As most of you know, this summer I moved in with a friend of mine to help be a caretaker for her, her house, and (most importantly) her kids (all her animals, and especially her two dogs). This friend, at 28 years old, was facing a third bout with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL). After undergoing several rounds of chemotherapy and finding a suitable donor for a marrow transplant, she was one week away from having the transplant procedure.
A week ago yesterday, she was admitted into the hospital, complaining of difficulty breathing. The doctors discovered damage to her heart, due to the chemo. Apparently as the week progressed, her condition worsened. She developed an infection that the doctors could not find. I got a call from her mom last night, that her liver and kidneys were failing, and that her heart was operating at only 20% of capacity. This morning, her brother called to tell me that she passed away during the night.
The words of her mom on Kelly's Caring Bridge site journal from last night are an appropriate eulogy:
We are blessed to have a daughter as strong and bright as Kelly. She drives you crazy one second and has you laughing the next. She is always looking out for everyone and every animal. Even the mice that found their way into Kelly’s house were captured in live traps and released into the park. She loves life and animals. No matter what the animal. She is even trying to get over her fear of snakes by getting to know them.
Kelly took over our family once she was diagnosed the first time with ALL. By that I mean that she took care of us. She is the one who taught us how to fight and how to think only good things and not act terrified but to have a sense of humor. Not that she doesn’t get down from time to time but she always tries to show that she is doing well.
The last 10 years have been filled with all kinds of unknowns. Kelly never shows how scared she really is during these times. She puts on a brave face and finds something to occupy her mind. Terry and I had a difficult time during her transplant; we tried to protect Kelly from dirt, viruses, and people. But she jumped back into life full steam by buying a house of her own. She was determined to live her life, her way. We are so proud of how determined she can be and how much she can accomplish when she sets her mind to something. I should take a lesson from her because I always stick my toe into the water first; you know just to test it.
Kelly is always learning. She can’t have enough knowledge. There is always something new to learn. And she never turns down an opportunity to help someone with a pet. Whether that is advice on a certain problem or toenail clippings or someone to take care of them while they went out of town. She enjoys caring. It is a part of her.
There are not enough words to describe Kelly. I am finding it difficult to put everything down in this space. There are so many stories of Kelly and her animals, of Kelly and her brother and family, of Kelly and her friends, of Kelly and her work…..I could go on forever. But then again why do I have to put it into words, you already know Kelly because you have been there for her and helped not only her but us get through these past years.
Thank you to friends and family, for your support during this time. Thank you, especially, to Steph and her family for their words of support. As with her family, loved ones, and friends, I take comfort in knowing that she is no longer suffering. I pray that in some small way I was able to help her get the most out of the last few months of her life - and I pray for forgiveness for any ways in which I may have failed to do so.
Always remember: life is precious, and it is a gift - but also, life is meant to be lived. Kelly exemplified this truth; she made the most of every moment. These are the situations that compel in us a changed perspective. Perhaps I missed opportunities; perhaps at times I took a too-short-term perspective. Yet perhaps, in the future, I will miss fewer opportunities; perhaps I will choose to see each moment not through the lens of the present but through the lens of eternity.
Steph and I had a busy weekend. We left Friday evening for Rose-Hulman's Homecoming weekend. As in previous years, accomodations were a tent on the grounds of the fraternity house. Activities included the Pep Rally and Bonfire Friday night, followed by the annual Alpha Chi Sigma alumni dinner at Applebee's, and then another bonfire at the Pike house. Saturday, we visited the Chemical Engineering department open house, then joined the Rose Chorus to sing the national anthem before the football game, complete with F-16 flyover from the local air national guard unit. The game included copious amounts of roasted pig. Later that evening was the annual Pi Kappa Alpha actives-vs-alumni softball game at the IM fields, which spawned a pickup game of actives-vs-alumni football - and, of course, more food: grilled burgers and brats. Afterward, we had more bonfire action at the house. Sunday morning we had the annual Pike alumni association meeting on campus. After lunch, Steph and I headed back toward Saint Louis.
Of course, on the way home, Steph and I took a detour to Hidden Lake Winery in Aviston, IL, for a wedding. Two friends from college were getting married on a gorgeous Fall afternoon.
