Monday, April 23, 2007

Thanks Marcus

There are certain people in your life who will always have this larger than life presence. Either by their personality, or their actions, they just stand out. My cousin Marcus has always been that to me. He has always been someone I've looked up to and admired, and his image has never been tarnished in my mind.

I can remember the first time I met him. I was three and he was this cool-looking eighteen-year-old ski guy and I couldn't believe I was related to him. I kept pestering him and playing with him. He was very cool about having to entertain a three year-old and from then on he had idol-like status in my mind. Flash-forward, past his olympic ski-jumping career (although that only fueled the fire of my adoration) to my first trip to Australia. I was seventeen, still impressionable, definately very naive, and Marcus gave me my first taste of city night life, dragging me out to the clubs of Melbourne with his friends (who wore snakeskin pants, which, whoa), passing me off as eighteen (I didn't even get carded!) and buying me mimosas(I think). I was trying to pass off as mature and Marcus let me actually believe I was, further cementing his larger than life status in my head.

He's the guy I bragged about: 'Yeah, my cousin in Australia has his own TV program. He used to be an Olympic Ski-jumper. He's so awesome.' He's the guy I think fondly on, and sometimes envy: 'Dude gets to go to Tahoe and write it off for work. So jealous." The kid in me, who he's never let down, believes he could maybe, possibly, walk on water someday. I wouldn't put it past him.

My mom told me that he put on the rosary I made for him and hasn't taken it off. He keeps it hidden underneath his shirt, but wears it all the time. I cried. It was sincerely the most touching thing he could've ever done for me, although he probably doesn't know it. I just figured he'd think it was a touching gesture and would put it away in a box somewhere. I don't know why, but I didn't think he'd be that into it. 'It's Marcus. He's too cool for that.' I thought. To think about him wearing the rosary everyday, that it means that much to him... it just makes me emotional. It's hard to put into words how it's effected me. I feel like that three year-old looking up at him again.

Thanks Marcus. You don't know how much that simple gesture means to me.

I wrote the above piece a few days after we lost Lisa because I found out Marcus put on the rosary I made for him and hasn't taken it off. I've let this little post sit for some time because I guess I felt it didn't need to be said, I don't know. But I think I still need to get it out there. Since I wrote it (but I hadn't posted it) Marcus wrote me to thank me for the necklace and to let me know that he had attached an L to the necklace, so that he would have his mother and his sister with him always. I just wanted to let him know that it meant alot to me. I hope this post conveys the point.

The Story of the Butterflies

Since Lisa's death, I've felt kind of caught in an undertow of sorts. There's been a flurry of activity, both with work and with interpersonal stuff, which either I didn't want to talk about or felt I couldn't. But despite the grief and the depression I've felt from all this, I've had some truly uplifting moments, some blessed moments.

The previous post from Cyndi stemmed from a recent conversation we had a week or so. It was the best conversation, filled with laughter and tears. There were several things said that utterly uplifted me, but none more so than a story I shared with Cyndi and the story she shared back.

The day of Lisa's Memorial, I went for a hike. I had to go somewhere beautiful as a way of saying goodbye. I took the dog and I brought a lunch. I went to this beautiful land preserve called Morgan Territories which was an easy drive from home. It was an absolutely perfect day. The sun was shining, but it wasn't too hot, it was completely clear. I full expected to grieve, to give myself the room to cry and release all the emotions that were pent up in me since her death. But on the hike I didn't feel any of that. The second I stepped out of the car and started walking the hills, I couldn't. I just felt uplifted, knowing she was in a better place now, with her mother, our grandmother and the rest of our family. At the end of the hike I saw these two butterflies, fluttering around each other, these two dainty white butterflies just flying and circling each other. A third white butterfly joined them, fluttering and flying about, but then broke off as the other two flew off and away. That third one flew by and around me briefly and then flew off. I said it felt like a sign, that Grandma, Jan and Lisa are together someplace safe and Lisa broke off to briefly say goodbye. It's what I needed.

I told Cyndi this because it brought me a measure of comfort after everything, and I just thought she should know. She gasped a little and said. "Lisa loved butterflies. Her house was filled with butterflies. At her memorial, someone had set a butterfly with her." It's been two weeks since I heard this and it still brings tears to my eyes. I could've never expected that. I still don't fully know what it means. It could just be coincidence, but I don't think so. I think I was given what I needed to say goodbye, intentionally, and for that I'm grateful.

And for this I am grateful, for the opportunity to share these thoughts and emotions with the family.

Regarding the rosaries, Cyndi said she'd send me some of Lisa's Jewelry for the rosary project and that she'd like something made for herself, which I'm more than happy to do. I also plan to make my Aunt Mary's two children rosaries, so keep checking back for updates and new rosaries in the coming months.

More On Lisa

My cousin Cyndi sent me a wonderful e-mail, putting to light for the entire family more details on Lisa's death, but also on her life. I thought I'd share the lovely story with the rest of the family.

