Monday, June 16, 2014

A Season for Everything

It's been three and half years since my last post and I have stopped thinking that things will get back to "normal." Most of the time actually things are normal. It's those days that are not that remind me that cancer is forever despite having days of "remission." Sometimes those are days like birthdays and holidays that suddenly days of funk for me when I don't want to see anyone and just want to lie around in my pajamas. The worst loss I think though has been Jessica's friends and family. I do appreciate the honesty of people when they outright give the reasons why they can't be friends anymore. Everyone, not just me, went through/ are going through the stages of grief for Jessica, but we also are going through the stages of grief of the loss of the life we will never have without her.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Last Post

I've felt for awhile now that I should write a last post. This blog has meant a lot to me as it has connected me with a global community in a way that would not be possible through face to face communication. With any person's life prayer is one of the most important thinsg, but for us as a family it has sustained, guided, and supported us. For many people this blog has served as marching orders for prayer warriors. For others, it has meant not coming to here support, but to be supported. Dealing with a major illness like cancer or the loss of a love one is sometimes best helped by listening to stories of others who have been there. I know for me, listening to others' stories at Gilda's Club and the Warm Place has brought comfort. It has been an honor to me that you have come here to listen to Jessica and my story, My story is continuing in the next "book," but I'm ready for it to be more private. Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Storm Clouds

Be still and know that I am God. Seems pretty simple, but for someone full of energy like me, it's been tough being still and quiet and not try to make things happen on my own. A couple of weeks ago, I went out to the cemetery where Jessica is buried because there were some things I needed to tell her. Logically, I know she isn't really there, just her body and I have no doubt where her soul is. However, emotionally I felt like it was where I needed to talk to her. When I had left the house, the sky was blue with some big white fluffy clouds, but now the Fort Worth sky began reflecting my emotions. Dark storm clouds began rolling in. I had brought a fold-out chair to talk to her and I set it out as the cemetery turned dark with cloud cover. The things I needed to say were not things I believed, but things I felt emotionally. Even though her dying was not her fault and she fought tooth and nail to survive, I needed to say what I felt emotionally. I was mad at her for leaving me, for not making it, for dying. It didn't matter that I didn't believe these things, they still had to be said. As I shut my eyes and began talking to her, the rain began to come like soft tears. I kept talking as the rain continued to fall. Finally, I was finished, I opened my eyes, and the storm clouds scattered revealing blue sky. Finally, I had peace. I felt Jessica's blessing for me to have a joyful life without her.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

You Were Right

I think I have been in a place where I couldn't listen to advice. I am a man of action. The last year of Jessica's life I had to make many decisions and had to do many things that I thought I would never be able to do. Lots of people offered advice and their advice contradicted each other. Instead of following advice I would instead find out what was on Jessica's heart, decide the best way to make that happen, and do it. My life was a reflection of what Paul of the bible says God told him, "My power is made perfect in your weakness." When Jessica passed, my focus shifted from her to my girls. I was able to meet many of their needs, but they needed a mom. I made a mistake in trying to find one so quickly because I under-estimated God's grace and power in a single parent's life. My girls are doing just fine with just me as their one parent (and the whole community supporting us). My most recent mistake has been dating without first taking care of myself and strengthening my relationship with God. I hit a brick wall on my birthday on Wednesday, and it was a crash that went well into the rest of the week. I had a good time on my birthday; the highlight being going to a movie with my guy friends for the second year in a row. The problem this year came with my age. Jessica had always been older than me; she passed away at 33. This year with me turning 34, for the first time I'm older than her. I really haven't let go of her. There's a scene in the movie Inception where the main character is talking to his wife in a dream. He says that the wife of his dream can never be his wife because no matter how closely he remembers her, she will still not be truly his wife. He then tells her he has to let go of her. My heart ached in that scene because I would love to talk to Jessica, tell her how the girls have been, about my job, about how we're all doing. I am very aware that my wife is no longer with us, but I have been holding onto the life we had together. I just realized, I can't just write the next chapter of the book of my life with someone else. That book has reached the last page that says, "The End." I'm going to have to write a new book, but first I've got to be ready to write it. That's going to take a couple of months. There are some difficult choices I'm having to make. I stopped dating. I'm going to spend some money on myself. I am going to attend a single parent sunday school which means a two month break from my church. I'm going to go to counseling. All these things are super difficult, but faith without works is dead. Then I'm going to spend time with God finding out what means to be still and know that He is God. At the end of the two months, I'm going ask out the girl God wants me to eventually marry. I'm finally at a place where I can listen to wise council, and if you were one of those that tried to offer such let me say that "You were right."

