Tuesday, June 21, 2011

When I Say "I Do"

Clint Black put it best…
“When I said I do, I meant that I will, till the end of all time. Be faithful and true, devoted to you, that’s what I had in mind, when I said I do.”

I have spent the last few days remembering and honoring my grandmother, Marlene Schneider. She is exemplary of the woman I hope to grow up to be. She is selfless, encouraging, determined, devoted, understanding, unconditionally loving, and above any an all things, tirelessly compassionate. This woman never laid eyes on someone she couldn’t find the good in. She sought to discover the better side of every person she crossed paths with, and I hope I can learn to become like her in that sense.

What I loved most about her, is that when she said something, she meant it… and she stood by it. Forever. She had a love for family unlike anyone I have ever encountered. She was always finding ways to bring us closer together, especially when we were furthest apart. She and my grandfather have served as constant beacons of stability for our family. They have unknowingly and as far as I know, unintentionally taken on the role of defining for my family the epitome of grace. They had been happily married 56 years the day she died, and through thick and thin, the good times and the bad, stood side by side embracing our family and uplifting us in whatever capacity we needed. I don’t think they know how very meaningful their relationship has been to me specifically.

This picture is from their 50th wedding anniversary that was celebrated at our farm in Millboro, VA… unfortunately this is a milestone that has become somewhat of a rarity. Please understand that I am not pointing fingers, shunning, or looking down upon anyone who has been in a ‘failed’ relationship: I’m not. That would be pure hypocrisy, as I, myself, am a product of a broken home. But what means so much to me about this picture is the essence of possibility. It is possible to find the right person, to be happy, to have a wonderful marriage, and raise an incredible family together, and to have the happily ever after you deserve.

Don’t get me wrong: sometimes it takes one or two or more tries to get it right… I don’t believe in ‘failed’ relationships. They’re simply broken roads that take you to the right path, the long way… honestly, sometimes you need that… because when you find that missing link, you treasure it so much more having looked for it for so long.

I am currently in Virginia Beach spending some time with my family before the funeral. In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve watched, seen, or listened to my grandfather painstakingly relive every detail of my grandmother’s last days multiple times. I’m not sure if it helps him to continuously relive those moments, but I can tell you that as many things have changed in the last few days, one has stayed the same… and that’s the look in his eyes when he talks about her.

Though he looks as though he’s aged years since I saw him two weeks ago, his eyes have the same sparkle they’ve always had when he’s talked about her. I know he’s hurting, but he still somehow manages to be happy for her, in the sense that she’s not suffering anymore. So am I, but it sure doesn’t make it any easier to let go. This is about to be the hardest day of my life, but I must remind myself of all the love she left behind instilled in every member of my family, and then some.

I hope I have a love like my grandparents have shared. I hope I find someone that will stick with me through anything and everything unwaveringly. I hope that their success story becomes mine someday, in some way, some how, somewhere, with someone. Most importantly, I hope they know what an inspiration they’ve been to me and my entire family. When they said “I do.” they meant that they will, till the end of all time. Be faithful and true, devoted to each other, that’s what they had in mind, when they said “I do.” I can only hope to do the same.

When she said it, she meant it… and so did he. Always and forever…
Until death do us part.
And it did. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

When I Look To The Sky...

Today, I got a phone call I've been expecting for quite some time... and a phone call like many I've gotten before. My Grandmother has been fighting to stay alive for quite some time. In fact, I can't remember a time in my life where she was actually 100% healthy, or even close honestly, and I'm a couple months shy of 21 years old. She's always been up against something, but one things for certain: this woman is a fighter. I think maybe that's where I get it from...

She has fought tooth and nail, day in and day out, for her right to be alive, and boy has she made those moments count. I can't tell you the number of times I've said goodbye, knowing it was the last time I'd ever see her, or talk to her, but by some miracle, she came around. She has been to countless numbers of events, holidays, and family gatherings that everyone in the medical field told us she'd never live to see... but she did. Unfortunately, I have this gut feeling that this time, it's going to be different. 

