(Big sigh) It will be three weeks tomorrow since Rudy passed away…and the big kids and I are planning a day trip to Oxnard to go school shopping.  Rolf returned to work today. The daily routine filled with every day life stuff has resumed.  It’s painful and hard to navigate.  It’s difficult to focus.  To exist is to ache.

It is impossible to recap the past three weeks.  There are so many details that are already lost because there was just too much to retain.  I can say, though, that our family experienced one sacred moment after another since Rudy’s death where raw pain and the loneliness of excruciating loss were met with extravagant expressions of God’s grace and love over and over again.  The care our family received from family and friends in the wake of Rudy’s passing has been tender, generous and comprehensive.  The plans we made while still in Kansas and asked friends in CA to execute played out seamlessly without a hitch.  The details of Rudy’s return to CA and the process of laying him to rest were done well and honored him so sweetly.  Rudy’s funeral service and burial were Holy Ground experiences, for sure, where God took our plans and knit them together into something truly glorious giving us all a glimpse of Heaven on earth.  Rolf, the big kids and I have extended grace, love and concern to each other in the midst of our individual pain…something we don’t take for granted in these tense times.  There have been a lot of groaning sobs but there have also been a lot of laughs.  I think we all tried real hard to live in the moment these first crucial weeks and we survived.

Now, however, the hard work of grief begins…now that the adrenaline rush is subsiding and family & friends are all gone…now that time is no longer standing still and we’re confronted with the reality that life is moving on with or without us…but definitely without Rudy and that hurts.  Unfortunately, there has been room to think this past week since Rudy’s funeral and it has been hard to control my thoughts.  I’ve been haunted with all the “what ifs”…what if we didn’t go on the road trip at all, what if I hadn’t instructed Wilson to give Rudy a bath that morning, what if I had been more attentive when he got fussy, what if, what if!!  I’m actually surprised my mind is even going there because in the days immediately following Rudy’s death, Rolf and I felt strongly that there wasn’t anything more we could have done and everyone in the family worked so well together to insure Rudy got the best care.  It all seemed so clearly out of our control. My rational mind knows it to be true still but my heart is burdened by the haunting thoughts and I desperately want to turn back the clock.

So, what are we doing now?  More than we probably should be doing…there are many details on our plate right now that need our attention so we’re trying our best to focus. There is a local family in need of a medical van like ours so we are working with them to transfer ownership this week!!  Though a huge blessing for all, the sudden loss of the van is thrusting me into a car buying process that I wasn’t quite ready to do just yet.  As a result, we decided to rent a car for a month or so to give us time to car shop.  The boys leave for college NEXT WEEK so this week is all about college prep and packing!!!  It’s obviously too soon for me but I think both boys are excited to get settled and start their school year.  Olivia starts school on Monday!  A lot of my process won’t start, I don’t think, until everyone is back at school and the house is quiet.  I had to go to Rudy’s neurologist’s office today for an appointment for me and it was followed up by a stop at the blood lab where Rudy got his monthly blood draws.  It was hard to be in these familiar places without Rudy and many tears were shed today.  I’m sure there will be many days ahead with the same refrain “many tears were shed today” and we’ll take it all one day at a time.  Please keep praying for us, friends.  It’s going to get harder before it gets any easier and, to be honest, I’m feeling fearful and insecure.

At last, Rudy back home in our home church. Sunday August 6th      (PC Greg Lawler)
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“Rudy’s Band” at the funeral. Monday August 7th      (PC Dale Weber)
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Olivia sharing “sibling memories”.
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Our family’s final goodbye.

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Our first family outing last week was to Kyle’s Kitchen…we were blessed by their tribute to Rudy!
We love you Rudy and are finding it hard to do life without you in it but there is comfort in knowing you are experiencing eternal life without limitation or sadness & pain. Good for you big boy!

Here’s a final instruction we gave at Rudy’s funeral.  Will you join us in paying it forward for Rudy? –

Rudy’s life was defined by love…and in his memory, we would like to extend his legacy of love beyond his local community. If you’d like to participate, we’d like you to make a copy of the attached cards to give away along with an act of kindness (preferably to a stranger). You could pay for a person’s meal behind you in the drive thru or at the table next to you in a restaurant. You could pay for someone’s car wash or groceries or weed a lawn. Get creative, have some fun with it and experience the joy of making someone smile… just as Rudy did every day of his life. 🙂

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artwork by Cara Celeste VanNortwick

Clinton Rudolf Geyling (10/1/2008-7/25/2017)

Beloved son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, friend, student, robot and pig, our Rudy’s joyful and miraculous journey with us has come to an end. 

