herself on the trails at Eielson AFB, until one day she came around a corner and standing on the trail right in front of her was a big moose. She was able to turn around and retreat the other way without the moose charging, but she came home sobbing and never went out alone again. A favorite place was Homer Alaska, fishing, digging clams and making clam chowder on the Homer Spit. Another favorite place was Valdez, where the family spent their 10-year anniversary together, catching 20 silver salmon and going on a glacial cruise and seeing orca whales and sea otters.
Julie loved being outside, and moving back to Idaho, while not the dream she hoped for, was acceptable. The couple lived in Mountain Home for three years, finishing Brad’s military pay-back. They then moved to Idaho Falls, on Coronado Street, right by the hospital. Julie loved this location, right across the street from the church. Here they added two more children to the family, Christopher and Noah. Noah was born as Jordan graduated from high school. Julie looking still quite young was sometimes mistaken as Jordan’s girlfriend. Julie proudly watched 4 children graduate from Idaho Falls High School, two from BYU Provo, one start medical school, two get married. She was proud of her three batches of kids, and for a while had children in college, high school, junior high school, grade school, and still toddlers at home. It was a busy time, but she stayed involved in all their lives. Julie made two trips to Disney World with each of the two oldest boys for their high school band trips. She had the time of her life, and begged Brad to take her back with the rest of the family.
Julie was an avid flower gardener, and green houses were some of Julie’s favorite places to go. Her mother taught her all about flowers and she had worked in a nursery part time in her youth while going to school. When it came to flowers, she knew what she liked best, and exactly what she wanted, and would search all the nurseries in Idaho Falls until she got it.
Julie loved to bake, especially pies. There were never simple cakes at birthday parties, but usually apple pies, pecan pies, huckleberry cheesecakes, molten cakes, dense chocolate caramel tarts, upside down cakes, and spice cakes with gooey coconut and walnut toppings. She was meticulous about her pie crusts, which always were guaranteed to be extremely tender and flaky. She was actually very snobby about deserts. Everything had to be done by scratch. The only desert she enjoyed from the store was ice-cream, especially nutty coconut from Baskin Robins. She baked wonderful all whole wheat bread, and knew that magic secret to make it light and fluffy, a secret which may be lost from the world now.
Julie tried her best to have family evening dinners. She told Brad early in their marriage that he needed to always say the Sunday family dinner prayer, because that is what her Dad did. Sunday dinner prayer was Dad’s prayer. Brad loved it, and usually prayed long, so the kids didn’t love it. After the Sunday dinner prayer, Brad started lifting his glass and having a weekly family toast. The kids would chime in with what they wanted to toast to. It evolved into always ending the toast with drinking “to beautiful Mama!” Whenever we couldn’t think of anything else to drink to, someone would say, “and to beautiful Mama” and everyone would repeat in unison, “to beautiful Mama!”
But it was here in Idaho Falls, that much sadness came into the lives of this couple. Brad noted that Julie was making a transformation, from a cute, bouncy and pretty young mother, to a serenely beautiful woman, but still young! As Julie was carrying her last pregnancy to 20 weeks, Julie began to have resurgence of an old pain, that had been evaluated 5 years prior and diagnosed as hiatal hernia and reflux. This time the pain was worse, severe, and not alleviated with her reflux medication. She was diagnosed with Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumor 10 years ago. It was removed after Noah was born, but five years later had metastasized extensively. For the past five years Julie has been struggling with the pain, fatigue and sickness that this disease and treatments have brought. She fought to stay involved in the lives of her children. She worried about the Children at home the most. She continued to read to them on warm summer days outside, or cold winter days snuggled up on the couch. She continued morning devotionals.
Julie fought to stay active and became very involved in yoga, loved to go on long walks and could keep a 14-minute mile walking pace. She continued hiking in Moab and loved to hike to Table Mountain. Brad realized that time was getting shorter for Julie, and three years ago surprised Julie and took the family to Disney World. That same year he took Julie on two trips to Hawaii which she fell in love with and would have moved there if possible. Even though she had a phobia of getting her face wet, she braved the snorkeling experience and laughed and giggled about all the variety of marine life she was able to see. Julie loves beaches, and has been to beaches in Oregon, California, Texas, Florida, Maryland and New England. But the beaches in Hawaii were by far her favorite.
