Sunday, January 25, 2009

Good People, Hard Times

If you look at Rachel's life, most of you would come up with a thought such as "Why does such bad things happen to good people like her"? If you look at Rachel's family, our marriage, and her friends, you could apply that question to each.

As you have heard me in these past few months; melanoma is a very difficult illness to endure and to die from. It is usually long lasting, it is relatively unpredictable, it's symptoms are quite painful, and it creates a lifestyle so stressful to a family and especially an individual that you could not possibly wish it onto your worst enemy with a clear conscience. Yet, Rachel and our family suffered through it. She went through the constant pain and uncertainty. We went through the hell of seeing her in pain without being able to ease it for her, like a parent, husband, or sibling wants to be able to do. She suffered and died. We suffered and are permanently scarred by the images of her suffering and death.

You would think we would all be inconsolable and depressed and all kinds of other bad ways due to the trauma of losing such a special woman; a daughter, wife, sister, aunt, and cousin. But we're not. I hear constantly how strong we are. How strong I am. "How do you do it"?, I am commonly asked.

Earlier in this blog, near the beginning, while discussing her surgery to discover the metastatic mass in her neck that started all of the recent illness, I mentioned the "3 F's": Faith, Family, and Friends. Imagine that almost a year later, and even after Rachel's passing, those "3 F's" still play a vital role in our cooperative strength.

I have always been a faithful person. I may have grown away from my Catholic roots as I grew older, but in this part of my life, being a young widower, my faith has never been stronger. I have seen numerous signs that tell me Rachel is still around me. My faith has brought me strength and peace in a time where most would think I was "let down" by God. I was enlightened by Sr. Vittoria of the Oblates in Youngstown, OH, who told me, "Jesus suffered and died very painfully, so that we may live. Rachel, in the ways of Jesus, did the same; she suffered and died so that others may live". It makes sense. By my passing on Rachel's story, I have received multiple letters, emails, messages, etc., telling me that a person has stopped tanning or has cracked down on their kids' tanning or has started making regular appointments with their dermatologist. She has started saving lives already; and with you and me passing the word of her story and what it means to everyone, along with applying her life's lessons to our own lives, she will save countless more.

I have been truly blessed with both my own family and Rachel's family. They have truly been a rock for me to fall back on during this ordeal. We had family come from all corners of the globe, literally. They have comforted me, they have supported me, and they have inspired me. I knew that when me and Rachel started dating back in 2001, I was not only falling in love with her but her family as well. We have cried together, we have laughed together, and together we have endured the bad and enjoyed the good of Rachel's life and death. The love given and received from family is something I hold closely to my heart; I know without it I would truly not be the man I am today, and since Rachels death, I would not be able to move on the way I am.

Friends, ah friends. Friends of mine, friends of Rachel's, friends of my family, friends of Rachel's family. Friends that I have made through all of my networking revolving around telling Rachel's story. Friends coming out of the woodwork who I haven't tlked to or seen in years. Friends that have given support from cards, letters, food, money, etc. I am truly overwhelmed by how many friends we have and how generous every one of them has been to help us through this. There are angels out there that have made this so much easier to deal with. They have taken our minds off of things, they have cried with us, they have filled our bellies! They have said masses for us, they have made donations in Rachel's name, and I could go on for hours. As I have said before, we are forever in debt to the kindness that has been bestowed on us; all I can say is that it will be reciprocated. I will do everything I can to be there for anyone I know.

Speaking of beaing there for someone...and I hate to close a post on such a sour and possibly sad note, but, I just found out this morning that someone who I have never met, but whose life I have followed for a few months and whose story is very similar to Rachel's is slowly succumbing to the same disease that took her life. Her name is Linda Ramirez. Her blog is: Please take the time to pray for her and her family. I know, and most of you know, the pain they are going through. Never forget how melanoma has impacted your life and especially the lives of Rachel's and Linda's and their families' lives.
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