Round Two

We are thrilled to have the boys back in town…Wilson arrived home from Ft. Knox a week ago today and Max got home Sunday night after his month long tour!  Yay!  We have just one week more with Wilson before he heads back to APU and Max will be home for a couple of weeks before he returns to Point Loma.  The summer has passed by much too quickly…as it typically does.

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Olivia is particularly happy to have her big bros home!!!

Since the boys were both gone on the 25th, we appreciated having a little time together at the cemetery so they could experience the “mountain of cars tribute” for themselves.  They got a chance to arrange them all and, as boys do, had to stop and play with them before they all got placed.  Ha Ha!  Rudy would be so pleased.

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Thank you Lucas C. for the fun hat you left for Rudy!!!

Last year on this day, August 7th, we laid our boy to rest.  I’m reposting the video of Rudy’s funeral service and his memorial slideshow below…followed by a few images from his burial that I didn’t post last year.   It was a remarkable day…so full of love and many tears but laughter too.  In the days following Rudy’s death, his journey back to California from Guymon, OK by way of Oklahoma City was such a long one and the arrangements for his service and burial here at home added another week to the whole process so when the day finally came, as painful as it was to say our final goodbye, it was time…it was time to lay Rudy to rest.  Commemorating today is definitely part of observing the 1st year anniversary for us and I thank you all for your part in holding us up these past couple of weeks in particular through your prayers and love.

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Rudy’s burial at the Goleta District Cemetery.

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“I’ll Fly Away”

So many wonderful sights and sounds of love that day!!!

Early Wake Up Call

Rolf, Olivia, Harley and I ended July 25th cuddled in bed and fell asleep watching “Cars” the movie.  🙂  Thursday July 26th started off with an early wake up call for us all as Olivia headed off to volunteer at a local kids camp and Rolf & I headed to my appt with the neurologist.  Because of a scheduling delay, I haven’t had a neurology consult since March so I was bracing myself for a tough reality check as we discussed my progression of the past few months.  I’ve noticed increased weakness in my legs (especially in my knees) and I’m beginning to notice weakness in my arms.  Dr. D confirmed both in her physical examination.  In addition, she confirmed my need for a wheelchair based, at this point, on my inability to lift my left leg against gravity (anti-gravity).  This led to a discussion about mobility.  One of the things I’m finding confusing in the management of this disease is the seemingly contradictory but equally passionate recommendations out there.  I’m told to conserve the limited number of neurons I have left by limiting how much I walk and exert myself while at the same time to keep walking…to walk as long as I can.  What?!  Dr. D confirmed both are true but it’s a delicate balance.  Conservation is key but maintaining mobility is also important especially in maintaining my ability to transfer from one surface to another.  The goal is to not push myself to the point of fatigue…I feel fatigued EVERY day (particularly at night)…another indicator that it’s time to manage my movement a little better.

I know the whole situation is out of my control but one of the things that makes these milestone moments in the progression of this disease so difficult for me is not wanting Rolf or the kids to ever think I’m not trying hard enough…as if my efforts could have any impact on whether or not I need a wheelchair.  I know it’s an irrational concern but I just want to scream “MY BODY MAY BE GIVING UP, BUT I’M NOT!!!!”.  Rolf expressed it well when he said that when we managed Rudy’s care, there was always hope of improvement in some areas and ultimately hope of getting him to another treatment option, for example, a heart transplant; with me, we’re in preservation mode…it’s a totally different mindset.  There were a lot of emotional realities we had to face yesterday on the heels of an already emotionally charged week.  I’m still feeling pretty wiped out today and praying for relief from the physical aches of grief…stinging eyes, neck and back pain, headache.

So what do we do now?  The ALS Association hooked us up with a loaner wheelchair to use for now.  I asked Dr. D if I could just get by with loaners and not bother getting my own…she said loaners are okay for now but as my needs change, it’ll be important for me to have a chair custom fit for my specific needs.  Makes sense.  So we begin that process that includes PT evaluations for the insurance company, etc.  In the meantime, Rolfi was johnny-on-the-spot, came home yesterday and already built me ramps giving me access outside our bedroom to the kitchen and outside our front door!    Grateful for that man.

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Rolf on a test drive!