Even knowing that he would face enormous challenges before he was born didn’t prepare us for the magnitude of the battle that lay ahead. While acute medical issues were ever-present in his life, Rudy will be remembered more by his ability to overcome limitations and embrace life with joy and abandon. Against a backdrop of uncertainty, heartbreak and occasional terror, Rudy’s life gave us glimpses of God’s goodness and beauty we never conceived this world could hold. 

Rudy leaves behind a family that loved him deeply: parents, Rolf and Trish, the siblings he adored, Wilson, Max and Olivia, grandmothers JoAn Wilson (Lawrence, KS) and Helga Geyling (Auburn, AL) and numerous aunts, uncles, cousins and extended family across the U.S. and Europe. 

One could live 100 years and not experience the depth of love Rudy received in eight and a half years. We are grateful for people near and far who poured such incredible love into Rudy including: the family of Coast Community Church of the Nazarene, Mountain View School and dedicated professionals in the Goleta and SB County school districts, gifted doctors and compassionate medical providers in Santa Barbara and at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, the caring community of the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, our courageous cadre of special needs families and countless neighbors, friends, blog readers and even perfect strangers–all of whom discovered that even the simplest care extended to him was reciprocated with an uncannily disproportionate outpouring of his unique brand of Rudy-love. 

Viewing and visitation will be Sunday August 6th from 3-7pm at Coast Community Church of the Nazarene (4973 Via Los Santos, Santa Barbara, CA 93111). Funeral service will be on Monday August 7th, 11am at Living Faith Church (4597 Hollister Avenue, Santa Barbara, CA 93110–carpooling recommended). Burial and family receiving immediately to follow the service at Goleta Cemetery (44 S San Antonio Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93110). All are welcome wearing bright colors, especially Rudy blue (aqua blue).

Memorial donations in Rudy’s honor can be made to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission (535 E. Yanonali, Santa Barbara, CA, 93103), a very special place to Rudy and our family. 

Service Information


Rudy’s service and burial information:

  1.  We will be having a viewing at our home church on Sunday August 6th from 3-7pm.  Address: Coast Community Church of the Nazarene at 4973 Via Los Santos, Santa Barbara, Ca 93111
  2. Rudy’s service will be at a different location on Monday August 7th at 11am. Address: Living Faith Church at 4597 Hollister Avenue,  Santa Barbara, CA 93110
  3. His burial will immediately follow the service.  All are welcome to attend.  The Goleta Cemetery (44 S San Antonio Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93110) is located across the street from Living Faith Church.

For those who are able to come, we look forward to being together and celebrating this life that was dear to us all.  For those unable to make the trip, we hope to live stream the service through the church’s system or on FB so stay tuned for more information regarding that.  We’re encouraging everyone to wear bright colors, especially Rudy blue (aqua blue).

There is much to celebrate as we deeply mourn the loss of Rudy.  Thank you, in advance, for helping us lay our boy to rest with your remembrances, your prayers, your presence at the services and with your love & hugs from afar…it all is profoundly meaningful.

Not Today

The outpouring of love and kindness and remembrances on Instagram, FB, in texts, emails and phone calls has truly buoyed our family in the midst of this crushing loss.  All the messages and photos make us cry but also fill us with a profound sense of being surrounded…especially meaningful as we navigate this from so far away.

I so appreciate Rolf sharing about our last day together as a family with Rudy…it really was magical.  Although we are all grieving differently, I’m grateful for our family’s ability to process thoughts and feelings verbally right now as things surface.  Not to overshadow Rolf’s post, but I wanted to share my memories of Rudy’s last day before the details start to fade.

To say “losing Rudy is beyond comprehension” would be an understatement.  In my mind, his decline was going to be gradual…we were going to see it coming…we were going to do hospice at home with the help of “Nell”, our friend who also happens to be a hospice nurse.  In my mind, we were going to be cuddled in bed, surrounded by people we love.  In my mind, Rudy’s last moments would be peaceful and he would hear our goodbyes…might have even had the presence of mind to usher him into heaven with a favorite hymn.  I had it all planned out…in my mind.