After a long year of quickly deteriorating health resulting in a feeding tube, several extended hospital visits, home health care, and more medication than any one human should have to take in a lifetime, she's done fighting. After countless tests in the last week or so, there are just so many things up against her... not the least of which are multiple staff infections, severe trouble breathing, a right lung almost completely full of fluid, obstruction of the feeding tube resulting in inability to feed her for over a week, etc. It would be a miracle to see this take a turn for anything but the worst. 

She is my saving grace. I can't even begin to touch on the kind of selfless absolutely wholeheartedly loving person she is. As much as she's suffered in the almost 21 years of my life, I have never heard her so much as utter an unkind word about anyone. For those of you that know the implications of my behind the scenes family life, you know that that is an exceptional feat. It takes a special soul to embrace the good side of every human being even when you fail to see it, but somehow, she does. I want to be like that when I grow up. 

All that to say, what we may see as the worst may ultimately be the best... I am nowhere near okay with the notion of her being gone, but at this point, I am allowing myself to be okay with letting her go. For those of you currently questioning my morals, please know that that was no where near as easy to say as it was to type in this text box... and it's going to be twice if not fifty times harder to stand by that statement when the time comes. 

I was talking to a friend of mine tonight who has been gracious enough to distract me and keep me company... and in sitting outside and looking up to the sky as if it would hold some kind of answer, I realized, it did... It doesn't matter where we are, whether it be in Virginia, a neighboring state, half way across the country, or in the outer expanses of the universe... we all look at the same stars. I found it comforting to know, that when all is said and done, the only real difference is our vantage point... To me, that makes heaven feel a little bit closer.

I can't, in good conscience, ask her to suffer anymore. She has truly been a pillar of my family at the best of times, but most significantly, at the worst of times... and I will sleep soundly tonight knowing that she knows just how much that she means to me in that capacity. I consider myself lucky to have had the chance to say thank you and goodbye over and over again and reiterate my love and deepest gratitude to her for who she has been, is, and always will be to me. I know that a lot of people don't get that chance. It is through tearful eyes and with the heaviest heart that I conclude this, but I must. I have never known her to leave anything unfinished and as hard as this is to say, I'm not about to leave anything undone when honoring her...

So to my Grandmother, my hero, and my biggest inspiration... Whether it be two hours, two days, a week, a month or a year: I wish the most peaceful and painless transition from this life into the paradise that you've fought for forever. I'm so sorry you had to suffer for so long. 

I will look to the sky...
All my love

Friday, June 10, 2011

So Swings The Revolving Door...

I apologize in advance for the cryptic way in which I wrote the following blog, but it is in my best interest and the best interest of others to do so as such… regardless, I am confident that you will get the point.

Life is NOT fair.

Sometimes the people who you want the most, need the most, and think should and will be there the most, just aren’t. But, that’s okay. That’s the fight or flight moment when you are forced to embrace the greater side of humanity: the side where complete strangers can become your closest family... That’s what happened to me. Somewhere, in the midst of the humanity I often lose faith in, there are people like this who are selfless enough to care simply because they want to... Not because they have to.

It has been my experience that if you are persistent and you give any person enough time, they’re going to show you their good side. But when you can see their good side immediately, and more so than they themselves can, that’s when you’ve hit the jackpot. When those types of people work their way into your lives you need to pay attention and embrace the time you have to learn from them.

 Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes those people find their way into your life and stay there forever. But more often than not, those people come into your life when you need them the most, carry you when you can’t quite stand on your own two feet, see you to the next stepping stone, corner, fork in the road, what-have-you, and let you go… that’s when you’re the luckiest.

