God Bless

Mary_bob_airport99 

It was on July 4, 2006 that my mom passed away, and so I've had a year to think about it, accept it, and sometimes forget that she's not around.  Just a week ago my wife was showing me some handbags for sale at a charity event and I said "My mom would like that one."  It was a kind of wild African pattern and she probably would have liked it.  But it was still a weird feeling to think of her in the present when she has already passed.

I still get occasional emails and postings on this site.  I hope it can be a valuable resource for others, either people who knew my mother or those who have cancer in their family.  I've written about as much as I ever want to write about cancer for a while, so for new visitors I have marked a set of posts below as highlights.  These are the items that I think may be most useful for anyone trying to understand the process or sort out their own feelings.  I encourage you also to leave your comments on the blog by clicking on the comments link below any posting.

God bless everyone.  Think of my mom today.  And God bless Mary.

Note: I inadvertently let the domain name TuesdaysWithMary expire, breaking many of the links to photos and posts.  I have fixed these now. 

You can view the site using the navigation at the top and on the left hand side, or by using www.zurlocker.typepad.com/mary


Highlights

External Resources


Fade Into You

Mazzy_9

I had a business trip that took me to Orlando for a few days recently, so I was able to spend some more time with my father.  For the most part, he has settled into his life as a single man, though I would not consider him to be the swinging bachelor type.  (Or maybe he has a secret life that he keeps well hidden!)   He's got a couple of regular golf games each week, a small faith group and he goes to the gym regularly. 

Surprisingly, my father has become a very good cook. We had a nice pork loin one evening and a pan fried fish with Bernaise sauce the next.  Both were accomanied by vegetables, potatoes or rice and a fancy spinach salad with walnuts and mandarin orange slices.  Sure beats my typical bachelor meal: chilli from a can and diet root beer. 

I bought my father a digital photo frame for Christmas, so I provided the onsite technical support necessary to install  photos.  I selected family photos from last couple of years including pictures of kids, grand kids, and the last couple of Christmases.  We went through the photos together to make sure he'd be comfortable with them.  I didn't want to trigger painful memories with reminders of my mother's decline in health. 

The evenings get a bit quiet for my father and I know he misses my mother greatly.  Most of the time he is pretty even-keeled, but he gets peeved once in a while dealing with some of the paper work and bureacracy around my mom's death.  Apparently it's much easier to combine brokerage accounts or cancel routine services when you're alive than when you're dead.  Who knew?  He gets pretty broken up at mass once in a while.  It's easy for emotions to get bottled up and then they just leak out at unexpected times.

I can usually keep things together pretty well myself, but everything caught up with me on the drive to Orlando airport for my flight back home.  I got up before sunrise to make coffee and hit the road early.  I've driven the road to the airport a dozen times in the last year alone.  Somehow driving the road by myself at that early hour reminded me of the finality of things.  This was the first time I'd been to Orlando and not talked with my mom.  She was gone and there was nothing I could tell her or share with her.  And then a song came on the radio called "Fade Into You" by Mazzy Star from a few years back and I totally lost it. Next thing you know, I've missed my exit and I'm driving miles out of my way, tears in my eyes as the sun comes up.

The song has a haunting, love-torn sound to it.  Hope Sandoval's longing voice coupled with a lonesome slide guitar creates a sound as bleak as a dustbowl.  Or at least, that's how it felt to me.

I want to hold the hand inside you
I want to take the breath that's true
I look to you and I see nothing
I look to you to see the truth
You live your life you go in shadows
You'll come apart and you'll go black
Some kind of night into your darkness
Colours your eyes with what's not there

Fade into you
Strange you never knew...

You can use the links below to hear the song or watch the video. 


Cancer - The Job You Got

Livingwell

The Washington Cancer Institute has a new seminar program on living well with cancer for cancer survivors, family, friends and caregivers.  It's called "Cancer - The Job You Got  - But Didn't Apply For".  The program is all about managing the nurses, doctors, caregivers, family and friends.

The program takes place January 27 (Mitchelville, MD), March 3 (College Park, MD) and May 9 (DC).  The program is free, but space is limited.  You can contact them at the link below or by calling (202) 877-DOCS (3627).


Helping Hands

Gregg_dad

It's been good to visit with my parents.  I'm glad I've been here able to see my mom and to help take care of her in the final days.  She did better last night, her breathing was easier and she slept until about 3:00 am. We were up for an hour or so, but then I went back to bed. 

Early this morning, my father came to get my wife and I.  My mom was insisting she wanted to get out of the hospital bed and my father made her promise that she would wait until he could get us so we could help her up.  By the time we got back to their bedroom, she had already climbed out of the bed and was standing up on her own.  I'm not sure how she got over the rails on the bed, but she did.  She's always been strong willed!

She wanted to walk a bit, which she shouldn't do too much, but my wife and father (pictured above) helped her walk to the living room so she could have a change of scenery.  I joked with her that she had "broken out of jail."

Later today I will be heading back to California.  My brother Tim will be coming in and then around midnight, my sister Karen will arrive.  It's been a bit of a scramble for them to get flights so I'm glad things have worked out.