Yesterday I received some tragic news: a friend of mine from Michigan was killed in a car accident near Saint Louis, on her way to a Joyce Meyer conference. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that the driver who crashed into their van was drunk.
I know that Sara is in a better place now, and that God has a plan to work out even such tragedy for good. But it is still difficult to cope with the lamentable loss of the life of such a wonderful person, especially considering that once again such woe could have been avoided entirely if one less person had chosen to drink and drive.
PHOTO: Ish with his mother at the Bharaat.
The festivities began Friday evening with the Bharaat reception at the Doubletree hotel in downtown Kansas City. Ish was attired and prepared at his family's house (in a ceremony called the Sehra Bandi) before he, family, and friends arrived at the Bharaat, led by fanfare and music. The bride's family organizes the Bharaat as the formal greeting of the groom's family. The bride's family provides lots of food, singing, dancing, and other entertainment after greeting the groom with the traditional garlands.
The wedding ceremony itself - the Anand Karaj - took place at the Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) in Kansas City.
PHOTO:Ish and Pritee during Anand Karaj
Most of the ceremony - the name of which means "Ceremony of Bliss" - was conducted in Panjabi, and the celebrants and guests sat on the floor as is customary. Immediately following the ceremony, the traditional temple lunch took place. This meal - the Langar - is served in the temple Langar hall, and consists of vegetarian cuisine served to everyone sitting on the floor, as equals.
And the picture you've all been waiting to see:
PHOTO: Traditional Indian garb with Punjab turban
Ish provided me with a traditional Indian outfit to wear during the Anand Karaj. Also, Sikh tradition requires, along with the removal of shoes before entering the temple, that everyone cover the head during prayers or when entering the temple. So, Ish's brother-in-law was kind enough to provide me with a traditional Punjab-style turban.
Following Langar, the married couple greeted family and friends outside the Gurudwara.
PHOTO:Ish and Pritee after the Anand Karaj
During the weekend, as my friend noted, we were impressed with just how much the Sikh wedding is not just the joining of a husband and wife, but the union of two families.
The wedding reception followed that evening at Club 1000 in downtown Kansas City. More traditional food, along with more entertainment, speeches, dancing, and a cake-cutting ceremony were all part of the celebration.
Congratulations, Ish and Pritee, and thank you for the opportunity to share this experience with you and your families.
(Temporary: original Haloscan Comments - Comments)
I remember well the Frankfurt airport smoking bars:
Frankfort is a cool airport. A bit retro while being completely modern. I suppose this is how a lot of Germany feels. The Germans are supposed to be supremely stylish, but I don't know enough to know the difference. One big problem in my opinion: too much smoking. In the US, it's almost a crime to smoke cigarettes, at least in the Washington D.C area, and I wouldn't be surprised if that personal freedom was one of the next to go. Frankfort Airport, in sharp contrast, has smoking bars. I'm not talking about a joint where you can get a pint and smoke a cigarette or cigar. I'm talking about an elbow-high counter-top, with nothing else around it, practically in the middle of the corridor in the terminal. And it's not just one... there are dozens of them.
I had a 2-3 hour layover in Frankfurt on my way to my mission trip in Manchester, England in 2002. We all also commented that, without any ventilation, the smoking bars were about as effective as designated urnating areas in public swimming pools. Spot on, too, with the description as a "bit retro while being completely modern."
There’s an art to avoiding madness during an airport layover. You can take the easy way out and sleep in the boarding area until your plane is ready to board. Or, you can do what we did and tour the airport, wandering aimlessly in and our of duty free, travel electronics, and magazine stands.
As I remember, we got bored of wandering relatively quickly, and turned to hackey sack. It turned out to be a great way to pass the time; unfortunately, we picked a relatively traffic-free area that happened to be right next to the office of a very large, burly, scary security woman. Said security woman would not have been an issue, had one of my teammates not made a flying leap into the wall to make a play on the hack. As we found out from the resultant, reverberating din, the wall was quite flimsy, and Helga's office was right on the other side. Our hackey diversion ended quickly when she came out of her office, yelling at us rather animatedly in (obviously) German, which meant none of us could understand her.
And after this blast from the past, we now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging...