The MOD Squad

Rolf and I made it home safely late Saturday night from dropping off Max at PLNU.  It was a sweet time.  It was fun to watch Max take it all in and we’re confident he’s in a great space surrounded by great people.

All moved in and ready to start this new chapter.
Wilson surprised Max by coming down from APU Saturday afternoon which added to the fanfare of the official send-off!

Olivia, Rolf and I woke up Sunday morning to our “new normal”.  We went to church and it was hard.  Rudy’s absence was so acute and cut so deep.  There was a different kind of energy to our day without the big boys too.  It just really feels like we went from a family of six to a family of three overnight creating a seismic shift in our day to day family identity.  As a result, we’ve adopted a new nickname…at least on the days we do life as a trio.  Meet the MOD Squad (Mom, Olivia, Dad) – or as Olivia pointed out “the MOHD Squad” with a silent H to include Harley!  Ha Ha.  Life may be dramatically different but finding our way to adventure and fun are on the top of our priority list…stay tuned.

The MOD Squad!

So, what’s next?  No idea and part of me finds that deeply troubling. When Rolf and I were dating I remember we had one of those “ah, ha!” moments in our relationship when we discovered that when we contemplated the future, my thoughts centered on what I’d be doing and Rolf’s were centered on with whom he’d be…a clear demonstration of my task-oriented tendencies and Rolf’s relational approach to life.  This weekend as Rolf and I sat on a bench along the campus thoroughfare and watched PLNU’s incoming freshmen visit dozens of booths set up to inform them of all the wonderful campus activities they could choose to be a part of, I felt an overwhelming sense of panic out of the blue, turned to Rolf with tears in my eyes and said “What am I going to do now?” to which he replied “I don’t know but I know who you’ll do it with.”…a sweet thing to say and a reminder that there are some aspects of who we are that haven’t changed a whole lot in 25 years.  🙂 There’s a big part of me that needs a task to feel grounded but at the same time I’m not motivated by much at the moment so there is an inner conflict that is beginning to surface. The goal is to pace ourselves in the many adjustments before us and, hopefully, find our purpose and direction each day as it unfolds.

I started going through Rudy’s belongings.  I unpacked his travel bag late last week.  It’s hard to know what to keep, what to let go.  These aren’t decisions I’m feeling pressured to make right now but it will be a daunting task whenever the time does come.  Gosh, it’s just heartbreaking.  Interestingly enough, our choices in what we would bury with Rudy came quickly…in an attempt to record the details of that week before his funeral, I quickly snapped a picture of the things we took to the mortuary so I wouldn’t forget:

IMG_7215We purchased the Lightening McQueen pajamas a couple of weeks before our road trip and Rudy wore the pajama top several times as a day time outfit.  He called it his “jersey”…he wore it the two days we were on the road and would have worn it the day he died but I insisted we wash it before he wore it again.  I’m so glad he wasn’t wearing it when we took him to the ER because they cut the shirt he was wearing off and discarded it. The Lightening McQueen slippers were a prized possession and he often asked to wear them as outside shoes…ha ha!.  Wilson bought Rudy the Lightening McQueen cap at his Disneyland Grad Night a couple of years ago and it was his favorite.  The Rt.66 cap was a souvenir he got the first night of our trip and he was wearing it in the last picture we took of him.  I actually wanted to keep the red cap but Olivia felt strongly he should have it and she was right.  The Lightening McQueen books and car were among his all-time favorites and, of course, his container of pacies that Olivia shared about at his funeral had to go with him too.   

funeral rudy

Rudy’s custom casket panel was a gift from our friend Chris…I never even knew you could order a custom casket panel.  It was a sweet detail in the midst of some pretty tragic decisions and there is comfort in knowing Rudy is surrounded by familiar, favorite things.  I know stuff is just that…stuff.  But there can be pretty profound meaning attached to the things that surround us and that’ll be the challenge, of course, in sorting through Rudy’s things…ugh.

There was, however, a stash of “stuff” I was happy to unpack and put away this past week…


…my emergency hospital bag.  When we brought Rudy home from the hospital in May of 2009, I vowed I wasn’t going to be caught off guard again with a surprise trip to the hospital so I packed a bag with the essentials and kept it within arms reach along with the portable file box of important papers, etc for the next emergency trip to UCLA…it sat in it’s spot in our bedroom entry way for EIGHT years.  It didn’t get used in the eight years we had Rudy home because he was never admitted to UCLA (or Cottage Hospital in SB) for an unscheduled visit/emergency!  ‘Hard to believe.  There were plenty of trips to the ER but none ever resulted in him being admitted.  It’s quite remarkable, really, and I praise God for it because after Rudy’s harrowing first 7 months in the CTICU/PICU, I expected he would be in and out of the hospital with all kinds of setbacks.  Instead, his hospital stays were all for scheduled procedures that were never chaotic or fearful for him.  What a gift to him…and us.  His rich quality of life was marked by many things and I count this among them!

One last thing.  A lot of my brain space has been consumed with the big kids…concerned and heavy-hearted for all of them as they settle into their new normal at APU, PLNU and here at home knowing they’ll be confronted by their grief and wishing I could prevent the pain.  I was comforted by the “verse of the day” that popped up on my Bible app today…


I’m counting on it!

Thank you for your continued prayers dear friends!

First Day of School 2017-2018

The school year has begun in Goleta.  Olivia’s first day at the high school was on Monday and today would have been Rudy’s first day in 3rd grade.  It’s a sad day for sure.  It’s also ironic because in our first months with Rudy I remember it was impossible to think ahead and make any plans.  We really couldn’t look beyond what was right before us in our months in the CTICU/PICU…even once we got Rudy home it was difficult to look too far into the future…taking life “one day at a time” wasn’t a cliche, it was our reality…for years!  But that changed a little bit in the last couple of years.  We started to make plans and even went on a few trips – once to Hawaii with the grandmas, and then to Tucson last summer and to Florida over Christmas.  We were beginning to anticipate and think about a future for Rudy.  Knowing that our life would be consumed with college prep when we got home from our summer road trip, I even went school shopping for Rudy in early July. I know that doesn’t seem like a big deal but it demonstrates a level of confidence not always present where Rudy was concerned.  When I went to his classroom on the last day of summer school on July 19th, we said goodbye to his teachers and aides fully expecting to see them back in the classroom…today.  Rudy died 5 days later…still so difficult to grasp even now four weeks later.

Rudy’s teacher invited me to come to the classroom this morning for a tribute she was going to do with the kids.  With the students, teachers and aides from both special ed classrooms, as well as the school nurse, school psychologist and office staff present, Ms. Ochoa shared about Rudy’s passing, reminisced with fun pictures from last year and used video clips of Rudy doing his reading, math etc to demonstrate the fun things the kids will learn this year.  It was painful and precious and a sweet way for Rudy’s community at Mountain View to process as, they too, genuinely grieve Rudy’s absence on campus.

Today’s school agenda in classroom #9.
Ms. Ochoa presented me with a box of treasures for the family that included Rudy’s name stamp he would use on assignments, his ball, a Vtech Lightening McQueen video game incentive, his behavior modification cards and sweet notes from his classmates and teachers. Ugh, a perfect example of “bittersweet”.
Rudy’s desk is still in the classroom and was reserved for me today.
Funny, because I said the same thing about Olivia on Monday in a FB post…the bravest girl I know (anxious and reluctant but bravely heading off to her first day of 10th grade).
Our 10th grader.  We are trying hard to anticipate, in faith, the great things this year will hold for our girl!

I wish it didn’t hurt so much.  I’m finding that grief is like drudging through mud with barbed wire debris mixed in…somedays the mud is only waist high and somedays it’s neck high but every day there are painful brushes with the barbed wire.  In an effort to figure this grief thing out, I find myself coming at it from different angles…seeing if any one strategy is less painful than another.  The fact is…no matter how you slice it, it’s painful and for me facing it head on seems to be the only way to do it.  I do things that I know will be hard and commit to things I’d prefer to avoid not because I’m a masochist but because there is an underlying hope that if I confront the pain, relief will come sooner.   I’m not sure that’s working out for me in that way but there is the confidence that with each day that passes, we are all a day further along in the healing journey.   Rolf, Olivia and I are choosing to go to grief counseling and that starts next week…there is relief knowing it’s on the calendar.

Speaking of healing, we got a dog.

IMG_7333 (1)
Meet Harley!

Rolf and I always thought that if something ever happened to Rudy, we would let Olivia get a dog.  Although having a dog wouldn’t ever be on my list of “things that heal”, it’s definitely on the top of Olivia’s and the process of adopting Harley from a local shelter happened a ton faster than we anticipated.  That along with the fact that “Harley” was #2 on Olivia’s favorite dog name list sure makes it seem like this pairing was meant to be.  Harley is active and playful but also very chill most of the day (and rarely barks!).  She’s an excellent running partner for Olivia and loves to cuddle too.  They are becoming best friends for sure.

Just as Harley moved in, the boys began their preparations for moving out.  We all drove Wilson down to APU on Sunday.  He was the last in his apartment to arrive so we enjoyed seeing all three of his housemates and catching up a bit before we had to head back to Santa Barbara.  Wilson was eager to get back to Azusa and settle in before his classes begin next week.  He knows he’ll have bad grief days and already has trusted people close by to talk to and he’s aware of the campus counseling resources if needed.  We’re confident he’s in a good place and pray his year is filled with lots of grace and favor AND FUN!  (We’re so proud of you Wilson!!!)  Go Cougars!!!


Maxo had his last shift at Kyle’s Kitchen today and is nearly packed up for his departure for PLNU on Friday.  By all accounts, he too is excited and ready to start this new chapter in his life.  (Big breath) Couldn’t be prouder of our Max as well!  Go Sea Lions!!

Wilson and Max concluded their summer break together with a fun gig on Saturday night with Mr. Latta (aka Baby Daddy – Rudy’s 2nd grade teacher) down south at a restaurant in Camarillo.  Mr. Latta invited the boys to join him and they couldn’t have had more fun!  Rolf, Olivia and I drove down to hang out for a set or two and ended up staying until they closed the place.  It was a great evening to hang with friends and soak up as much of our boys doing what they love to do as we could.  Here’s a little sample:

Our boys love serenading our friend (and SBRM employee) LB every time they are at the office for a special event (because LB just LOVES to be the center of attention)…well, they took advantage of LB being there and embarrassed him by dedicating this number to him.  Ha Ha

Warning!  Wilson’s choice is a bit explicit but as he says “it’s a song about a cry for help” (and he sang it with confidence with two of his pastors in the room!)…and, oh how I love his confidence!!

The boys got invited back during their holiday breaks from school so we’ll be sure to give more advanced warning for their next appearance (for those close enough to join us).  It was too much fun.  Thanks Nate for not only including our boys but making them feel pretty special in the process!  Talk about chicken soup for the soul.

It may feel like we’re drudging through neck-high mud at times, but we are still on our feet and that feels like a victory in and of itself.  Love you dear friends!







(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)
funeral band
“Rudy’s Band” at the funeral. Monday August 7th      (PC Dale Weber)
funeral olivia
Olivia sharing “sibling memories”.
funeral casket7
Our family’s final goodbye.

funeral procession5


funeral procession8

funeral burial6

funeral burial11

funeral burial12

funeral burial15

funeral burial19


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. 🙂

PIFFR copy

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.