Eventually the caner in her bones put and end to long walks and yoga, and she cried grievously about that. She still enjoyed trips to Yellowstone, The Tetons, and Moab Utah. She liked hiking to delicate arch and even made that hike just last March to the astonishment of her oncologist and her husband. Brad thought they would just walk a hundred yards down the trail. She limped along in pain, but would just keep going. The kids went on ahead to the top, and were just on their way back down, when to their surprise, Mom was just finishing the last assent, so they turned around and went back up to the top with her. It was a triumph for Julie, and she really felt like she had beat cancer that day.
Many people would comment over the years of Julie’s her kindness to them. People were at ease with Julie, she was not judgmental, and she did not offend. She just liked people for who they were, and people could feel that. Brad recalls standing in lines with her, and how she would strike up conversations with strangers. Julie did not mind long lines at Disney parks, cause she would just talk to people. She talked to people everywhere. Several times Brad would run into people Julie knew, and ask Julie how she knew them, and Julie would say, “Oh she is my friend from Yoga.”
Julie wanted most of out life to be a mother. She was an amazing mother through it all, to the very end. There were so many important things she taught. She taught us about facing fears, enduring, working, and loving. Mostly, by her example, she taught us how to be a friend, a spouse, and a parent. Julie wanted to be remembered how she was before becoming so ill. She has asked us not to forget her, she has pleaded with us to teach our children and grandchildren about her. This we will do for the best mom ever. To our beautiful mama!
Four weeks passed from the last post, until Julie’s passing. Her appetite continued to improve, yet she continued to become more weak and less aware. She was able to be with us through Thanksgiving. A week before her passing, we drove her to the garden store and bought a Christmas tree and she watched as we put it up. Over the course of her last week, we played quiet Christmas music for her, and she slept most of the time, ate less and drank less. She passed away at home on a Sunday afternoon.
This death is so hard to comprehend. My feelings are aways on the edge. I can speak normally and happily and times, and then alone and in private I suddenly fall off that edge and into despair, and feel the sudden absence that Julie’s passing has brought. The absence, the emptiness, the vacancy is so profound. Trying to do fun things with my kids, I feel like I am just pretending, and feeling guilty about trying to have fun. Taking my kids on a road trip I used to do often with Julie, leaves me with a sinking feeling inside. Everything is wrong, I am trying to pretend otherwise, to keep my kids from slipping with me. They are the ones who are helping me, and they don’t even know it. Two nights ago after the kids went to bed, I went to my room and yelled something to myself. Christopher must have heard me alone in my bedroom as I mourned. I thought he was in the basement, but he came in and threw his arms around me and held me as I shook. These kids are my angels.
I love to look at photos of Julie, how she was a year ago, 5 years ago, and 25 years ago. Now when I see her in my mind, I the see my healthy, vibrant Julie and not how she was at her passing. The pictures are bitter sweet though, because they also remind me that we are no longer making new memories together. Our photo album will cease to have new pictures of her, and she will be absent from future events, and memories of those events will not include her. It seems so final. It is hard to comprehend the distant future of us being together again, but it is what we believe.
I know I will be OK. I know I will feel better for longer periods as time goes on. But I expect and hope to always have those moments of grieving over my Julie who is here no more. I am speaking often to the children about happy memories of their mother. For the rest of their lives, they will hear me speak things like, “If your mother were here she would be happy….your mother always liked doing this…and this was one of your mother’s favorite…”
Now I have the task before me of raising these kids, the way she would. With the love and discipline that she could employ simultaneously. Wish me luck!
This post is drawing to an end. I will post her life sketches next and then wrap up this blog.
Five days ago, Tuesday, we decided to stop Julie’s TPN, IV nutrition. She was getting more sick, having more abdominal pain, becoming more confused and more weak. We didn’t think the TPN was helping her anymore, and could eventually make things worse for her. We would just have to see how well she ate and drank, to know how much longer she would live.
Three days ago, Thursday, Julie still wasn’t drinking much, and eating almost nothing. That day, it became apparent that on her current course she would not survive long, maybe a week. It really isn’t possible to say how long anyone will live on hospice. There are so many variables, and so much variation in when people are ready to let go. Still, we suspected the end was near. I called our children to prepare them. That night she was so afraid, sick and in a panic despite lots of medication throughout the day. I gave her a different anxiety medication and afterward she slept soundly for a long time.
Two days ago, Friday. Julie woke very upset and sick again and in panic and anguish. Then after she got up and dressed and into the living room in her chair, their was an unexpected change. The rest of the day she was happy, didn’t seem to be afraid, no more panic, much less of saying “I’m sick”, and overall she was more alert, talkative and she started eating.
Friday evening our adult children started showing up. Julie was talkative, fun and positive with them. It was amazing. She got tired early and went to bed around 6 PM, but then around 8 PM, she asked me to get her up and take her out for a drive. We were still waiting for some of our kids to arrive, but she was determined to get out, so I got her ready again and in the car.
We drove to Baskin Robins for Ice-cream, and the whole drive she kept talking. She was having a good time for the first time in a very long time. She was talking about the things that she was seeing, or thought she was seeing, and telling me a lot of random things, but there was no pain, fear or anxiety in her voice. She and I were having a legitimate good time. After getting ice-cream we drove around a little more and she talked more while eating her favorite, Nutty Coconut ice-cream. When I suggested we go back home to see our kids who would be there any moment, she said, “What do you want to do that for, I just want to keep doing this and be with you.”
We did go home though to see our children, and the rest of that night, and yesterday, and today were much the same. Some occasional reminders that she was sick or uncomfortable, a few tears, but mostly just smiles and fun.
I gathered everyone this morning for breakfast and a brief visit about our plans for the day with mom. Just as I finished my speech, and we were going to go eat, Julie interrupted and surprised us with a little speech. This was quickly recorded in Hannah’s Journal as follows:
Brad gathered everyone this morning before breakfast to have a short visit. He emotionally thanked us all for coming and sacrificing to visit our Mom. We prayed over the food and then Julie suddenly asked, “Does anybody have any questions for me of why I’m sitting here in this chair and not doing anything?” Julie then cried, “I always wanted to live. I always wanted to be around and watch you have children. Teach my grandchildren about me. Don’t just forget about me. Teach them about who I was. I don’t want you to forget about me. I know that there will be people there to greet me. I’ll see you guys often, though you may not see me.”
There was much more said throughout the day today, but it was such a happy day. There was sadness and tears at times, but mostly mirth, smiles and laughter. I am not sure what to make of it all. It was a miraculous change. The hospice nurse had told me about “a rally” that sometimes occurs just before the very end. It seemed more like a victory.
I know that Julie will die. I don’t know when. I think we will be OK. I think she will remain happy until then and beyond. For now she is smiling and eating again, at least a little more. Tonight she even finished off a whole piece of pumpkin pie.
Just a quick update, Julie began hospice care on Friday, and she will be able to continue her IV nutrition as long as she wants. She will probably continue it until she becomes too delirious to make decisions and to have meaningful interactions. She understands that at that time, I will stop it for her. I don’t think she will decide to stop it before then, despite what she is going through.
Almost all of our children were here this weekend. I got Julie to come to church with us, and we sat together and watched our son Nathaniel bless the sacrament, and our son Christopher bring it to us. All weekend the older children once again got to see and talk to their mama. Heidi helped her with her make up, massaged her legs and painted her nails. It was an important visit for them, and they left in peace.
Julie had an appointment at the Teton Cancer Institute today, probably for the last time. Her oncologist told her that going to Houston for more PRRT treatments is probably no longer an option. Those treatments probably won’t help enough and she might not survive another treatment. This is what we suspected, no real news, but when we got out to the car, she still sobbed, “Well, this is it, I am going to die.” She was so sad. Her face showed the contortions of heartbreak and anguish. I got as close as I could in our truck, I just wanted to squeeze her so hard, but that would break her bones. Instead I just had to tell her how much I’d like to squeeze her.
After some gentle words we drove around together for the rest of the afternoon and evening. While I took care of errands she wanted to stay with me and ride shotgun, rather than go back to bed. Among other things, we drove to look at a cemetery, where she and I would lie together someday. She seemed to like it and was interested to see recent headstones of friends buried there also too soon. It seemed strangely comforting for her I think.
I doubt I will be writing again soon. I really don’t know how long this will last, while she gets IV nutrition. I asked her if she wanted to survive through the holidays. She said, “No that really doesn’t matter.” There is nothing really holding her back now, except family. When the time comes, I think she will be ready.