Friday, March 4, 2016

"See Your Memories"

Facebook. It's amazing how much it has shaped our lives. I can hardly remember what life was like before I shared photos of myself and my family on Facebook with my friends, when I could see old high school classmates get degrees, get married, have children - I have lots of people that I connect with on a daily basis, and Facebook has become part of my regular routine and communication.

Normally I love Facebook, because I'm a people person and I love to interact with my friends and family.  However, lately Facebook has been a sucker punch in the gut for me, due to this little link that pops up:

That's all fine and well and good when there are adorable pictures of Colton on there, or when I can relive happier moments - closing on a home, getting a new job, going to a Tigers game, etc. But since late February, I've been hit with daily reminders of when my life was shattered three years ago by Ryan's quick decline and hospitalization, that ultimately led to his passing on April 8, 2013.  Now I have a built-in way of reliving those memories on a daily basis, due to the daily status updates and blog posts that the two of us made and shared over that six-week period of time when we were scared, hopeful, hopeless, and also unbelievably supported by friends and family.

Today marks the three-year anniversary of the phone call I received while having lunch with a friend at the Pita Place, when Ryan told me that the doctors did not think he would ever leave the hospital alive.  I re-read our blog posts this morning after Facebook reminded me of this day (trust me, I didn't need a reminder; my brain can exactly recite any date that we had a good or bad thing happen to us during his cancer journey).  As tears spilled over, reading the terrified words that Ryan and I posted to our blog followers that day, I had a sick feeling in my stomach, remembering what that 28-year-old wife and mother felt that day as she struggled to comprehend life without Ryan.  I remember how she felt a desperate need to tell him that day how she felt about him, and how she would be okay, which led to writing this letter.  I re-read the letter, cried again as I remembered the resolution she made that day to be alright no matter what God chose as the ultimate outcome of the situation, and then I looked down.

At this guy.

Hudson Ray is my new son.  He was born at the end of January, and I'm so grateful for him (despite his colic, his penchant for taking tiny catnaps throughout the day, and my sleep deprivation - haha).  He is a tangible reminder of the blessings that the Lord has given to me after I felt three years ago like everything had been taken from me.  I sit here in the living room of my home that I have bought with my husband, Matthew, where we can create memories and new traditions and build a life together with our FIVE SONS.  (I'm just going to type that again for the shock value: FIVE SONS.  Lord, have mercy!)  So often, I feel simply overcome by the amount of grace that God has given me.  And I do not just say that because life is in a good place for me at the moment.

I feel like I'm sometimes living a double life.  In one world, I am this new mother again, I am remarried to this guy that I'm crazy about, I have this huge, blended family that is filled to the brim with noise and testosterone, and my life is consumed with basketball and soccer practices.  I live in a new town, and I'm about an hour away from my parents and my friends.  I go to a new church and I'm trying to meet people and make new friends.  All of these things are good, though I'll admit that the sheer rapidity of the changes that I've made has caused me to have more than one emotional breakdown in the past year.  Change is tough.

In the other world, I still have what's left of my life with Ryan - my relationships with his family and friends, the memories that I share with Colton about his father, visiting his gravestone, remembering things that we did together, advocating for a cure for cholangiocarcinoma, participating in the Ride-A-Thon at Paradise Ranch, talking with people about this blog or our journey, giving "widow advice" or "cancer advice" to other people in similar situations, and many more things that draw me back into the "old world" on a daily basis.

And the thing is, I regularly flip between these two worlds all the time, and to some degree, the two worlds sometimes overlap a bit, like a Venn Diagram.  I have come to accept and even embrace the fact that living in two worlds is my new reality.  I will never quite let go of my old world - I can't, and I don't want to.  So strong is the tie that bound me to my first husband that it won't ever break.  The strongest tie is the son that we have together, who at the age of almost six is starting to really be able to cognitively process the loss that he has endured.  And yet that ties that still bind me to Ryan do not impede upon my new world - if anything, they have enhanced my new world.  I feel like I can fully appreciate the beauty amidst the chaos.  I feel like I can keep struggle in perspective.  I feel as though I'm better able to identify that whatever good I have in my life right now, it's not because of anything I've done - it's because the Lord has specifically allowed it to be in my life.  These are all lessons that I've learned because of my time spent in a deep, dark valley.  I am grateful for the old world and even the pain that it still represents because that world has made me into a better person, a better friend, a better wife, and a better mother.

As I sit here with a sleeping infant on my lap - wow, he's actually been asleep for an hour, is this a special occasion? - and sun shines through the windows, I am reminded of the sun that was shining three years ago today, when my friend Sarah had to escort me back to work after I received that devastating phone call while out to lunch with her.  Not a single detail of that day has faded from memory. And every day for the next six weeks, fresh pain will be delivered on a daily basis when Facebook compels to me to click on "See Your Memories".  Yet because of the lessons that the old world has taught me about choosing my attitude and choosing to praise God no matter the circumstances, the new world will continue rolling along.

And I will be okay.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

To the mamas that are doing it alone

Every day, the alarm goes off while it's still dark.  You sigh and hit snooze, but two minutes later you rise because who else is going to get these kids ready?  There is no time for sleeping in.

Breakfast, lunch packing, and making sure that the kids do not exit the house in pajama pants and a grubby tee shirt.  Drop off at school.  You go to work, where your schedule is full time because who else is going to earn money so that these kids can have the things they need and want?  Pick up the kids at daycare.  Groceries.  Dinner.  Homework.  Play with the kids.  Bedtime for them.  Try to watch a little TV but fall asleep because you're so dang tired.

Repeat, five days a week, 52 weeks a year.  Maybe on days six and seven you'll have some respite, but more than likely you'll be carting children around to soccer games or hauling them around to errands that you had no time to do during the week.  And church.  I love church, but why is it so difficult to get kids up and around and dressed in their best and out the door on a Sunday?  It's a stinkin' struggle bus every single weekend.

My dearest "only-parenting" mom, today let me give you an extra accolade.  Your strength, tenacity, fierce love, and provision for your children is worthy of respect and honor.  I know that you probably didn't choose this path.  I didn't either.  Death of a spouse, abandonment by the other parent - there are so many things in this life that we don't have control of, and yet despite the heartache, I see you there doing your best to choose your attitude and raise these littles to know a positive, loving worldview.  The most important thing for a child to learn resilience is to have a positive attachment to a stable adult, and I see you loving the heck out of those kids.  They know, they know deep in their hearts that you would lay down your life for them.

You are doing a fantastic job.  And even on the days where you're not doing a fantastic job (we all have them), I see that you want to do better.  That you want to learn from your mistakes, and grow, and do better by your kids.  I know you will, because I know that you have some pretty huge motivation in those beautiful kids of yours.

You are deserving of honor today, Only Parent Mom (and Only Parent Dads, too, of course, since Mother's Day should also recognize your dual role).  Know that the God who created you and knit you together made you especially for this significant role that you would have.  He loves you oh so much.  Lean into him - his grace is sufficient for the heavy burden that you carry every day.

Hats off, lady.  You are doing a fine job!  Happiest of Mother's Days to you.

My little and I - whom I only parented for two years.
He is a total joy!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Happy birthday, dear Ryan, happy birthday to you

Today we remember you, Ryan.  Your fire, energy, drive, passion, love for family, and above all, utmost devotion to your Savior.

To remember him on today, his 29th birthday, I asked some of Ryan's closest family members and friends to tell me why they are thankful for his years with us, and what they miss.


"Ryan was a great friend. He always did the right thing, because it was the right thing to do.  I looked up to him for it and respected the man he was.  He put his faith, family, and friends first and did it with dignity. I listened to him speak in my patrol car  on the radio one day, and I'll never forget the topic: 'living your legacy'.  He was discussing the importance of thinking about your legacy as you live your life. It was as if an angel was talking to me at that very instant, telling me to think about how I will be remembered, about living my own legacy.  I think about that day often and will never forget it.  Also, about one month after Ryan passed away, I could not sleep and was restless. I had just separated from my girlfriend and was stressed from work. When I fell asleep, I began to dream about Ryan. I saw him in a cowboy shirt and hat. I saw beautiful rolling hills and an open space ranch that glowed in the morning sun. Ryan was looking at me with that distinct smile and in that moment, I knew it was not a dream. I felt peace, calm, and free of any worries. I knew he saw me hurting and wanted to help me. That is the kind of friend he was and I miss him." -David

"I am thankful for Ryan for many reasons.  I love that he loved the Lord and how courageous he was. I love that he set the bar high for us to follow so that we could continue his legacy.  As a small boy, he was so determined and ready to take on the world.  He taught me a lot about a strong-willed child, and a lot about myself as well.  I love how he was with us as a family, always going out of his way to support Brandon and our family. Some of Brandon's favorite memories are hunting weekend with Ryan and his Nerf gun fight at his birthday party.  I love how he adored Kendra and Colton and even in his illness, he strived to have relationships with his family." -Aunt Marjie

"I'm thankful for Ryan because he was the big brother I didn't have. Because of him, I think I'm a little tougher, understand boys a little better and have experienced more farts and burps than I would've liked. [Editor's note: hear, hear] But Ryan also taught me not to apologize for my age or my wiring, that it was ok to be passionate but always with purpose and to be caring at the end of the day. There are still times I want to tell him something, to hear his response and it aches. I'm thankful for his larger-than-life personality that makes remembering that much easier." -Abby

"I'm thankful for Ryan for so many reasons, but I so admire his sense of purpose and determination. Oh, and he always made me laugh. I remember the first Sunday I saw you two at GLBC.  On the drive home I said to Nate (my husband), 'Did you see the cowboy?' In that moment I had no idea what a huge impact you would both have on our lives! I'm so thankful for your couple of years in Lansing. Friendship, accountability, laughs, small group, and spiritual growth.  Happy birthday, Ryan!" -Lauren

" 'Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful,
       **And let us consider how we can SPUR one another toward love and good deeds.'
We believe Ryan lived this passage and many were encouraged to live faithfully for the Lord." - Grandma Jean

"As his 29th birthday was approaching I have been filled with a kaleidoscope of memories. The one I am most proud of was his commitment to live his life surrendered to the Lord. He became a man of great faith. No matter how hard the circumstances were he chose to be radically obedient. He never put it on; it came deep from within through the Word of God that he embedded into the core of who he was. Ryan was so in love with Kendra. She was the best thing that ever happened to him. Together they created a lot of energy, and out of that came Colton. The memories of Ryan as a husband and father keep me smiling. I miss Ryan and his passion for Grace Adventures. He shared in our vision for Grace to reach this generation of young people and strengthen the family to Impact the World with Jesus Christ.  Happy birthday, my son.  I love you to heaven and back." -Steve, his father

"Ryan, today you would be celebrating your 29th birthday. I still often wonder why it was you that was chosen to leave this earth at such a young age. I miss you horribly and think of you often. I miss watching sports with you, even though we weren't always cheering on the same team. I thank God for the memories and time that we did have.  Happy birthday in heaven." -Chris

"Ryan didn't hide behind a mask, he was who he was and he was fine letting people see the rough edges along with the depth. I appreciate that transparency and time with Ryan challenged me to be genuine in my interactions with others and not try to be who I think they want me to be." - Jenny

"'As iron sharpens iron so shall one man sharpen another.'  There is no man who I felt as loved by or whom I loved as deeply, with whom I debated as intensely, and with whom I served side-by-side as passionately as Ryan Prudhomme.  He sharpened and honed me into a usable instrument of God. I like to think I sharpened him some too." -Chad

"I am thankful I knew Ryan because Ryan stood for Jesus. My first memory of him is as a young freshman in high school standing for truth, and my last memory is a young man weakened with disease continuing to proclaim the same truth. I am thankful to have known him and even more thankful for the promise of eternity to see and be with my friend again." -Crystal

"I'm thankful Ryan broke trail for me in life. Even when the conditions were tough, he always had a heart of perseverance and righteousness. I am thankful for his sense of humor. I miss belly laughing with him all the time. I am thankful for and miss our time fishing or watching a game or talking about things that matter in life." -Jeremy, his brother

"I am thankful that Ryan fully surrendered his strong will to the Lord. He always pushed me to raise the bar in whatever we were working on. I am thankful too that I was able to see him grow and mature as a man and in his faith! And that God allowed me to be a mini part of that process." -Ben

"I always saw Ryan as a person with the kind of faith I want to have. He not only knew and believed the Word of God, he lived it. I admired that about him and am thankful that he is a role model for me in that regard. I am also thankful for the FUN. I have great memories of dune rides, horseback riding, watching fireworks, making dough boys on the campfire, hot-tubbing in the winter, and watching Star Wars and the Avengers. I'm thankful for our friendship and for the adventures." -Kari

"I loved him for how hard he fought cancer, and how he spoke about it. He meant so much to so many and is missed daily. His nephew has had a tough time losing him and still will cry out of the blue.  He is definitely loved and missed.  I'm thankful that he was a great role model and great man in how he lived his life." -Ryan

"Ryan could pick on me, challenge me, and encourage me all in the same sentence. He did it all with the same big smile. He spurred me on.  Like spurs, he was not always the most gentle of tools but God used him to often direct my life.  For that I am thankful." -Mike