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Friday, July 2, 2010

List of Top 25

My cousin Angela suggested I make a top 25 list of things I'm looking for in a girl. With help from my family during our Kaylor family reunion this last week, I came up with the following in no particular order...
1. Being funny is not enough. I want a girl that is hysterically funny who makes me laugh so hard I can't breathe. Someone who isn't afraid to be silly with me.
2. Authentic faith in Jesus
3. A natural beauty who doesn't mind being comfortable in sweats and no make-up just hanging out, but can also go out looking sexy hot or beautifully classy
4. Can talk to me about anything and makes me want to tell her everything
5. Makes me a better me
6. Holds me accountable for doing the right thing
7. God confirms that she's the right one
8. Be willing to try new things
9. Be the first one to grab the mic in a karaoke bar and be able to sing
10. Love to do things together, yet have separate things
11. Love my girls and be good with them
12. Respect and honor Jessica
13. Good communicator/problem solver
14. Be able to help me plan/organize
15. Love her job and love life
16. Be OK with not having more kids
17. Wants to stay in North Texas
18. Love to travel. Like camping AND hotels
19. Be between 25 and 40
20. Not extremely messy or neat, like to cook
21. Be able to stick to a budget
22. Be persistent, have raw determination, be committed
23. Be willing to be forgive and be forgiven
24. Respects and encourages me
25. Be affectionate and like to give or receive massages
26. What do you think 26 should be?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I'm Back

Well dear friends it's been awhile. Most of the time I'm fine with broadcasting my life on here, but the last months have been hard on me personally and this time I really didn't want the attention that comes with what is already a very public life. I'm good now though and I thought I'd share a top 10 list of what God has been teaching me these last months:

1. Life is an adventure. Sometimes that adventure takes me to my friend Frank's house just before he goes on the night shift and ALWAYS involves decaf coffee (the real stuff conks me out) and a plate of chocolate chip cookies. Sometimes like today, it means the Yikes turning in their chore coins to go see Shrek with a friend in tow.
2. I can do this on my own. I've been thinking that I had to find the girls a mom within a reasonable period of time. Now I'm thinking I'm going to be enjoy being single for a bit. My girls are going to be just fine with me raising them on my own. I broke up with Heidi a couple of weeks ago, and I made a promise to myself that I would wait three to six months before I considered getting back into a relationship. There are a lot of amazing girls out there, and I think as long as I'm upfront about what I want right now, I think it will be fun going on dates without the weight of the future on my shoulders.
3. Sometimes God lets you choose. I'm used to seeing the ONE path God wants me to go on. Right now there are lots of possibilities, but then we have a God of possibilities.
4. God loves "coincidences." I have been loving the way God has been putting me in people's paths lately.
5. Be still and wait. I have such been like the Sea of Galilee during the storm with the disciples on the boat. It sounds weird to say it, but my soul has been restless and Jesus has been calming it down.
6. Don't settle for less.
7. I can enjoy my teenage daughter. Lately, we've been doing things like coming up with a parent manual with suggestions that are completely ridiculous. I would list some here, but so far every time I've tried to share them with anyone else, they've been too over-the-top for them.
8. I'm still going to have bad days. No matter how many good days I have in a row; I'm going to have days that just flat knock me on my back with missing Jessica.
9. I like challenges. I really need to be reminded of this one right now as I'm sweating in my 86 degree house waiting for the a/c repair man. That said, there's nothing more manly then beating a challenge.
10. Jadyn and Brynnie will constantly find new ways to be sweet. Their new phrase they use with me is "Daddy, is this a good time to talk?" That's pretty much music to my ears as I am usually trying to get several things situated at once. It helps me step back for a moment, and either talk to them like they need me to or tell them to wait.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Year and a half

As of today, it's been a year and a half since Jessica passed away. I don't know if this week has been good or bad. It's certainly been hard. Grief comes in waves and this week it has felt like a tsunami. I know we live in a culture where it's frowned upon to be sad, but I don't look at it as all bad. I like to the think Jessica is worth missing and what kind of life together would we have lived if parting wasn't hard?

This weekend Brynnie had her birthday party and she officially turned seven on Monday. Jessica was the planner (actually from what my friends say the wife is usually the planner), but I managed to rent a place, send out invites, bake a cake, and everything else that comes with it. I'm pretty sure I left some people off the list though. Not on purpose. Also I remembered to bring my camera, but I think it might have fallen out of my pocket because I can't find it. One of the people I think I left off is Aunt Pam. So what does she do? She brings cookies on Brynnie's actual birthday. That's just the kind of people Jessica's family are. If you come up short, they'll help you out.