Ironically, Olivia volunteered at a wheelchair camp this week (and made a quick appearance on our local news!  Ha Ha).  I’m proud of her for making the choice to be a part of this camp this week (we had hoped Rudy could attend this camp at some point but he wasn’t independent enough when he became age-eligible).  Her week was filled with long, fun days surrounded by great friends and being a special help to new camper friends!  I admire her strength and grace.

Wilson made it in from his extended field training and is back on base at Ft. Knox.  He honored Rudy on the 25th with a 12 mile, timed ruck that completed his formal summer training.  We can’t wait for his return next week and will soak up the last couple of weeks we’ll have with him before he starts his senior year at APU!!!

Max and the band are back in California and helping to staff a summer camp down south this week.  We catch glimpses of him on social media working hard and having fun!  He and his team have one more week of camp and then, he too, will be home for a couple of weeks before heading back to Point Loma.

Pursuing things we are passionate about is truly life-giving and I find it profound that all three big sibs were pursuing their passions individually this week while at the same time collectively honoring their little brother by living full.  Grateful for these kids of ours.

🙂

 

One Year

The MOHD Squad is grateful for the quiet day we shared…it included yummy food and a quiet afternoon at the cemetery.  We talked a little but mostly just sat quietly.

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Rolf and I reread ALL the cards we’ve received in the past year!  (The way this basket is stuffed is deceiving…there are A LOT of cards underneath too!!!!)
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Olivia painted.
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Olivia and Harley flew a kite.
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And we arranged cars…
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…lots and lots of cars!!
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I’m pretty sure Rudy saw them all…and is delighted! Thank you friends! (Amazing art by caracelvanart.squarespace.com)

We received so many lovely texts and messages today but one I got from Katie’s mom stands out…she wrote, in part, “Wrapping you all in our love today and remembering how hard the ‘last first’ was…”.  Yes, there is truth in that.  As hard as the this past year has been and as sad as today is, it is our last “first” without Rudy…from here on out our memories of Rudy will be in a more distant past and that doesn’t feel good either.  So, we cling to the memories we have and the memories you all continue to share with us and recall them often so as not to feel so far away from this treasure of a boy we loved well in his lifetime and continue to love & honor in our day to day.  Thank you for helping us celebrate him with your CARS cars (I’m going to miss those daily Amazon deliveries!! Ha Ha) and for “Paying it Forward for Rudy” today.  We are grateful for your investment in his life through your hands on care, your friendship, your prayers, your support…and now in his legacy.  We are beyond humbled and, as always, forever grateful!

 

Rolf’s poem sums it up beautifully:

A whole year past                                                                                                                              But I’m back there in an instant
Growling like a bear
You giggle and set off on an escape you hope won’t succeed

Pressed so close we breathe the same air                                                                                          I shake with your laughter                                                                                                          Aware of the tapping in your chest against mine
Yearning that the overwhelming love in my heart could somehow add to the beating of yours

Holding My Breath

This time last year we were enjoying our last full day with Rudy – a day Rolf eloquently captured in this post.  Today, I’m holed up in my bedroom with a window air conditioner because of rare extreme heat hitting Goleta this week and lying in my bed immobilized by legs that are fatigued and weak.  I feel trapped as tomorrow closes in and I find I’m holding my breath in between bouts of tears that spring without warning.  I want to run away…I want to escape.  The reality, though, is that there is no escape so I guess my physical reality represents the emotional reality of today.  The goal is to not get overwhelmed and to remember to breathe.

The SBRM graduation on Saturday was, once again, amazing.  I wish you could experience one.  The event really is beyond explanation…it’s a moment in time the memory of which, we pray, is seared into every graduate’s mind and heart because it is not only a vivid picture of their success and hope for the future but, more importantly, it is a vivid picture of God’s presence and the support of community going forward.  When life gets hard for the graduates, our prayer is they will have the strength and clarity of mind to use the tools they’ve been taught, to know they are not alone in the journey and reach out for a stabilizing hand.