"I'm thankful for Ryan for: his skills in securing lawn chairs in a Jeep and safely driving the dunes, and providing first aid when he failed at both of those, his ability to make anyone and everyone feel welcomed and loved, introducing me to his parents and grandparents, marrying my dearest friend, giving the world the sweetest, most honest, and hilarious little boy, and living his life completely trusting in God's plan." -Monica

"I will always remember Ryan as a man of deep conviction and care. Ryan lived boldly and spoke honestly, and in our friendship that means he challenged and supported me. We didn't get to spend much of our friendship in the same geographical place, and yet I would list him (and Kendra) as one of the people closest to my heart - who knew me well enough to cheer me on while spurring me on to follow God's lead.  Friends like that are God-given and precious...I miss him." -Amy

"Ryan was always 100% dedicated to everything he did and everyone he loved." -Tricia

"Ryan's commitment until the end was so personally challenging to me. Tonight I heard the song, "10,000 Reasons". I now have a visual picture of what it looks like to when your strength is failing and your time has come, to have your soul still praise God. I know times were hard. I know Ryan and Kendra argued with God about His decision. But he made the choice to surrender, despite his circumstances, despite his feelings and despite him wanting to be in charge. I am so grateful for that example and hope it is an example that I can learn to follow." -Hannah

"Ryan became a good friend of mine after he asked me to be his mentor a few years ago. We talked at least once a month, mostly about leadership and his hopes for the future. But he also wanted to talk often about being the best husband and father he could be. He loved Kendra and Colton deeply and wanted his life to reflect his commitment to them by growing in his relationship with God. Ryan truly became a hero and role model to me over the last two years of his life. He added so much to my life – I’m certain it was more than I contributed to his. I think of him often and miss our conversations each month. In honor of Ryan’s birthday, if I could just get him to call me one more time (I wonder what the caller ID would say), I would tell him, “Ryan, you blessed me deeply by allowing me to share your life and your journey. God made you so unique and used you so powerfully to touch countless lives. Thank you for the gift of your friendship. I love you, man.'" -Gregg

"Ryan, you are missed.  But on your birthday I don't focus on how much I miss you.  Instead I choose to look at how thankful I am to have called you my brother.  You blazed a trail for me to follow and showed me what mistakes not to make...but more importantly, you showed me how to be a man.  How to accept the things in our life that we have no control over.  How to fight when the world says there is no hope.  And how to support others when you can barely support yourself.  Everyone saw all these things as you walked through your battle with cancer, but I had the awesome privilege of seeing them every day as we grew up together.  Again I will say, I'm so thankful to have called you my brother." -Corey

"Happy birthday, Ryan.  I'll always remember the day we met in 5th grade and how much I hated you.  But after many fists were thrown and hurtful words mumbled, we became best friends and brothers.  I'm so thankful for you in my life.  And I'll always remember, 'Jake...there's more to life!'  I love you brother, and I miss you a lot!" -Jake


On this day, I'm grieving for myself and Colton, and for all the people that would way rather grab a piece of cake from Ryan's birthday party than sit in silence and deeply miss him.  But today I also celebrate...I'm just grateful that he was born.  That he happened.  That I got to marry him and build a life with him.  That he passed along the same winning smile, stubbornness, high-octane intensity, and unbelievable charm to his only son.  If this high-energy, loud, maddeningly confrontational, thoughtful, deep, and mind-blowing intelligent person had never happened, I can't imagine how different I would be as a person.  Thank you, Ryan, for helping me be a far better version of myself, and for believing in me and pushing me to greater heights when I did not believe that I had it in me.  Thank you for demonstrating to me that surrendering my whole life and my whole purpose to Jesus will define who I am, what I do, and give me a framework for every decision.  I think that every single one of the above people would agree that our lives are richer and we are better people because of the influence you had on the world around you.  You are so loved!  Happy birthday in heaven to you; I'm sure that you are celebrating in a way today that is unfathomably awesome.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Putting together a beautiful mosaic

Losing a spouse is somewhat like losing a limb.  I’ve never had something amputated, but I can only imagine how searing a loss that would be.  The pain would be awful, and I would miss the limb terribly.  Also, I would have to learn an entirely new way to live without it.  Eventually there would be adjustments, but life would never be the same as it was when I was whole.  I would remember the limb vividly and all of the things that I used to do with my limb, and there would be a dull, aching sense of emptiness when events are held that are really only designed for people with all of their limbs.  I would go from being part of the two-limb club, to being just an amputee.

That’s where the comparison ends, though.  I would rather have had all of my extremities taken from me than Ryan.  Any day.

