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End of Watch: Thank You

End of Watch: Thank You

End of Watch: Thank YouThank you. I might be speaking for my family, maybe not, but I hope our gratitude comes across strongly in this post. This post is being written by just me, because I feel that you all deserve to hear it.

The past two years, we have been so blessed by so many of you. And by many of you I mean, neighbors, friends, family, extended family, wards, stakes, co-workers, managers.. and many more. I don’t think we went a day without being served in some way by someone. That includes everyone who took care of us individually and as a whole family. From the day they discovered the tumor, to the graveside service, we have felt your love and support. We truly felt (and still do) your prayers, and fasting on my dad’s behalf. I will never forget the Sunday after my dad was put on hospice, I went to church with my sisters. Every prayer said in every class I was in, and in Sacrament, they included my dad. I cried uncontrollably each and every time. 1) because I couldn’t believe that this was my life.. and 2) because the ward I grew up in is still the same; still loving, caring, faithful, kind.. we have been truly blessed to be apart of that ward.

I’ve mentioned before, but (to me) all of the gifts we’ve received, whether physical or not, have meant so much to us. The handmade cards by our neighbors and their children, to the text, emails and Facebook messages… we were truly comforted during such a difficult time in all of our lives. The dinners brought over, the visits, and the cards. We have loved them all. My dad loved them all. It truly brought comfort and faith to him. My dad truly knew what felt like almost every human being on this planet. After my dad passed, we saw so many sharing memories, photos and thoughts with everyone about him. My dad was a respected man. He was a helpful, kind and serving man. He was strong and held it together.

To those who came to the viewings, funeral service, graveside service, luncheon, and those who were there in spirit, we thank you. Even though there was one person we were missing that day, we were overwhelmed by the love and people who were with us that day. To see so many people gather together to pay their respects, give us hugs, or just there for the service…. we are eternally grateful. I don’t think I can say that word enough. I’ll never forget, walking into the chapel with my mom and seeing SO MANY people standing. I just wanted to give everyone a hug. My dad was and is still loved. He is cherished and remembered. He has impacted so many lives around us, including our own. We had no idea the kind of person my dad really was until we saw everyone come forth and share the way he influenced their life.

I just don’t even know if any more words will do justice. I, and all of my family, just really want to thank everyone. It was and has been so crazy and so hard but we are making it through and have been able to because of you. Because of the kind, selfless and incredibly amazing people that you are. We will forever remember every effort made on our behalf to help us through this trial. 

 

Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.

xoxo

End of Watch: Thank You

End of Watch: Part 3

End of Watch: Part 3 by Ashley's BlogAs I mentioned in Part 2, the weekend leading up to my dad’s funeral was extremely long and the most trying of any days of my life. At least I thought so until Monday came.

We were scrambling all day gathering items to display, deciding what we felt was best to share about who my dad was and the things he loved. We gathered blankets and pictures. Lego’s, music, hats, jerseys, military items and family photos.

If we could have just picked up his entire office and brought it with us, I think we would have. We arrived at the funeral home early, so that we could set up before the viewing started. I have never had so much anxiety in my whole life. Flashbacks to the night they took my dad away, like traumatic flashbacks. My heart was pounding faster than I ever thought it could. I was scared and I wasn’t ready to see him again.

When we got there, I looked in the big room, and there my daddy was. He was resting inside his beautiful casket with the Marine emblem placed inside the top/opening of the casket. They had laid out an American flag beautifully over the end. We helped my dad choose his suit. He chose his light gray suit when he was still able to communicate with us. My mom said it was his favorite suit and he only got to wear it to work once. Same with his really nice yellow tie. That was his favorite too.

I walked up to my dad and just started crying. We had someone purchase a tie clip of the Captain America shield. It looked beautiful. He was also wearing his Marine Corp ring. I’ve never felt more proud of my dad than at that moment. He fought so hard. He fought through boot camp, all those days away from my mom. He fought the dumb trials of finding jobs, self-taught education, providing for a family, dumb cars, always taking the bus. My dad did so much for us.

But he fought most hard at his cancer battle. God blessed us with 2 extra years but my dad still fought. Whether he thought he would win or not, that didn’t matter to him. He was a fighter.

