Monday, August 6, 2018

Oh Joy - Kelly's Celebration of Life

I flew out so early Friday morning and arrived to meet Jeffrey Clark for the first time when he picked me up from the airport.  We met Kathy (first time for me) at a restaurant for lunch.  Jeff and I promptly went down for a nap after that.

I awoke to their adorable son, who is by the way, a real life super hero.  He wouldn't show me all of his capes....I gotta see the capes Finn.

Jeff, Kathy, and I went out for a bit Friday night.  It was pretty fun.  I can't play darts very well, and Jeff can't play Big Buck Hunter very well.  So glad those important facts were established.

Jeff and Kathy dropped me off early at the country club where the celebration was being held.  Apparently I got ready to celebrate by falling down a flight of stairs before heading out.  I am SO graceful.

People began pouring in and I got to meet so many of Kelly's friends and family.  The 24's (her 24 year long friends referred to as the 24's now) all showed me such warmth and love when I arrived.  Kelly's father Tom did as well.  He did an amazing job speaking about his daughter's life and the legacy she leaves behind.  One of love, optimism, and pure joy.  I'm praying so much for Tom and his wife and their son, and the children for strength during this difficult time, along with everyone who loves her, and their were a ton of people that came out to celebrate.

Her ex-husband read some adorable poems from their children (who were totally playing games on some phones that I wanted to play).  He also read his own statement about her.

Peter, her friend, prayed with us and spoke so beautifully about Kelly and how her spirituality had grown since they met.  I could feel it when we spoke, when she asked if our souls would recognize each other and when she said she was excited for this next life, although she didn’t want to leave her boys.

I spoke about how Kelly and I met, about how she opened up a little more about fears, and how we were horrible at listening to classes at the LUNGevity summit so we ended up playing with SnapChat the whole time.  I got her hooked.  I'm so sorry...I should've known she needed an intervention when we got home and she sent something ever day!  She was so goofy.  Even in the hospital, that she was in and out of this past year, she still sent crazy snapchats.  I have some great memories on mine of her.  I really hope they allow me to bring it into heaven.  We turn into 12 year old girls with that app.

Chris Draft attended and spoke about Kelly's bravery and courage and how we must continue to fight lung cancer, for people such as Kelly, gone too soon.  I had to go before him because it is impossible to follow up his speeches.

A few more people went and then everyone mingled.  The set up was fabulous and Kelly would have loved the fact that we all weren't sitting in a funeral home crying.

I honored her by doing what we did best, SnapChat pics, so get ready for an overload of pics in this post.

I don't think my speech did my soul sister the justice she deserved for always being my voice of reason.  She calmed me down.  She was and always will be my soul sister.  And the fact her friends took me in as that is just amazing.

Tiffany drove me to the gathering of the 24's and more afterwards and we held a celebration for Kelly's birthday, August 13th.  They shared such sweet memories of Kelly and we laughed and talked about the overpowering LOVE she had for everyone.  There is literally no one else like her.  Chris came by and eventually Jeff picked me up.  Chris and I both stayed with the Clark's so Chris could take me to the airport since we were on the same EARLY flight.  I was so glad he was there....I swear I need a babysitter.  Thank you Tiffany for taking this stranger in and carting her around!

All in all, I think we had Kelly smiling, laughing at us, and just overjoyed at the peace so many of us felt.  She will forever be in our hearts, but this weekend gave me that closure and peace I had been seeking.  Bonnie Addario even messaged that we will all continue to fight for Kelly and others with this terrible disease.  She brought together so many people.  And I feel like I gained so many friends that were in her corner and I'll remain friends with them through our mutual bond with Kelly.

Although I have peace as to where she is, free of pain and machines and hospitals, I'm selfish.  I want her here.  I feel a little lost without her, but I'm sure she will help me find a way. 

As Chris so eloquently quoted 2 Timothy 4:7, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith".  And that she did.


It's so much better today...the other one was worse.  I'm graceful like that

The Remaining Pics are In Honor of Kelly and Her Favorite Snapchat Filter
This is exactly what Kelly would have been doing...