Someone used the limb comparison with me when I made my venture back into the realm of dating (more on that later).  Their words were, “Since you can date and remarry, it’s like you get to re-grow the limb that you lost.”  I understand the intent of those words.  I’m 29, and there are likely many years left in my life, and much happiness.  However, I took issue with the subject of “re-growing”.

I don’t think that there is such thing as re-growing a limb, or “replacing” someone you’ve lost.  I have a friend who is expecting a child soon, who lost her precious baby son when he was one year and one day old, soon after Ryan passed away.  Despite the overwhelming joy that she and her husband and her daughter feel about having another child enter their home, it just is not possible to “replace” the child that she had.  How could she replace him?  Why would she want to?  Her son was uniquely wired and created to be exactly who God created him to be.  In the same vein, Ryan was uniquely wired and created to be exactly who God created him to be.  He’s not able to be replaced.  I don’t ever want to “replace” him.  That limb will never be grown again, because Ryan was Ryan.

So here’s the crux of my writing today.  I have been seeing someone for a while, and things were going so well for both of us that we soon knew that we should play for keeps.  He proposed!  (I happily accepted, for the record.)  Matthew is an amazing person.  He’s kind, intelligent, calm, honest, fiercely loyal, and a wonderful, loving father to his three sons.  (You read that correctly.  He has three sons + I have one son = we have together…four…boys!)   If I might beat a dead analogy, yes, in a way, I’m re-growing a limb.  But this isn’t the same limb that I had before.  It isn’t replacing the limb that I lost.  This new chapter of my life is exciting and beautiful, and I’m very blessed and humbled that God would choose to bring another person into my life that loves Him and loves me and loves my son.  I am excited beyond measure. 

But a little part of me died recently when someone said to one of my family members, “Boy, she was quick to replace Ryan, wasn’t she?”  (?!?!?!?!?!?!)  Friends, is there such a thing?  Can you ever truly replace someone that was a part of you?  You can adapt, change, move forward, and once again find someone to add beauty and color and love to your life, but my friends…there is no such thing as replacement.  Ever.  Please don’t ever use the word “replace” with any friend of yours that has lost a child (to miscarriage, as well), a spouse, or any person that they loved past all reason.  (And when your friend is ready to face life again post-tragedy, please support them and love on them as they rebuild a life that is not centered on pain, grief, and loss.)

I want, every single day of my life, to remember the life that I had with Ryan.  I want to think of his laughter, his kindness, his fire, his inspiring words, his jokes, and his intense love and devotion for his family.  I want to cling to the ways that he influenced me.  I want to be bold as he was bold, I want to love others like he did (even if that means telling them the blunt truth), and I want to be logical like he was.  I want to tell my son all the time of how his father loved him more than he loved himself, and how joyful his dad will be when he gets to lay eyes on Colton again in heaven.  I want to continue to see life in high definition, as he showed me (us) how.

I want to love, remember, honor, celebrate, and give thanks for that part of my life.  Always.

But I also am ready to rebuild my life.  Losing the most important person in your life makes it feel like life has shattered into a million pieces.  For the past several months, I have been able to witness firsthand how a million broken pieces can slowly be put back together to create a lovely, colorful, and breath-taking mosaic - different and rearranged, and yet still good.  



For any iota of negativity that has been said to me directly or indirectly, there are countless other friends and family that have been extremely kind and supportive, and I’m very grateful for that.  Once again, I am thankful that I have such a wonderful network of people around me, praying for me and encouraging me.

I have also had many people ask me about this blog and what I intend to do with it.  I have spent some time thinking about the intent and purpose of the blog, and I’ve decided that I’m not any less committed to passing along the message of “Living in High Definition” than I was in April 2013.  God gifted Ryan and I with a unique message, and a unique platform, and I will continue to walk through whatever doors He might open regarding that message he burned into our hearts.  What does that mean, logistically?  I would like to begin writing again, and as I feel more comfortable, speaking again.  I just recently have been able to talk or write about Ryan without it feeling like I was driving a knife deep into my heart.  I’m finally able to approach the subject with a feeling of gratitude for having had him in my life, rather than deep, uncontrollable pain and grief.

I don’t believe that the story is done being written.  The Lord has pressed upon my heart that there are still many chapters to be brought forth.  I’m not sure if I’m speaking figuratively or literally, but I remain open to either.  I ask, dear readers, that you would continue to pray for me, Colton, and Ryan’s family, and my “upcoming” family.  There are many obstacles that we’ve overcome as we have learned and changed and adapted to life post-cancer, and there are many other obstacles and challenges and opportunities that are ahead of us.  But there are is one constant that we cling to, and that is the name of Christ.  As it was when I walked through the darkest valley of my life, He continues to provide the constancy, the guidance, and the wisdom for the journey ahead.  And as opportunities to proclaim the work that He has done in my life come forth, I welcome them.  I praise His name for the great things He has done, is doing, and will continue to do.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

He holds me upright.