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This is my favorite moment in every graduation.  This is the moment when past graduates are invited to come to the altar and pray with the new graduates at the close of the ceremony.  Often there isn’t enough room for everybody and the crowd spills up the aisles!  It’s profound and humbling and powerful.  It’s authentic love and it impacts everyone in the room whether you’re in recovery or not.  I’m so grateful to God that this powerful celebration occurred in the days leading up to this sad, sad week.  How grateful I am to share in a celebration that has soul significance in the midst of such deep, personal heartbreak.  How very grateful I am for the community that surrounds our family and the hundreds of hands outstretched in our direction.  Thank you God!  Thank you, dear friends, for the texts, emails, notes, flowers, LMcQueen cars, food, for running errands, doing laundry, making the day to day function smoothly…for your ongoing outstretched hands both near and far.

Please pray for us specifically this afternoon.  I’m getting measured and fitted for a motorized wheelchair today.  Practically it’s a good thing but it is a tough pill to swallow.  If it’s true that the symptoms of ALS are exacerbated by stress and anxiety then I’m screwed!!!…(this week anyway).   The goal remains to not get overwhelmed and to remember to breathe!  😉

 

 

Discovering My Voice

Well, it’s a HOT Monday in Goleta and we’re back to a normal weekly schedule after our trip to NYC and the 4th of July holiday week.  A big thanks to everyone who reached out to us on Friday and Saturday during the fire that broke out in our town.  I was actually down south when the Holiday Fire started on Friday night but Rolf and Olivia kept me updated via texts and phone calls.  The mandatory evacuation zone extended to a 1/2 mile from our home so R & O did end up packing a few suitcases full of pictures and important papers but never actually left the area.  It was a relatively small fire that was well contained within a day but, sadly, 20 structures (most of them homes) were lost.  It has been a tough year for our community.

To be honest, I’m starting the week off pretty overwhelmed.  I blame the heat because my perspective is definitely warped in extreme heat but I was kind of anticipating this would be a hard week even before the heatwave hit.  We’re back to the daily grind and that’s a BIG let down after our special family time away in NY and my weekend in San Diego with dear friends…both boys are gone now until the first week of August…and the looooooong, heartbreaking month of July is ahead of us.  I have a desk FULL of things I simply must sort through, bills to pay, medical stuff to follow up on and I can’t seem to muster up an ounce of motivation…my body is moving as slow as molasses.  At the end of our NY trip I wanted to get back to my bed and the comforts of my space at home while at the same time not wanting all the fun distraction of being away to end.  I still feel that way and just want to throw a toddler tantrum today because I want what I want…and what I want is, well, the impossible.

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The last of my summer travels ended in San Diego with my dear friends and former co-workers! 25 years may have passed since we worked together but the connections are just as tight! Love you all.
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I couldn’t have done the trip without these gals!
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The trip to SD also allowed me to personally send Max off on his Point Loma summer ministry team adventure…
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…he gets to tour for a month with a PL band leading worship at summer camps and churches in the southwest! So fun!

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So, what’s next?  I think Rolf and I are gearing up and bracing ourselves for all the unknowns that are headed our way as we prepare for the year anniversary of Rudy’s death.  It’s hard to know what to expect…it’s hard to know how the next few weeks will unfold emotionally and how that will impact our day to day.  The awareness of our grief is certainly heightened and the unpredictability of grief continues which is maddening.  I must say, though, the plan to have you all send us LM cars to honor Rudy at his gravesite on the 25th was GENIUS because we have a nice collection so far and every delivery brings us great joy and delight!!!  🙂

On the ALS front, I’m continuing my infusions of Radicava every two weeks (2 weeks on, 2 weeks off).  My home health nurse who comes to access my port tells me that her other clients are eager to start the next round after their 2-week break because they notice a difference when they are on the Radicava.  I can’t say I’m noticing much of a difference but maybe I’m not as “in tune” with my body.  So, I’m still acting in faith that it’s working to my advantage.  Because of a delay in scheduling, I don’t see the neurologist until the end of this month.  I haven’t seen her since March so it will be interesting to hear how she thinks I’m doing.