My mom's been getting lots of cards and emails.  And plenty of people have brought over food, for which we are thankful. My parents' friend Marie has been over helping out and she is a saint.  My mom said "she'd give you the shirt of her back."  This morning when Marie came over my mom had a great big smile. 

Today I'll help my dad finalize the funeral arrangements so there's one less thing to worry about later on.  It's good to get out of the house once in a while and still be helping. 


Prayer at St Clare's Retreat

Sisters

Before the sunset Friday evening, I rode out to St Clare's retreat, operated Franciscan Fathers and Franciscan Missionary Sisters.  It's about 20 miles from where we live, mostly up hill.  It's a tough workout, but I needed to burn off some energy.  When I got to the top, I realized I had forgotten my water bottle.  I asked some nuns (Sister Barbera and Sister Regina shown above) if I could use their hose.  They were quite obliging.  Then I asked them to pray for my mom.  I should have asked them to pray for safe travel!


Worried About My Dad

I spoke to my mom from Moscow.  She had gone through her chemo for the week and had a couple of good days.  But she said she's worried about my father.  "He doesn't like to show it," she said, "but he's under a lot of stress."  She asked me to say a prayer for him.


Euro Roadtrip

Airline_food_1

I'm travelling in Europe on business for just over a week.  I'm in Helsinki, Finland and then I'll be in Sweden, Germany and Russia.  Honestly, it's not as glamorous as it sounds. 

I've been able to call back to my folks to see how my mother is doing.  Today she sounded much better than earlier in the week.  It was a brief call, but she did not sound as out of breath as she has been previously. 

Since overseas cell phone calls are very expensive I've been using a computer service called Skype.  Skype has amazing voice quality and it's free for calling from computer to computer and cheap for calling from a computer to a regular land line.  (Cheap here means about 2-3 cents per minute, which is 50-100 times cheaper than European hotel or roaming cell phone rates.)   You just download the software, register and plug in a headset.  It's really easy.

If you want to see what I'm up to in Europe, you can go to Splashblog and see photos from my cell phone, like the airline food I had on my flight from Munich to Helsinki the other day.  (Click on the photos to see them full size.)


Boston Bound

Boston_marathon_finish

My wife and I got up ridiculously early this morning to catch a flight from San Francisco to Boston for the Boston Marathon on Monday.  Easter Sunday we'll be having brunch with my wife's family.  Her brother Brad is also running Boston.  There's also a short 2.8 mile "freedom run" on Sunday morning. This will be my first Boston Marathon and it will be Brad's third.

Although I'm not aiming for a fast time (it's unlikely I will win) a marathon is always a tough event.  It takes a lot of physical endurance and mental concentration.  On my hands I usually write a few inspirational words.   This year it's my wife's name, "mom" and "proud".   I'm proud to be running the Boston Marathon and I'm proud that my mom is beating the odds against cancer. 

For those who want to follow the progress, I'm bib 7236 .  I will bring my cell phone with me and post a few photos at the start and along the course on SplashBlog.  There is also television coverage on the Outdoor Life Network (OLN) starting at 11:30 am eastern and repeated at 5:00 pm.  Hopefully someone will tape this for me.

Update:
One thing that occurred to me while waiting around in Hopkinton for the race to begin is how big the Boston Marathon is.  It has approximately 22,000 people crowded into this little New England town to run into Boston.  And that's about how many women are diagnosed each year with ovarian cancer.  Maybe there would be more research and funding if people thought of it that way.

The race was tough in parts, but I beat my goal time and was able to speak to my mom that evening and let her know I was thinking of her.


Death of a Friend

Mansour_and_son_1

A friend of mine and former boss, Mansour Safai, passed away of brain cancer a couple of days ago.  He was very private about his struggle with cancer.  I knew he had brain tumors last year and had gone through some operations and chemotherapy, but Mansour didn't let on a lot more than that.  The picture above is of Mansour and his son Nicolai from a few years ago. 

Mansour's brother Mammad gave a powerful and emotional eulogy at the funeral today, remembering incidents from their childhood in Tehran and their later cross-country drive from Boston to Silicon Valley.   Mansour was truly a rare breed: a technology visionary who cared about people.   He touched many people's lives.  Mansour was the same age as me and that made his death even more shocking.  He was a vibrant man cut down in his prime. 


Running Tough

Zack_svm_small

I've decided to get back into running more seriously.  At the end of  October I ran the Silicon Valley Marathon and qualified for Boston with a time of 3:18 and change, a personal record or PR.  The bad news is I'm behind schedule in training for Boston in April.  I'm not aiming for a fast time (it's not like I'm going to win!) but I also don't want to hurt any more than I have to on race day.

So this morning I went out and ran intervals.  It was cold and dark when I got to the track in Los Gatos.  I ran intervals starting at 1200 meters (3 laps) descending by 200 meters each interval with 200 meters (half a lap) slow running (or in my case, crawling) in between.  It's hard work.  But it makes you tough. 

As I was running I was thinking about my mom.  Running intervals is hard work, but its easy compared to what my mom is going through.  That gave me strength.