Dearest friends, family,

I cannot thank you enough for the many messages, texts, cards, posts on Facebook, flowers (thanks, Delynn!), and other tangible demonstrations of support that Ryan's family and I have gotten from loved ones this week.  One of Ryan's former campers even wrote an open letter to her baby son about where he got his middle name of "Ryan", and it was powerful!  I still consider myself to be so fortunate to forever be linked to this incredible person that left such an indelible mark upon the world around him. Thank you, Ryan, for making us all better and for bringing glory to your Savior.

That six-week stretch of time from Ryan's birthday through this week has been challenging at times as I have reflected upon the incredible loss that we all experienced a year ago.  I am so grateful that the God I serve is the same God for which this verse is written: "When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me." (Psalm 86:7, NIV)  The unbelievable peace and joy that I've been able to still have even in the midst of grieving is only because of the mercy and goodness that my heavenly Father has poured out on me over and over again.  When I'm afraid, sad, confused, hurt, or lonely, He is more than enough!  It is the same way with Colton and his mama.  When Colton heard an enormous clap of thunder during a storm last night, he came running to me and jumped in bed with me.  His mom is his safe harbor.  Our God is a safe refuge in the midst of a storm (Isaiah 25:4).  I can't imagine having gotten through this past year in one whole piece without the grace and protection that I have received from God.

But I would also like to share with the readers of this blog about the most incredible experience that I've gotten to have as a parent.  This past Monday night, one year later (almost to the minute) from when Colton said goodnight to his dad, Colton prayed and asked to receive Jesus into his heart!  He was quite insistent with me that he wanted to follow God at that very moment.  I was so blessed and honored to be able to do that with my precious son.  He turns four tomorrow (April 14), and his dad was also four when he first followed the Lord.  I am amazed at God's timing, and so excited to know that someday all three of us will be together again in eternity.

Life continues to go well for Colton and I.  We've had the opportunity to travel a little more, make some memories together, and we have had people come into our lives that have been timely friends and have brought much joy.  Colton still asks about his dad a few times a week, and we get to have wonderful conversations about his dad's character.  He did go through a period of time not that long ago where his sadness about his dad was perhaps a little overwhelming to him, but now he seems to have evened out a little bit.  He is doing amazingly well and I'm grateful that God seems to have given each of us (and also gave Ryan) a little extra share of resilience when he created us.

Again, thanks to all of you for continuing to pray for us and to think of us and reach out.  I'm grateful for every message sent my way and I can feel the grace that you are asking God to give me!  With God behind me and the body of Christ around me, Colton and I continue to stay upright and moving forward.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Ten thousand, two hundred seventy four days.

How does one measure a life?

Is it the number of birthdays that we achieve?

Is it the money in our bank account?

Is it the style of our clothes?

If those are the measures of a life, then my dear husband might not have made much of a splash.  His time here on earth was short.  Today would have been only his 28th birthday, and despite the unbelievably brave effort that he put into fighting cancer (countless rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, theraspheres, surgery, naturopathy, vegan diet! - I wonder if he has yet forgiven me for that?), he did not achieve a long life.  Today that fact is weighing heavily on his family's hearts.

Money in the bank account?  We shared joint accounts.  I can attest to the fact that he and I were very much an unremarkable, middle-class family in that regard.

Style of our clothes?  I really shouldn't touch this with a ten-foot pole since beauty is in the eye of the beholder (and our opinions on clothing differed greatly), but Ryan's cowboy style probably wouldn't have earned him any style points with the fashion police.  I'll leave it at that. :)

If we measure a life, what is the standard?  I propose this:

What do you do to impact the world around you?

In only ten thousand, two hundred seventy-four days (the number of days that he lived), Ryan Prudhomme changed the world.  No, he wasn't a world leader.  He didn't have an impact on politics, government, or policy.  But for hundreds and even thousands of people, Ryan caused them to stop and think about their faith, their priorities, their families, and their passions.  He challenged us all to see the world in a new lens, in high definition, and to evaluate what really matters.  As a charismatic cowboy in the prime of his life publicly battled cancer, he invited the world to share in his hurts, his hopes, and his Savior.  And I know for many people (myself included), what Ryan did in those 10,274 days was to create a ripple effect where we now will go out and change the perspective of others around us.  So quite literally, he changed the world.