My Sister Lisa
By Cyndi O'meara

Lisa and I were typical sisters, we played together when we were young, fought madly during our teenage years and then became lasting friends as we blossomed into adulthood.

Lisa was amazing. She had a mind that wouldn’t stop, she was an avid reader, an endless student and a person who thought very differently and loved to break the rules. Her life was filled with love, adventure and excitement. She loved to travel and she managed to visit every continent on the planet.

When she was 18 she left Bendigo Australia, to study in the USA, to become a Chiropractor, during those 5 years, she played, studied and worked hard. She came home and traveled Australia doing locums, then finally setting up practice in Armadale Victoria. She had a thriving practice and her patients and staff loved her. She was diagnosed with a disease called CREST, an acronym for Calcinosis, raynards phemomon, oesophagitis, scleroderma and talangatalia. The doctors said it was a fatal disease, telling her she would probably only live another 10 years they told her to keep warm and stop smoking and take a bunch of drugs. Lisa didn’t stop smoking, she didn’t take the drugs but decided to move to QLD to keep warm, she also followed a strict diet and had weekly massages and Chiropractic care to keep her tissue soft and supple. It worked because she managed to live another 23 years after that diagnosis.

While in Melbourne Lisa wrote the book ‘Immunity Why Not Keep It”, it was the first of its kind in Australia, warning people about the dangers of vaccination. Now there are a plethora of books on this subject both in Australia and overseas.

Lisa went to South America, just before she moved to Queensland and managed to get hepatitis A, she became very ill, very yellow and very thin. But as always she had a fighting spirit, and came back from what I thought was to be her demise.

She continued to travel, had a thriving business on Bribie Island, taught seminars within the Chiropractic profession and became a mentor to many Chiropractic students and a keen investor for her independence.

Lisa and I were now only 40 minutes from each other and we both depended on each other for many things. Lisa was the person I would always call if I had a difficult question that needed an amazing mind to solve it. She always solved it with simplicity and enabled me to calm down about an issue or to get on with what I needed to get on with. She helped look after my children and was the most amazing Aunt. She always came home from her travels with gifts abounding for all of us. One year for my children’s birthdays she surprised each of them with a unique gift. For Tarnea she flew both of them down to Sydney for the weekend to stay at an expensive motel, see the musical The Lion King and enjoy the sights of Sydney. For Casie and Fran she flew them and herself down to Melbourne to stay at a resort spa and enjoy the luxury of being pampered and for Brogan she flew them both to New Zealand to watch the All Blacks rugby team play. A year they will not forget.

Lisa was generous, that’s an understatement. She would always pay for me whenever we went out for a meal, she did so much.

In 2005, she began to lose weight rapidly and was having difficulty eating, she thought it was the end of her CREST disease and believed the oesophagitis would be her demise. In March 2006 she woke one morning and couldn’t even get water down let alone food, we rushed her to Holy Spirit hospital in Brisbane, where she was put on a drip. She weighed 35 kg, there was nothing of her, and with only saline going into her veins she was losing more and more weight. She looked like a skeleton and I feared so much I was going to lose her. Between Mum, Dad and I we stayed with her in the hospital while tests were done. The wonderful Dr Andrew Lee was her gastroenterologist, he diagnosed an 8 cm tumour on the oesophegas. He recommended radiation and an operation to remove not only the tumour but 10 cm of her oesophegus. Lisa never listens to authority and once again she said she didn’t want to do it. She knew that her quality of life with both treatments would decrease forever and she said she would rather have quality rather then quantity when it came to her life.

We took her home from the hospital with a feeding tube down her nose and into her stomach and we fed her through the tube. We decided to go natural, vegetable juices, whey protein powder, colloidal minerals, ambrotose, essential fatty acids, essiac tea, chicken broths and mushroom extract. We managed to block the tube up a few times experimenting, which was a very scary prospect because there is no other way to get water and food into her.

She lived with Mum and Dad for around 3 months and then got a tube straight into her stomach so that she could walk down the street without everyone looking. She gained weight, got up to 41 kg, went back to work, ran her business and investments and managed to live well. In August of 2006 she flew down to the Mountains and went skiing for the week. The doctors gave her three months and within four she was skiing down the slopes of Mount Hotham. She was amazing! She also started to drink fluids and was able to get some food down, tim tams, friands and chocolate brownies were her favourite, but she also managed to drink smoothies.

All was doing well but then Mum died in the October of 2006 and her slow death as a result of mesothelioma took its toll on Lisa. After Mum’s death Lisa managed to make her way back and started to feel better and have more energy again. Christmas and New Year went and things seemed to be doing fine.

In March she decided she wanted a scan to find out the size of the tumour. It didn’t look good, it still looked the same size in length, but it looked like it was spreading in width. Lisa didn’t see that as a problem, she never saw anything as a problem she was only optimistic about everything.