The viewing was beautiful, and so many wonderful people came to love and support our family during this difficult time. I chose to stand out by the slideshow, and display area to greet people as they came in. I’m not really sure why. I think I wanted to greet people so they weren’t just quietly waiting in line.

End of Watch: Part 3 by Ashley's Blog

 


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Tuesday morning was beautiful. It was cloudy and most likely going to rain. I packed up my clothes, jewelry and makeup to my moms house. All of us girls were getting ready there. Our AMAZING family friend (who also does our hair) came to give my sister a cut and color and was kind enough to let me jump in for one! I got dressed, straightened my hair, put on my high heels and last but not least, added my green ribbon and Captain America pin to my shirt. The entire morning and getting ready was kind of a blur and just happened so quickly as we gathered items to put on display for the guests coming to the viewing before the service.

Brady met me at the Church and it felt so good to have him there with me. We gathered in the Relief Society room and stayed there as a family and family and friends started coming in to greet us and give us hugs. Our extended family stayed in the room for the family prayer after the viewing. That is probably the hardest part of the entire day.

When it was time, the tears began to fall and they never stopped all day. My brother stood with my mom and I think we were all really grateful for that. The funeral director’s allowed all of us family members one last goodbye before closing the casket. I had already walked up and said my goodbye but my brother invited me in line and I just cried the whole way up to the casket. I cried when I hugged my mom, and I cried as I ran back to Brady. I couldn’t believe I was never going to see my dad’s face again.

It was so heartbreaking and it still is. I thought watching the funeral director’s take my dad away the night he passed was the worst experience, but when they closed that casket shut, my heart shattered into a million peaces. And I don’t say that lightly… I physically fell apart. My chest was tight and heavy. My breathing became harder and I probably didn’t cry anymore tears because I cried them all out!

The most AMAZING prayer was said by a dear family member and truly gave us comfort in that moment. The anxiety about going into the chapel rose in my heart. They took my dad out first and my mom followed. I felt bad leaving Brady behind but I quickly grabbed my moms hand and walked with her all the way to the front. I felt so bad that I didn’t get to see everyone who came, I really wanted to. My heart was so full of gratitude to see so many familiar faces and new ones there to love and support our family and show respect to my dad. He left a legacy bigger than we ever thought.

The service was beautiful. My dad’s brother spoke first, and he shared so many funny stories of when they were kids. So many things we’ve never heard of and surprised that my dad pestered his siblings so much!! We had a good laugh! My brother Jake spoke next and shared similar funny stories with all of us, and so many that my family remembered. He shared an amazing experience about finishing a Spartan Race and receiving a medal, and how it influenced his life regarding my dad. It was the perfect talk (I guess that’s what you call it). After which we had a beautiful musical number done by a work-friend of my dad’s and a few other musicians that accompanied her in singing. She sang “I Know That My Redeemer Lives!” and my heart exploded. That song seriously always gets me. It just tugs at my heart and strengthens my testimony every time I sing it.

I was up next to speak and my heart raced so fast. I don’t normally have anxiety when I speak in church, I actually like speaking. I used this post to go off of. At the very end I bore witness that Jesus is the Christ. That He lives and my Heavenly Father exists. I wanted my family, but especially my mom to know that this gospel is true. That we will be taken care of, that dad is not lost but he is on the other side of the veil. The Spirit bore witness to me during my testimony and it was so strong. It was a testimony I’d never given with that kind of spirit. After I spoke my dad’s best friend spoke and it was so great. He shared so many wonderful qualities about my dad, stories and just really uplifting things. He has been a huge rock for my dad and for my family and we just can’t thank him enough for all that he’s done for our family.

Finally, we sang that closing hymn. My mom and I just listened… it was too hard to sing. My little nephew Evan cried a little bit during the service, it was so tender. We each left the chapel to head to the cemetery for the graveside service. Brady and I were pretty much there before everyone else was, and we even stopped at my moms to grab my flats. It started raining at that point. Nothing too hard, just sprinkling. We love the smell of rain. Rain is our favorite thing.

We had the United States Marine Corp. there with us. They played taps and folded the flag on his casket and gave it to my mom. It was wonderful. The grave was dedicated by my uncle who was also a huge strength for my mom and dad. It was a bit windy and cold but it was beautiful. So many tears were shed, but so many hugs were given. It was a really sad day for all of us. The pallbearers laid their flowers on top of the casket and that was it. It was all over. My dad had lost the battle in his physical body.

 End of Watch: Part 3 by Ashley's Blog

I love my dad, so much. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. Walking around at work, memories of him working there with me, flood my mind. When I’m doing a photography session, I think about him, and how he would love hearing how my sessions went. I think about him whenever I’m not thinking about something. The pain, the grief, the heaviness floods my heart daily. Grieving is a strange thing and so different for each person. I’m doing really well most days, but every now and then I just need to stay home, in my bed and catch up on my Hulu shows.

The rest of my life I’ll be missing my dad. So many more milestones in my life, and in our family, that he won’t be there to celebrate. He is with me in Spirit and I have already had so many sacred and special experiences involving my dad. I know that he must be happy. He’s no longer yellow, in pain and is probably drinking all of the Monster and eating all of the Red Vines that he wants right now. But one thing for sure, I know that he is being a faithful servant to the Lord right now. He is teaching the gospel to those spirits who denied or have not yet received knowledge of the gospel. I’m sure his heart aches knowing that he’s not with us, but one thing’s for sure, my dad wanted nothing sad, nothing depressing about his death/funeral.

My dad would want us to move forward. Not move on, or let go, or forget about it. That he knew was impossible. Living each day without him is a challenge. As a family we are getting through it. I don’t want to speak for the rest of us but as for me, I’m doing good. I have a great job with the most kind and understanding management. I am loved and welcomed in our new ward, and being placed in Nursery makes all the Sunday’s so great! We love where we live, and that we’ve added little Lucille to our family. She brings so much joy and happiness. We are blessed and grateful.

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End of Watch: Part 2

End of Watch: Part 2 — by Love Ashley Blog

I’ve never been so scared for a weekend to come and go. But it did just that. It came and went, and my dad grew sicker and sicker by the minute. I never wanted to go home that weekend. My phone was always on loud and on loud vibrate so if I was at work I would know right away, if someone was calling me. My dad became incoherent and would for the rest of his time with us. He was still able to roll his eyes open about half-way every now and then through the day. At one point, I could have sworn he squeezed my hand. He started to moan a lot more and louder. Which is apart of the process I guess.

If I’m right, I believe the nurse came on Monday and said that she wouldn’t be surprised if he went this week. We were all kind of scared because everything she’s ever made a comment about, has literally happened exactly how she said it would. She came again on Tuesday, and said the same thing… “I’m pretty sure he’ll go this weekend, if not today. He’s probably holding on for you guys.” — cue all the tears — My head started spinning. How could she say that? I’m not prepared today, I’m not prepared at all and I never have been… I’m not ready, holy crap.. what haven’t I said to my dad that I need to right now.. what do I want him to know?

That’s all I can really say about all of it. Just tears… lots and lots of tears. I immediately contact Brady and let him know what was going on. We called my dad’s family, and they came over as soon as they could. We spent some more time saying goodbyes and just being together during this difficult time. My uncles came over to give my dad a blessing of release, to help his spirit be comforted as he left us and crossed over to the other side. It was the most beautiful, heart wrenching blessing I’ve ever experienced. The spirit was so strong, I’m crying just now writing this. My Heavenly Father sent angels to surround us that night. It was as if he sent an angel for every single person in the room. It was as if he was with each of us, individually. It was as if my dad’s spirit finally felt at peace.

We said our thank yous and mingled for a little bit more in the family room. My sweet cousin came over not too long after the blessing. He had a song he wanted to play for my dad. It wasn’t loud, it wasn’t too much. It was just perfect. When it became late enough, my dad’s family left to go home and we promised we’d call them if my dad passed in the next 12 hours (it felt like 12 hours had already passed since the nurse came to visit).

End of Watch: Part 2 — by Love Ashley Blog

I was so nervous, I don’t think I left my dad’s side or thought of anything else except my dad for every single second that I was at home. My siblings and I were the last to leave… I’ve never cried so hard saying my final goodbye to my dad. I kissed his forehead, squeezed his hand and promised him that we’d be okay… that we would take care of mom, and that it was okay to let go.