So despite the fact that the candles on his birthday cake never exceeded 27 and a few times his checking account even dipped below that number (yikes!), Ryan Prudhomme set a standard of living that I pray the rest of us will continue to strive for.  He taught us that "apart from [the Lord] I have no good thing." (Psalms 16:2), and that our ultimate purpose in life is glorify the One who created us in His image.

Happy birthday, good and faithful servant, funny cowboy, sweet friend, beloved son, devoted father, loving husband.  I am sure that your celebration today is one beyond what any of us can imagine.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all of our friends and family.  Colton and I are grateful that we are so loved, so prayed for, and so supported through this first Christmas without our dear Ryan.  I have had so many Facebook messages, texts, and cards this year - it never ceases to amaze me how the body of Christ pulls through for us when we need it most!

I am so thankful that the same savior that has given me the grace to persevere through the most difficult year of my life, chose to take on human form and was born 2000 years ago with the loving intention of dying for my sin.  I am also grateful that my husband intimately knew that same savior and as I type this, is celebrating Christ's birth, work, and resurrection in Heaven.  No more pain, no more cancer.  Thank you, Jesus, for the hope and healing that we have in you.

And though our hearts ache for what we lost...

...we continue to focus on what the Lord has graciously given us: each other, a loving circle of family and friends, and His own precious Son.

Photo credit: Christine K Photography, Grandville, Michigan

Merry Christmas from the Prudhomme family!  May the peace of Christ remain in your heart as we begin a new year.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A fitting memorial

Today, Ryan's grave marker was put in place. It took me an exceptional amount of time to think about exactly how to put who Ryan was into a two-foot wide slab of granite. Lots of thanks to Ryan's parents and my friends for being my sounding board and offering suggestions or affirmations. Thanks also to Ryan's cousin David for the beautiful craftsmanship. 

What I ended up loving the most about this stone is the scripture that is on it. "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." (Psalm 20:7, NIV) This scripture so embodies who my Ryan was. Although he loved horses and was often defined by his cowboy lifestyle, he was most defined by his faith in Jesus Christ. The picture also illustrates the way that Ryan led his life fully submitted to his Savior. Oh, I am so proud of you, Ry. 

In case you are interested in visiting this, Ryan was buried at Hersey Village Cemetery, an eighth of a mile west of the main street in Hersey (near his hometown of Reed City) on Three Mile Road. His gravesite is at the extreme east end of the cemetery.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

If His grace is an ocean...

Eating dinner tonight - a gourmet delight consisting of macaroni and cheese and reheated leftovers (hey, a single mom has to cut corners sometimes!), today's date jarred my memory.

Instantly I was transported back to March 26, six months ago today.  A very grave, dejected Dr. Vashi, gently telling Ryan and I the words that we so desperately did not want to hear.

It was time to go home.  No more options.

I had steeled myself for this news for the previous 24 hours.  I could see the whole news unfolding exactly as it did, almost like a premonition or a foreshadowing.  I could see the symptoms increasing.  I knew that Ryan's surgery six days prior had been unsuccessful in its attempt to stop the internal bleeding that had plagued him since late February.

However, my husband had not spent the same amount of time preparing himself for the news. When we had a private moment, my husband, weak and bone-thin after four weeks of fighting for his life with every ounce of strength he had, laid his head on my shoulder and quietly sobbed and we prayed.  Most of it was guttural, but it was almost an entirely non-verbal plea for grace, peace, and mercy.

And there it came, rushing over us yet again, even in one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life.  And even in that excruciating moment where death stared us in the eyes, I knew that God's grace was once again going to sustain and buoy us through the next (short) chapter of our lives.  Because it is sufficient for me.  It was for Ryan.

It is for you, too.

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 "Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that [the thorn] should leave me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

The next two weeks will be really tough for me again as the six-month anniversary of Ryan's passing approaches. The combination of the impending anniversary and school starting (Really?  I'm really doing all of this myself?  All the time?  No breaks?) has left me feeling bereft, lonely, and overwhelmed for the past few weeks.

And yet, throughout all of the pain that this month of September has dredged up, I am reminded of that sufficient grace.  As a believer, I have an enormous source of power within me that is a direct result of the Holy Spirit's indwelling of me.  This power has allowed me to choose joy in spite of paralyzing sadness, and has allowed me to live life in abundance in spite of my weakness.

My Savior loves me.  My Father comforts me.  His Spirit sustains me.