I received a BIG box in the mail a couple of weeks ago.  It contained an insurance-approved speech generating device that my speech pathologist has been working to get me for a few months now.  In fact, when we got news the device was being shipped to me, he sent me an email that read “Congratulations on your new Tobii-Dynavox device…”.  It took me back a bit.  I realized that, yes, this is something to celebrate.  It’s a big deal that I have it and a real gift for sure.  I am grateful.  It’s just that it’s the start of another chapter in this ALS journey.  It’s a device that will speak for me when I can no longer speak for myself…it’s a device that will keep me connected to the outside world when I can no longer engage the outside world for myself…it’s a device with a learning curve and I need to start learning how to use it now.  That’s heavy and heartbreaking.

Just to give you a little sneak peek into my process…within weeks of my diagnosis, Rolf and I began researching the many options out there for voice banking…a process where you record hundreds of sounds, words and phrases to be used later with the speech generating device to make a computer generated voice that sounds like you.  I actually ended up deciding not to voice bank.  My voice was already beginning to sound slurred and I just didn’t feel like it was worth the effort.  If I made the wrong decision for my family, I apologize, but I feel okay with my choice.  I just didn’t want to hear a slurred version of myself chirping back at me every time I wanted to say something…adding insult to injury.  I mean, if I have a choice, I’d much rather program a cool Australian accent or sophisticated British accent to switch things up a bit.  🙂  I share this cautiously as I know for many voice banking is a real life line and I’m not typically that vain but it’s how I felt at the time and I’m trusting my instincts.  I get a few hours of training with a company rep that I’m trying to set up now so once I get some time with the technology, I’m sure I’ll grow in my motivation to interact with it…I’ve said it before but the journey of ALS requires a daily assessment of where I’m at and what needs to be adapted to make life doable.  Where the focus up until now has mostly been mobility, communication now shares the radar and life charges on.  I’ll keep you posted and let you know what voice I land on.  🙂

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Olivia captured a rare picture of me and Rolf at an outdoor concert at El Cap a couple of Saturdays ago…
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We LOVE portrait mode!! Ha Ha

 

Big Apple Dreams

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Last day of 10th grade!!!

Max and I picked up “10th grade Olivia” from school for the last time on Thursday which marked the official start of summer in the Geyling household!  Yay!!  Then, we welcomed Wilson home on Saturday morning after he successfully completing Air Assault School in Hawaii!  Woo Hoo!!  THEN, Wilson’s girlfriend came for a quick visit which led to a spontaneous swim party and a couple of late night living room movie nights!  Good Times!!  Summer is here.

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Way to go Wilson!
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Summertime Livin’ with friends!

In the midst of all that fun, we got a special visit from representatives of the Dream Foundation – a non profit, wish granting organization for terminally ill adults headquartered here in Santa Barbara.  My hospice case worker initiated the dream application a couple of months ago and thanks to the hard work of DFs staff and supporters, our family is being gifted a trip to New York City!  Rolf was in NYC on business nearly 12 years ago, I haven’t been in 30 years and the kids have never been…it’ll be an epic adventure for sure.  We’ll take in a couple of Broadway musicals, the boys will get to see U2 at Madison Square Garden, Olivia is excited to go to a live taping of Good Morning America, Rolf is working hard to secure tickets to fulfill his dream of seeing Bruce on Broadway and I’m looking forward to reenacting the iconic opening scene of “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” on 5th Avenue while humming Henry Mancini’s “Moon River”!  Ha Ha 😉  Mostly I’m excited to sit back and soak it all up…the sights, the sounds, the food, our kids’ reactions to the Big Apple and all the shared moments.

We recognize, maybe more than most, the impact this kind of experience can have on a family in our situation because we’ve lived it before.  You may recall that Rudy was granted a wish from the Make A Wish Foundation back in 2013…which I described here.

Not to sound boastful but we get it.

We know how to pace ourselves and maximize every moment all at the same time.

We know how important it is to make and store up lots of vivid memories.

We know it’s more than a vacation.

We know it’s a walk on sacred ground.