Tonight I went to Jessica's grave. Actually, the girls and I plus a girl from our college group that we taught went. I don't often go. For me, she really isn't there. She's in heaven. I've been really wanting to go though recently, and today was an appropriate day. Usually Jadyn and Brynnie write messages to Jessica on helium balloons and let them go-- I don't. Today though I wrote a message to Jessica. I filled it up, tied it off, and scrawled a message in my bad handwriting. Then I let it go. Today was a particularly windy day and balloon flew low to the ground across the other graves, then shot up awkwardly in the air, and soared up in the sky. I watched it until I couldn't see it anymore. I couldn't help, but think about the similarity to Jessica's life. I only held onto the balloon briefly, before it soared up-- really quite beautiful in the last moments of seeing it. Then I was left feeling like a child, wishing I still had the balloon.

Mother's day is coming up. I'm trying not to think about it. I'm trying to live each day on its own, but it's been hard to do that.

Jessica always thought I should each post on a positive note. I have so much to be thankful for so I thought I should list them. I'm thankful for: the people who watch my kids after school: my brother-in-law Garett, my friend Leslie, and my friend Shelley, for all the families who give my girls rides (especially Katelyn) when I'm double or triple booked with activities, for my "band of brothers": my guy friends who I can call on whenever I need them, my girlfriend Heidi and all the people that pray for me and my daughters, and most importantly the Trinity: God the Father who has a good and perfect plan for me, Jesus who made up for my shortcomings, and the Holy Spirit who has helped me make every wise decision I have ever made.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Julie Mangrem

Tonight, I went to a memorial service for Julie Mangrem. She and Jess were diagnosed with cancer about the same time; Julie's was colon cancer. Every time Jess would see Julie, she would talk about Julie's smile and how she would light up a room even while battling cancer. Julie's smile was one of those things that kept getting brought up at the service and its effect on other people. It's also one of the things that people constantly brought up about Jess: her smile. It's pretty amazing because they knew their fate. One of the questions Jess always asked people when they told her that they knew someone with stage four cancer was "How are they doing now?" The answer was always that they had passed away. The question I get most often from my youngest daughter, Brynnie, is "Why did mommy have to get cancer and die?" I don't really have an answer for that. I know that Jess learned to live life to its fullest even while it was waning away, and her faith grew in God even as He chose not to heal her. I'm sure Julie's own two children, Addi and Major will ask their daddy, Mark, the same question. The answer at tonight's service was for God's greater glory. I don't know exactly how that works, but it was definitely a celebration service tonight. By the way I found out this week that Julie went to Jessica's funeral on her own birthday, and that she had to postpone a baby shower that was going to be on the same day. When I think of them both in heaven now, I imagine them with big light-up-the-room smiles laughing so hard that they are crying. Is that even possible if there are no tears in heaven? Check out the Mangrem's facepage 1 Thess 5:11 (pray without ceasing)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jessica's Last Letter to Me

I must confess you that my emotions have been in turmoil lately. When you lose someone you love, your life is never the same and the part of them that remains in your life is at times a comfort and at times a painful uneasiness. Tonight though I found the more I thought about the difficulties in my life, the more a growing sense of peace came, and so with God's help I'm writing this post.

A few months ago, I posted about how Jessica and I thought of the kids before we thought of me. I bought birthday, wedding, and first baby cards for the girls. Jessica thought about what they would need to hear from her in those moments and filled out those cards. She also wrote down in photo-books what she wanted the girls to know. However, in the time after her death I lamented what we had forgotten. If only I had her write, something to me. Then Judy, my mother-in-love, found what I hoped for, but did not imagine existed, the card. Jessica did indeed find time in her last days to think of me. I am going to write those words down now. It is my hope that those of you who never got to hear one final goodbye from your loved ones that you will see in it what they would have said to you had they could have.

Jake- how I love you! You are such a strong man. I have told you before I would hope I would take care of you as well as you have taken care of me over over the last few years. I am grateful and blessed by your presence in my life. You were my rescuer, my knight in shining armor, even before I got sick. I hope that this year has brought some peace and closure to a long hard fought battle we waged together. I pray, also, that people will allow you to grieve the way you need to, and not the way other people think you should. I love you so very much. Although I'm sure heaven is a wonderful place, I wonder if I will miss anything. Before dying, I knew I would not be there for you as a husband, and I grieved that loss. I am honored to have had so much time with you. You are an amazing husband and a worthy, kind father. <3 I love you!! Jess

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fantastic Day

I have a lot of great days. but today was a fantastic one. Our church offered a day today for them to watch the kids while parents took care of Christmas shopping. I took advantage of it and headed to Walmart. I found what I needed for Jadyn's present, but sizing it up I realized it wasn't going to fit in my cart or my car. I picked up some straps and went to look for a bigger cart. I asked an employee for help. He found a cart in the back, but it had on it something he was going to have to put back on the shelf if I hadn't come along... the very item I was looking for. I headed to the front and checked out, but on my way out another employee asked if I wanted help putting it in my car. Yes, this was awesome! We got in the car, the employee left, and I went to work on the straps. I got the kind of straps that ratchet down and are fairly easy to use, but I had never used them before and had trouble figuring it out. That's when a dad and his family pulled up next to me. He took a few minutes to explain how to tighten and loosen then and was off. The coolest thing was that his kids and his wife were looking at him like he was the hero of Christmas which I have to tell you he kind of was.