What unfolded was a very different scenario.  Just Sunday we headed off to church with our big 15 passenger van rental packed full and ready to embark on an epic road trip to visit family in Kansas.  We were excited to travel along Route 66 and see the beauty of the Southwest.  It was going to take us 3 long days of driving to get to our destination but we planned to make some fun stops along the way.  Monday was a particularly incredible day (as Rolf already shared) and we pulled into Guymon, OK a little after 11pm for our final overnight stay before reaching my mom’s on Tuesday.  We all fell into bed, slept soundly and woke up bright and early Tuesday morning ready for a fun stop in Wichita to visit friends before heading on up to Lawrence.  Rudy woke up happy, sat on the floor playing with his new flatbed truck toy he got the day before, asked to watch Paw Patrol on TV and happily stayed in the room while the rest of us ate breakfast in the lobby in shifts.  When we got back to the room, I asked Wilson to give Rudy a quick bath while the rest of us packed up and loaded the van.  Rudy was cold after his bath so once Wilson got him dressed, Olivia snuggled with him under the bed covers and bumped up his O2 as she typically does when we need to warm him up but he was still uncomfortable.  Although it was early, the air temperature outside was already heating up so Olivia suggested he might warm up faster in the van.  She carried him to his car seat and I followed behind with the O2 concentrator.  Rudy was fussy but there was NOTHING going on to suggest there was something serious happening.  Olivia left us to go get her things and I saddled up next to Rudy to comfort him while we waited for the others.

Without warning, he got quiet, he might have opened his eyes a bit and the next thing I knew I could only see the whites of his eyes and he became unresponsive.  I yelled to Rolf to call 911, he ran into the lobby and the clerk at the desk told him it would be faster to drive to the hospital ourselves…in seconds the big kids flew into the van, the doors slammed shut, I unbuckled Rudy, put him on my lap and, not detecting a breath, began doing mouth to mouth.  Rolf had us at the hospital in less than 5 minutes, Wilson grabbed Rudy from me and ran him into the ER.  The amazing team in the ER began working on him immediately…chest compressions, intubation, defibrillator…the big sibs settled in the ER waiting area and Rolf joined me with Rudy.  For the next 45 minutes, we watched for any sign of life in our boy, waited for the gasp of air that would suddenly bring him back, occasionally called out “We’re here Rudy…Mommy and Daddy are right here”.  Feeling completely helpless I remember cheering on Nurse Mary who was relentless in giving Rudy chest compressions…”Don’t stop Mary.  Keep going!”…all the while whispering under my breath…”Not today, Rudy, not today”.  At one point, the mood in the room changed ever so slightly and Rolf whispered in my ear “they’re only doing this for us now”.  The ER doctor looked up at me without saying a word but kept working…a few minutes later he walked up to me and Rolf and said that they were able to get his heart rate up a bit but there hadn’t been any blood flow to his brain for too long.  With that, I said “we’re done”, climbed up on the gurney with Rudy and started taking all the wires and tubes off of him.  Rolf  left to get the big sibs, the room cleared and there we were, just as we were when our journey with Rudy’s heart defect began, the 5 of us huddled in a medical examination room in disbelief trying to process what just happened.  We each took time to hold Rudy and love on him.  It was tender.  It was sweet.

We were informed a little while later that because of the special circumstances of the case, the fact that it crosses state lines and to follow a protocol to rule out child abuse, the OK state medial examiner wouldn’t release Rudy to us without an investigation which required him to be transported to OK City.  The local mortician, Bob, promised he would take special care of Rudy in the meantime.  So, with that, we made the agonizing decision to leave Rudy in Guymon and make our way to Lawrence to be with family and try to figure out what to do next.  Rudy’s body arrived in OK City sometime Tuesday evening and by Wednesday morning the medical examiner was finished with his investigation and notified us he was ready to be released.  Rolf, with the help of our good friend and funeral planner Chris, arranged for Rudy to be released in the care of a mortuary in OK City who is now working with the mortuary in Goleta to coordinate Rudy’s transport back to CA…a surreal logistical puzzle that Rolf is excellently executing remotely by phone.