Because you are forced to appreciate the moments that you had with those people, the things that you learned from them, and who you will become as a result of their influence. It’s possible that you may walk away un-phased, which would be most unfortunate. It is my firm belief that every person who’s path you cross and who’s path crosses yours, has something to offer you. With every relationship, good and otherwise, friends or enemies, family or not, you have to opportunity to grow and to walk away changed.

I have crossed many a hurdle in the last few years, but not without the help of these kinds of people. Over these years, in the absence of the “text-book, normal family” I have been abundantly blessed with people in my life to fill in the blanks. Often times, blanks I didn’t even know existed. They know who they are… More appropriately, if you’re reading this, you know who you are… Most of them are still very much a part of my life, I’ve lost a handful, and I’m about to lose a few more… 

Nevertheless, I am not losing them in the true sense of loss… That’s the beauty of it. Lots of people will cross your path throughout your lifetime… But it’s up to you who you let stay, who you let walk away, and who you refuse to let go. I am merely departing from a crossroad in my life that I never saw coming… So swings the revolving door… 

I am the luckiest.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

You're Gonna Miss This..

I was talking to a friend that I've become close to while on this trip to England about random situations and circumstances: some of which I'm frustrated with, some of which I feel guilty about, and some that I will treasure for the rest of my life... and she said "You're such a good person." In the midst of my tears, all I could muster up in words was "Not half as good as the people I've been surrounded by."

The truth of that statement hit home hard... and though its difficult to write through the tears I've given up trying to dam, I need to elaborate. First and foremost, I am missing my brother graduate tomorrow. 
I'm currently in Oxford, England, on a trip I couldn't possibly re-create, but just happened to be a direct conflict with his graduation. Though we spent a considerable amount of time together before I left celebrating in our own way, I can't help but feel that part of my heart is still at home: where I should be. My brother and I have been through hell and back. Trust me, I can show you the vouchers. But through thick and thin, good and bad, and all the ups and downs, we had each other. I always knew I had him, and I hope he has always known he had me as well. Until now...
This is the only kind of graduation picture I'll have with him... and I regret that. It's moments like these where we really test the strength of our relationships... and when it hits you just how much those relationships mean. I know that we've worked this out and that he's okay, truth be told, we've made it through much worse, but I'm left to question how much I gave up by missing this moment. I should be there for him, like he was for me... but "should be's" don't make honey now do they..?

So... to my little brother...

Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

-Dr. Seuss 

I couldn't be more proud of the man he's become, I am a better person because of him, and I love him wholeheartedly.

Secondly, as for the people I'm surrounded by; milestones, either my own, or those of others, always make me stop to think about where I am in my life, how I got here, where I'm going, who got me here, and who I'm taking with me. I have been blessed with the opportunity to add so many people to that list this past year. That will have to be another blog for another day because its quickly approaching 1am here and I have an excruciatingly long day tomorrow... But for what its worth, if you're one of those people, past or present, I cannot express deep enough gratitude for the roles you have played in my life. 

If I am a 'good person' its because of the people I've been surrounded by. I fully believe that people come into your life for a reason, and you're a fool to think otherwise. With every new face brings new opportunity... to learn, to love, to grow, to share, to be uplifted, or to be humbled. Yes, sure, that comes with the risk of allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and yes, sometimes doing so means that you're gonna get hurt, but pain is temporary... even scar tissue can be a story book. 

There are a lot of people that I should be there to support tomorrow night... My brother Ryan, and several of his friends, my friends, who have become family to me. It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that this is my best effort to support them from here, but I'll sleep soundly knowing that they already know just how much they mean to me. There are a handful of people in that graduating class, my brother, most prominently, who will eternally be in that list of people who changed my life and will serve as constant inspiration to me for as long as I'm living... 

Parting advice from one graduate to another, if they'll have it...
In the words of Trace Adkins-

You're gonna miss this.
You're gonna want this back.
You're gonna wish these days
hadn't gone by so fast.
These are some good times,
so take a good look around.
You may not know it now...
But you're gonna miss this.

I do. 
all my love and all the best,