It feels quite strange to be going on another wish trip and I’m surprised by how sensitive or self-conscience I’m feeling about it…like with with Rudy, I wish we didn’t qualify…but, on the other hand, because we’re experienced wish receivers, we know what it takes to make something like this happen and we don’t take any of it for granted.  We are so grateful for the generous acts of love and compassion that have been extended to our family over the years by so many.  At the end of Rudy’s wish trip blog post, I expressed my hope to pay it forward in the future…I feel the same about this trip too.  Stay tuned for a fun recap in the coming weeks!  🙂

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‘So grateful to Alex and Mark from the Dream Foundation for their hard work and trip packet presentation.
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My hospice angels…case worker Tianna and counselor Ginny.
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From the looks of it, the kids would have been perfectly content with just the UGG blanket that we were given along with a basket of UGG/Teva/Sanuk walking shoes. Seriously, this blanket is sooooo soft!
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Thank you, in advance, Dream Foundation for what WE KNOW will be a fun and impactful experience for our whole family.
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I used Wilson and Kyla as practice models while learning how to use new photo features on my IPhone. 😉

Looking for Rainbows

Have you heard of the term “rainbow baby”?  It’s official definition is this…

A rainbow baby is a baby born shortly after the loss of a previous baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or death in infancy. This term is given to these special rainbow babies because a rainbow typically follows a storm, giving us hope of what’s to come.

…but I would extend that definition to the birth of a baby born after the loss of a child at any age.

I shared about rainbow babies before on Rudy’s Beat back in 2012.  It’s kind of shocking to read that post now and reflect on the number of kids that have passed since Katie, Josiah and Logan…we can now add Daisy, Gwendolyn, Moriah and Rudy to that list.  😦 And we’ve watched every one of these families go on to have their rainbow after the storm…some of the babies were planned and some were a surprise but in every case, it’s been an amazing joy to watch these families experience the birth of another child and the renewal that comes with it…although the memory of all our lost friends will never fade, watching their brothers and sisters arrive over the years, even from a distance, and sharing in the joy of their existence, even from a distance, has been a sweet breath of fresh air in the midst of so much loss and pain for so many.

It did cross my mind from time to time that given my age when I had Rudy, if anything ever happened to him, it would be highly unlikely that our family would experience the blessing of a rainbow baby.  I didn’t dwell on it but, I admit, it did make the thought of losing Rudy more threatening.  If we lost him, that would be it!  But then again, maybe our rainbow would come in the form of an adoption or maybe that breath of fresh air would come with grandchildren down the line.  (Ok, maybe I did dwell on it a bit!)  The point is, I was catching a vision for rainbows in the life of our family to come in a variety of ways.

Some good friends of ours were expecting their first baby last spring and looking ahead to their childcare options.  I felt compelled to offer my services…they needed the help and I thought it would be good for Rudy to be the “big guy” for a change and learn to care for others so the arrangement had the potential to be a “win for win” for all of us.  Rudy died 10 days after our new friend, Levi, was born.  Even in the days that followed Rudy’s passing, I felt strongly that I needed to honor my childcare commitment.  As I prayed about it, I wondered if little Levi might end up being a unique rainbow baby in my journey through grief and part of my healing process…seemed logical.   Then came ALS and it was clear that I had to let go of Levi too.

I think I’ve been looking for/longing for that darn rainbow ever since.  If ALS wasn’t in the picture, I’m certain I’d be able to identify my rainbow but options for that breath of fresh air, that sense of renewal, the hope of what’s to come seem really, really limited right now…figuratively AND literally!  I couldn’t have ever predicted, in all those times I thought about losing Rudy and fretted over what that would mean for our future/my future, that the storm would gain momentum after Rudy’s death, that I would have to ride it out for the rest of my life and…not see the rainbow once the storm ended.  It still boggles my mind.  I think it will boggle my mind until the day I die.  I’ll keep writing about it, though…I’ll come at it from all different angles…I’ll try to make sense of it because my mind is wired that way…but I guess my hope is that in the process of trying to do the impossible, I’ll land on some helpful insights that can be understood in this lifetime and will, even for a split second, be a breath of fresh air for a weary, storm-weathered soul.

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Rudy and Levi meeting for the first time.

 

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Already so eager to show him the ropes!
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A little Levi love for me last fall!

My friend Scott has been helping me transfer all the cassette tapes some friends and I recorded 25+ years ago to digital copies.  He emailed me another batch this morning that included a lullaby I wrote when my now almost 28 year old niece was born.  Seems kind of fitting to reintroduce it here with all this talk of babies…:)

Timeless Love of Christ (with Grace VanNortwick)