I still feel so bad that Brady was at work, and wasn’t with me. I felt even worse because I know he desperately wanted to be with me too. I got home around 10:20ish… maybe sometime after that. I took a shower, got into bed with some water, and was getting ready to read a book. I didn’t even want to go to bed… I planned on basically staying up all night. — Come to find out, all of my siblings stayed up just in case too. — My mom called me about 11:10. I honestly thought that she was just calling me to remind me of something to help her remember haha, it really is typical of my mom to do so late at night. Instead, she told me that my dad had passed… she told me about the special, and sacred moment she was able to share with him as he took his last breath.

I just remember saying, “Right now? Like right now?” And she just said yes, in the most calm voice I never thought I’d ever hear her in at this moment. I told her I was coming over right then. I have never grabbed my shoes and keys and wallet so fast in my whole life. I cried so hard on the way over. It was raining. The roads were empty and it was cold. When I arrived I found my family in my parents bedroom. My brother crying, harder than I’ve ever seen him cry. I immediately hugged him. I hugged my sisters, and then my mom. The tears were coming so frequent it was like I couldn’t even tell anymore.

My mom sat next to my dad, holding his hand. I’m not sure how she remained so calm at that point, but it sure helped us. We cried as we talked a little bit between each other. Having a hard time realizing that my dad had passed on, to the other side of the veil. It is by far, the most spiritual and most sacred experience I have ever had in my entire life. We soon after called family, the mortuary and Hospice. We flagged our house with the police so they wouldn’t bring the whole shebang (Fire truck, Ambulance, etc.) to our house at midnight. Watching them take my dad away is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever witnessed. My mom and I both gave him a kiss on the forehead and said goodbye before they took him to their van. I was grateful that they came in a regular looking van in case any neighbors were up and watching.

End of Watch: Part 2 — by Love Ashley Blog

I immediately called Brady as I headed to my parents house and so he met me there when he got off work at midnight. We cried, talked a bit, called some more family and just spent a few more moments together as a family. We then went home after that and tried to get some sleep. Emphasis on the tried. It all just happened so fast that night. By morning, we were already working on putting arrangements together. Talking with more family and friends. Word spread fast and before we knew it, our phones, emails, Facebook, doorbell.. they were blowing up fast, and they would for a little bit of time.

**Disclaimer: I’m really trying not to offend anyone by sharing any of these personal, detailed and sacred moments. Especially family and friends. I’m simply documenting my experience with death, my feelings and sort of keeping record so that future generations may have information.

The next day was probably the worst day of my whole life. I probably slept only 3 hours. I was speechless. I just couldn’t find the right words to say. The next 4 days were the longest 4 days ever. It involved planning the funeral, finalizing funeral arrangements, getting his obituary done (which was just the final straw for all of us), choosing what to wear, visiting people, trying to eat and sleep. It was like pure torture. I was in pretty heavy shock I think. Getting anxious for the funeral because I’d be seeing my dad again. I wasn’t ready for that. Watching them take him away—to never return to our home again, was very traumatic for me. I knew that he wouldn’t look the same and I had a really hard time with that. I prayed so hard as Monday approached for the viewing. We had so many wonderful family and close family friends help us with the littlest of things as we prepared for the viewing Monday night. I’m so thankful, I don’t know how we would have made it through.

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Happy 4th of July, dad. Thank you for serving our country. Semper Fi.

End of Watch: Part 1

Captain America: Civil War private screening April 2016 by Love Ashley Blog

These are probably the most dreaded posts I’ll ever write, in my entire life. This post is about the last day my dad was awake, alert and spoke. I’ll be writing 2 more posts (maybe just 1 more?) to tell the rest of what has happened over the last week with my dad. Though I am sick and tired of how sad it has been on my blog lately, I need to just write this out, and get it over with. 

I feel at such a loss for words. I’ve always been a very expressive person, and I love writing. But at this time, I’m not sure what to say—there’s too much to say.

The last time my dad spoke, was alert and awake, was April 14. Long-story short, a friend of my dad’s got in contact through someone he knew, that worked at Marvel Studios. After some discussion, Marvel Studios sent someone out to my parents’ home for a private screening of the new Captain America: Civil War (comes to theaters on May 6, 2016). Of course it was a very touching and very personal gift to have received from so many wonderful people.

Captain America: Civil War private screening April 2016 by Love Ashley Blog
Our friend is on the far right, and he was able to make this happen for my dad.