And His grace is an ocean in which I am still sinking, six months later.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The silver lining

One week after Ryan's funeral, I found myself lying flat on my face on my bedroom floor, sobbing uncontrollably.

Given that our new house was not completely unpacked yet, I decided that following Saturday to attack my bedroom and get some of the boxes out of the way.  Along the way, there had to be at least fifty emotional landmines.  What was I supposed to do with the items from Ryan's nightstand?  His eyeglasses?  His socks?  Meaningless items, but it was still hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that he did not need these anymore.  All of this was difficult, but it did not compare to the ammunition provided by a stack of handwritten letters, tied with a black ribbon.

When Ryan was 17, he spent a summer in Wyoming "cowboying" on a ranch.  He did not have much internet access, and this was prior to texting.  So we went old-fashioned that summer.  Countless letters and postcards were sent between Hart, Michigan and Cody, Wyoming.  We had been dating for about a year and a half, and we were crazy, crazy in love.  I made the stupid, absolutely insane decision to read the letters that day.

"I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with you..."
"I am so looking forward to growing old with you and playing with our grandkids..."
"I could spend eighty years with you and never grow tired of you..."

Suddenly, the fact that all of our dreams for a long life together, horses, children, grandchildren, traveling, and ministry had been cut down and destroyed hit me like a ton of bricks, and I crumpled and hit the floor.

There is no time period of my life that has been more excruciating than the spring of 2013.  And sometimes I have struggled to make any sense of it. Why?  Why this pain?  Why me?  Why Ryan?  Why Colton?  Does this pain have any purpose?!  Is there any silver lining?

It does have purpose.  And there is a silver lining.

Fifteen months ago, I wrote a blog post about suffering.  This post is not going to be a replica of that one, which was about sharing in the sufferings of Christ and why suffering is beneficial for us in the long run.  Today, I'm simply searching for what I have to be thankful for.  I am redeeming the pain that I have suffered.  My God has promised me that His plans are meant for my good, and that He has given me hope and a future.  Today I am looking for what has been for my good.

Because of this pain, I...
  • have become a better parent.  Being the only parent of a grieving child has taught me even more about compassion and patience.  It has forced me to be less self-focused at a time when I could easily be all about myself.  My little boy lost his father and he doesn't fully understand why.  Anything that I'm going through pales in comparison to his situation.
  • have learned to take better care of myself.  I am very in tune with my needs at the moment.  Some days I need alone time to recharge, and I'm making that a priority.  Sometimes I need to be with my friends.  I need to exercise and eat food that makes me energetic.  I need to have fun and laugh and do things that I enjoy, so I'm doing that.
  • have learned to appreciate happiness (even small measures of it) and not take it for granted.  When something comes along that truly makes me grin, I recognize that and I thank God for it.  A beautiful sunset, a wonderful conversation, a walk-off Tigers win, a well-brewed pot of coffee, a good book, a bike ride through creation, or even just a really funny TV show - I am so grateful for these things.
  • have learned (re-learned?) to rely on the Lord for my joy.  All of the things listed above are wonderful, but they do not compare to the deep contentment that comes from knowing Him and trusting Him and being thisclose to Him.
  • will be a better spouse (if God chooses that for me) in the future.  I can easily look back and pick apart all of the faults that I had when I was married to Ryan, but that is futile.  Let's just say that I grew a lot in seven years, and Ryan pushed me to be a better person. (Anyone who knew Ryan well is probably smiling, imagining what I mean by that.) What is most important is that I learned not to take someone for granted because we are not guaranteed (at all) that we will have our spouse into old age.  Each day is a gift.
I never would have chosen the road that I've been on.  The price that I had to pay to learn all these lessons - when I think about that price, it is almost too much to bear.  I still have to pinch myself when I think, I buried my 27-year-old husband.  It is still totally surreal.  But despite the grief, the emotional triggers that appear out of freaking nowhere, I know that I'm moving forward.  I have finally come to the place where I am thankful for what I have, what I had, and I am not mourning all the time but rather I'm celebrating because my God has once again proven Himself to be enough for me.  I have been so blessed.  So blessed.

Are there still hard days?  Absolutely.  Don't ask me about the night before Colton's first day of preschool last week; it's a tear-filled haze.  Am I still in pain?  Yes, and I imagine that I will always feel those sharp twinges of pain throughout the rest of my life.  But I am reminded of Psalm 40:1-3 at this stage in my life:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

Because I have been redeemed, my hymn of praise will continue, undaunted.  Christ's sacrificial love for me is the ultimate silver lining.