Kelly's Dad - "Only doing this for Kelly"

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

"Forever Is Composed of Nows" - Emily Dickinson

So, let me start off by telling you it's World Lung Cancer Awareness Day.  I won't quote the statistics at this moment.  Those are written on my page by Cliff and I will share.  Please, read all of these and share.  This one day out of the year, I pray that you read and share, especially what Cliff Norton wrote for today.

I wanted to talk about how the lung cancer community is family.  And their friends and family are family.  We are all connected through this awful disease.  My soul sister Kelly lived with it for over 6.5 years.  The last year was extremely tough for her.  But she held on until the last possible moment.  She won, when she gained her wings, she killed the cancer that had a hold of her.

I've been amazed by the outpouring of support and love not only from my family and a few friends and the lung cancer community, but by her own best friends of 24 years and her father, Tom.  They understood, I may not have been in her life as long, but I was broken too.

One friend wrote me the other day.  She wrote me a message that seriously made me ugly cry.  Here is a bit of what she wrote "we were not able to provide the same sense of comfort to her that your friendship did through the deep connection you shared.  You truly are soul sisters and Kelly was so happy to have you in her life.  Your love and connection to Kelly means more to us than you will ever know.'"  The letter was very long and so sincere and she vowed they would fight for me as they fought for Kelly due to the love we all shared for her.  Our connection was forged out of cancer.

I can't read it without breaking down.  Sometimes people forget, as of now, our time is limited unless something changes.  She beat the statistics.  But, in the end, that meant she did get to live a little longer and had such a rough last year.  I am in awe at the love of her friends and hope the family and few friends that I still have would do the same for others.  I know my family, including my sweet sister who has really stepped up, will be there for others.  Thank you sister for reassuring me you'll never leave.  No matter how many little arguments we have, I know you love me.

When you get something like stage 4 lung cancer, you are scared.  Whether you admit it or not.  You hate the thought of the world going on without you, your friends going on without you, your children, your parents, your siblings, all going on without you.  In the beginning, I was given one year to live.  I felt so much love and was surrounded by so many friends I've known the majority of my life.  Now, they do have their own lives and yes, its been almost 6 years for me.  But as their confidence in my survival has changed with time, mine hasn't.  There aren't enough options.  And I want quality of life over quantity of life.  So, I'm sure my actions have pushed some away.  But, they can never understand the daily fear we live with.  I thought Kelly would be with me until the end.  I thought Nicole would be with me until the end.  Now....now I feel lost and alone in this cancer world.  I have some amazing cancer friends of Nicole's that took me in and we can share our worries, fears, and morbid other things.  And other wonderful people that have reached out and now we've become friends, I'm scared of this process repeating itself.  The pain, the pain of the loss is worse than the cancer itself.

Many people think I'm strong, but I don't feel strong.  I'm crying while I write this.  I want to talk to Kelly and Nicole one more time.  As the rawness of Nicole's passing was beginning to wear off, Kelly gained her wings too.  And it's scary.  I'm not strong.  I know where I'm going and that gives me peace.  But I can't pretend to be unafraid of what it's going to do to the people that love me.  All I can do is hand it over to God and pray we get more funding for research.

This illness has not only given me physical ailments but mentally, it has nearly destroyed me.  Last year I almost checked myself into a psych ward because I couldn't deal with the reality anymore.  Thanks to the support of my ex-husband, I didn't.  But I suffered a mental breakdown, and that was before Kelly.  Yes, I'm selfish.  I want to see my family and friends as much as possible.  That's why I kept going to Atlanta for my healthcare.  I could go to Jacksonville, and still may because most have their own lives and have confidence in my survival.  I'm trying to get that back.  I really am, but living like this is so hard.  I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

Thank you Nicole for reminding me to always be feisty and fight for what you believe.  And thank you Kelly for showing me how to love and be positive in the midst of the darkest situations.  And both of you for reminding me it's okay to cry, feel alone, and be angry sometimes.  On my page is a great statement from my good friend Cliff, help others of us continue to live and watch our children grow.  Please take the time to read Cliff's information.

Thank you all for your continuous prayers.  And please pray for strength for the Shannon family and all her friends and family as we celebrate her beautiful life this weekend.

2017 LUNGevity Summit

Regardless of time and distance we all have love and understanding

2018 LUNGevity Summit