I took Katelyn to her volleyball banquet this week. Brynnie thought she was going to her volleyball BLANKET. She also had a different idea on Katelyn's date. She went with Patrick who was very much a high schooler, but Brynnie thought she was going with Patrick the Starfish, from Spongebob. She of course looked lovely, pictures to follow later.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Break in the Routine

Brynnie decided we weren't paying enough attention to her and so she went and broke her arm. Now everyone notices her and wants to sign her bright pink cast. What actually happened was she Jadyn were running through the house, Jadyn tried to pull her onto the couch, she pulled her but instead of landing on the couch, she landed on the hard floor. This time it's her elbow that's broken-- she doesn't have brittle bones, but this is the third broken bone for her all on her arm.

We had a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. This year we had it at Aunt Diane's and it was a success-- despite MeeMaw being in New York. Heidi was able to come for Thanksgiving (her son, didn't come this time as he went on a hunting trip with his Opa). My super shy Brynnie got super attached to her on this trip. She was mad at me for not letting her go back with Heidi in one of her suitcases. I also lost a friend this week to a heart attack, Thomas Horton. I'm thankful that I got to enjoy a cup of coffee and his place and get a good haircut from him, but the loss still hurts and I hurt for his family too.

Monday, November 2, 2009


The Yikes

Katelyn and Lauren Zang

Saturday, October 24, 2009

fall pictures


My trip to Philly went great. I came up at the perfect time of the year when the leaves are changing, and Heidi and I made full use of that by going to parks and taking walks. I think the coolest thing was going to see Eastern State Penitentiary which was pretty creepy even in the daytime. They have a haunted house there at night which I'm sure is just down right spooky. I have to wait and see her until Thanksgiving when she comes down here. I think it's pretty cool because this year it's at Aunt Dianne's who Heidi has gotten to know and like through Facebook. Thanksgiving is quite possibly my favorite holiday of the year-- it's hard to beat the family + food combination.

On the negative side, this month has already been really tough. You might think that because I've fallen in love again, it would make it easier to get through the anniversary of Jessica's death... not so much. I find myself tearing up all the time-- especially when it comes to Jadyn's birthday. It's hard to get past the contrast of wanting to celebrate Jadyn's birthday with trying to cope with Jessica's death. Jadyn's having her party today and she is so excited.

Let me leave you with a Yikes story. Jadyn and Bryn were talking about Pre-K. They wanted to know why they went to different schools. I told Jadyn that to qualify for going to public school for Pre-K you had to either be learning to speak English or not make enough money. She got to go to Corey Elementary because I made just under the cap. However, the next year I made just over the max, so Bryn went to the Mother's Day Out program at Fielder Road Baptist Church. Then they asked the difference between the two. I told them that Bryn's school was more play and was only two days a week, but they still learned things while Jadyn's school was every day and focused more on learning things. When Jadyn heard that, she proudly said, "Then, I'm smarter." Not be outdone, and without mising a beat, Bryn grinned and said, "And I'm funner."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Not Alone

I have been longing for an easy button lately. I feel like I have been through enough hard stuff, and it would feel oh so good to coast. Sitting on church on Sunday though I realized that 1. it's not going to get any easier and 2. it's about time I shifted my focus from asking how can my life be better to how can I fit into God's plan for the world. Right now that plan starts with three people Jadyn, Bryn, and Katelyn. Thank goodness I'm not doing it alone. Yes, I rarely get a break from taking care of them, but I have lots of help. This last week my mother-in-love has been to Katelyn's volleyball games, Aunt Sandy came and did a clean sweep of the girls' rooms, my brother-in-law Garett watched them some of the days after school as did family friends Shelly and Leslie, my neighbor Al made a late night run to the grocery store, and it is truly amazing that people still pray for us. I'm making a trip to Philly this weekend to see Heidi and the number of people involved in coordinating a weekend of my girls' activities plus house sitting is pretty amazing. All this to say, I'm canceling the pity party and sending God a big thank you, if you want I'll let you sign the card :)