I know this is more information than anyone needs or wants but I wanted to record it for me…for us…for the big sibs and their families when I’m long gone.   Like our dear friends who have walked this road before us, I understand now the importance of holding on to details and not wanting the details to slip away.

In the hours since losing our boy, I’ve played it back over and over many times and although it isn’t at all how I planned it would be…I’m at peace with how it played out…honestly, it was a reminder of how little control we have in life. EVER.  We had to surrender every detail of that morning…there were no choices…no room for stating preferences.  We put our boy in the care of perfect strangers in a completely unfamiliar place and, in less than 3 hours from first arriving at the ER… drove away.  Even now I wonder how in the world we did that!  God was and IS so present.  We are experiencing His peace in the midst of the excruciating pain…everything aches…my head, my teeth, my body, my bones…the pain is so deep and I sometimes find myself begging for relief but there is peace.

So what do we do now?  Plans are underway to get our family back to California this weekend.  Although the details are not confirmed, we are hoping to have Rudy’s service and burial sometime around August 7th.  Please keep an eye out for service details in the coming days.  In the meantime,  pray for our family…we need wisdom and grace, good communication and clarity as we move forward in the next couple of weeks especially.  We love our worldwide circle of family and friends so dearly and can’t thank you enough for loving our family and our boy the way you have the past 8 1/2 years.  We are humbled and lifted up by the love all at the same time.  Forever grateful,  Trish

Something I want to remember

Dear friends,

So much to feel and so much to sort through in our heads and hearts. Much as I want to start this off with assurances that we’re all right, that’d be lying. We are crushed and aching. Most accurate to say that we have some “OK moments”. We are grateful to be together as a family and with extended family.

We’ve so appreciated all the posts and messages–more than we could ever respond to. Such care for our family and a testament of the love that marked Rudy’s life.

As I’ve got a moment where I feel clear-headed enough to write, I want to remind myself of the beauty of Rudy’s last moments. The long-awaited family adventure driving across the southwest to Kansas. In his trademark relentlessness, for weeks there was the daily barrage of “I go Grandma’s house now?” several times an hour.

Travel day started with church, where Rudy felt so safe and loved. He chose to go sit with some teen boys. Having gotten the usual “Go away, Dad!” I sat by myself while the musically talented members of the family (everyone else) led worship. Was so touched to get glimpses across several rows of attentive pats on his back, kids familiar enough with his O2 setup to be adjusting tubes and keeping it from getting tangled, whispers and gestures to keep him mostly quiet.

Then the van adventure was on. Time together seeing new places, laughing and dozing in the van. Deploying in and out of rest stops and hotels–with the rotating care for Rudy that’s just been part of life for our family.

We didn’t know Monday was going to be our last day with Rudy, but so glad it turned out the way it did. At our quick stop to see a corner in Winslow, AZ, Rudy was giddy to pick out a shiny blue truck. As the clerk picked up on his enthusiasm for Cars and Lightning McQueen she gave us directions to the Wigwam Hotel up the interstate in Holbrook–the inspiration for the movie’s Cozy Cone Motel.

Even as it was happening, I knew I’d never forget it. Our little boy squealing as he scurried around the muddy gravel parking lot of the kitschy little place with its eclectic assortment of cars. Many of them didn’t appear to run and most barely looked anything like the movie characters but that didn’t stop his identifying them as such. “Look! Hudson! Doc! Sarge! Fillmore! Ramon! Mater!”

He would run himself breathless, ask to be carried and just as quickly demand to walk again. A maid even let him go inside one of the rooms to check it out. Heard his newest expression “I’m so excited!!!” many times. The big sibs entered into the experience like they always do, taking turns holding his hand, the oxygen concentrator and carrying him when he needed it. Gave Trish and I the chance to have one of those “Did you ever think we’d see our little boy doing this?” moments.

I’m so glad we were aware of this and so glad that this was what marked Rudy’s last days with us: being immersed in the love of the family smitten with him and being rendered breathless by his ability to extract more joy from a moment than any of us ever could.

We’ve seen things more beautiful than we ever knew existed. The weight of losing this is unbearable. So grateful for people who’ve walked with us and trusting that this will be what God uses to lead us from here.

More when we can.