As always, my dad sat in his brown chair. The chair that he spent most of if not all of his time during his cancer fight. We cherish that chair, and will miss seeing him sit in it. We set up the couches and chairs like a movie theater. We had breakfast food, sweets and drinks for the whole family. My uncle came a day earlier to set up his surround sound so the volume was louder and it was absolutely incredible.

The movie was amazing, I don’t think I was really prepared for how great it was going to be. I’ve only ever seen a few of the Marvel movies that have ever came out, so don’t hate me if I don’t know who Ant Man is. I snuggled to my Brady during the whole movie, and watched as my dad, only a few times, may have fell asleep or checked out. We all clapped and cheered when the movie was over. My dad had the biggest smile on his face.

When Marvel told us we’d have to wait 1 week for them to send someone out for this screening, we prayed, along with SO many of you, that my dad would make it to the screening. Every single day as he got worse, and more sick, we pleaded with the Lord to allow my dad to make it to the movie. I even said so many prayers myself, that if the Lord let my dad stay with us that long, that His hand could absolutely intervene and care for my dad through his passing.

And that’s exactly what happened.

I was extremely emotional when the movie ended. What’s next? My dad made it to the movie.. so now what? My dad was very week, and after the nurse came to visit and take his vitals, she discussed with us that it was best if we kept him in bed for the remainder of his time. She said it was too dangerous for even 3 or 4 of us to help my dad in and out of a wheelchair just so he could be out in the family room. It made us all very sad, but we knew that she was right.. and so, my dad never got back out of his bed after that. 

I’ll never forget.. as we all started to say our goodbyes, I started bawling. I couldn’t hold it in anymore. So many of us felt that this may be the last time he’s with all of us. I won’t forget this very real and raw moment… As everyone was giving him hugs and saying goodbye, my mom was helping him stay propped up, and I snagged a hug right in the middle. I had to, I couldn’t let it pass by… I hugged my dad, and I said, “I love you dad” and he said to me, “I love you too.” And that was it. That was the very last time I ever hugged my dad. They very last time he ever told me he loved me. The very last time I would ever hear him speak, or see his eyes open. That day was the last time I would ever have my dad with me.

 

Cancer Update #6

*Disclaimer: I have permission from my dad to share this information.

This update has been a lot harder to write than I thought it would be. My heart is heavy but the Spirit of the Lord is with me.

This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;
Doctrine and Covenants section 88 verse 4.

I was originally going to post this about a week ago, but life has been so busy for Brady and I, and I’ve been spending a lot of time at my parents’ home. I’m going to start from the beginning of the story in this post.

My dad has been doing chemotherapy for the last 5ish months, maybe six. Last fall they found a “trial” drug for my dad after much testing and searching for something they could try once more for my dad. On March 10, my dad went in for a CT scan which was scheduled for after he finished this round of chemotherapy. He was also scheduled to have a draining tube placed but he was on a medication that he needed to be off of for at least 48 hours, so they rescheduled it for Monday March 14.

My dad was having a draining tube put in his liver because he had been very jaundice for over 2 weeks. They were hoping that by putting the draining tube in, they would be able to place a stent in his bile duct to help get rid of the bile. On Monday March 14, my dad went in to receive the results of his CT scan and they got appointments mixed up, someone at the hospital dropped the ball and either didn’t schedule an appointment, or wrote down the wrong day and time. It was very frustrating for our family, and just made the entire day drag on. My father went into his procedure to place the draining tube. Everything went very well in the procedure.

My dad would go back 2 weeks later to try and place the stent. This procedure became very important and something we were desperately praying to work. If they were able to successfully place a stent in the bile duct, they would remove the draining tube. If they weren’t able to, my dad would have the draining tube permanently. We really, really needed this to work.

My dad recently had some blood work done, to check his bilirubin. When they tested him, he was at an 8. When he received the results of his blood test, it was at 21. Wednesday March 23, my parents received an unexpected phone call from one of my dad’s doctors. They explained the blood results to that test, what it meant and how we are to move forward. My parents discussed with us kids that evening, it was so sudden, but I’m grateful our parents told us that night.

My dad’s condition has worsened and the doctor is recommending he begin Hospice care. This is a very difficult time and we would appreciate any thoughts and prayers. We all grieve in our own ways, but we will go through it together. We are taking all the time right now, to be together as a family. We are so grateful for the love and support we have received from all of you.

Allen Family 2015 by Mandie Kay Photography