After Lisa’s diagnosis she started seeing a psychologist, she not only wanted to work on the physical and chemical part of her body but also the mental state. Her psychologist’s name was Jaqueline Trost, an 82 year old amazing lady who worked in Nambour, not far from me. Sometimes Lisa and I would meet at the organic CafĂ© Sister to Sister in Palmwoods and talk for an hour, until her appointment. On February the 5th we met there and cried for the hour. A good friend of mine had passed away the day before from Liver Cancer, a secondary to breast cancer, she was 39 years old. The next time we met was the Wednesday before Lisa died, she was energetic, full of life and unstoppable. The owner of Sister to Sister, Hayley joined us for the hour, she had just lost her sister (36 years old) to a brain tumour in the November of 2006. We talked about her sister Rikki, we talked about Lisa and her cancer, and Lisa was vivacious and full of hope for a wonderful future. She hadn’t looked this good or sounded this good since August the year before. It was great to see her with such hope and love of life.

Lisa and I spoke on the Thursday and again on the Friday and both times she said she felt she was back to where she was in August. She told me to touch wood and I told her I’d touched the tree of knowledge, we both laughed. On Saturday we meet in Caloundra and went to the musical The Secret Garden, Lisa looked gorgeous but she told me she was vomiting up a little blood and felt like she hit the wall that morning and wasn’t doing so well. The musical we went to was about spirits living with people and helping them in there every day lives.

On the Sunday morning Lisa called me, but I was in a seminar and I texted her to tell her that I would call her at 1.00 pm when the morning session was over. I called her as soon as I got out but got no reply from her mobile or land line. I thought that was not right and began to worry, but I had a talk to give at 2.00 pm across town so I decided I’d call her when I finished my talk. At 1.55 pm Dad called to tell me that Lisa was in emergency and that she was vomiting up a lot of blood, I told Dad that I would do the talk and get straight to the hospital.

For some reason I knew that for Lisa this set back would be hard for her to come back from. She was getting to the point that she was sick of the set backs and at times didn’t want to fight anymore. I called my good friend Jacki and cried to her believing that Lisa wouldn’t want to fight this.

I got to the emergency room of the hospital and was immediately bombarded with nurses and doctors asking me to make a decision. Apparently the tumour had encroached on a major blood vessel and the bleeding didn’t seem to want to stop. There were two choices: One was to stabalize her and send her to Brisbane to the specialists. The other was to wait and see. I called a very good friend who is an upper gastro surgeon and spoke to him, I then called Lisa’s specialist Dr. Andrew Lee and talked to him also. He felt that if Lisa was operated on that her chances of survival were slim.

With all the information I went back to Lisa where Dad was sitting beside her, he looked as lost and worried as was I. I grabbed Lisa’s hand and told her I loved her and that she had been the best sister, she looked me in the eye and said “Am I dying?”, I then said to her that she was bleeding and we couldn’t stop the bleeding. She then said to me “I’m tired and I’m ready to go”.

We took her out of emergency and into a private room where Lisa was hooked up to morphine and blood. She had started to experience pain and she felt if she was going to die that she might as well enjoy it and be comfortable. She had an amazing attitude.

I grabbed her hand and talked to her, telling her how much I loved her and that I was going to miss her. She asked me to call Trent.

Before calling Trent, I called Marcus. I called him at 7.00pm and told him that Lisa probably wouldn’t make it through the night, he managed to break all speed limits and get to Melbourne airport in time for the last plane to Brisbane, he arrived 12.00 that night.

I called Trent, Trent is a 28 year old boy who has been writing to Lisa every year for the past 20 years. You see 28 years ago Lisa gave Trent up for adoption to a wonderful family in Melbourne. Lisa didn’t know Trent’s identity all she knew was his first name and through a service she managed to communicate with him once a year. She loved the letters from Trent and I would make her read the letters to me 2 and 3 times. About 18 months before Lisa died I decided that Trent had given us enough information that I could find him through the internet. It took me a couple of days but by the end of it I had his home phone number and his address. I didn’t intend on using it for any other purpose but in an emergency and this was an emergency.

When I called Trent I told him I was Cyndi O’Meara, Lisa Lovett’s sister. I explained why I was calling and he asked me to give him some time to comprehend all that was happening. I gave him my husband’s number as they do not allow phones on in the hospital. Once Lisa was in her private room, a nurse came in and told me there was a call for Lisa from her son Trent and would we take the call. I asked Lisa and she gave me a definite nod. Lisa and Trent spoke for the first time that night, it meant a lot to Lisa. Trent then sent us a photo of himself that we managed to copy and show to Lisa before she died.

Before Marcus arrived I talked to Lisa about her options. I told her about the operation, and the chances of survival and then I told her that we could stop giving her blood transfusions and she could die peacefully with us around her. She looked at me and she told me that her goal was Robust Health and if she couldn’t have it she didn’t want to live. She was determined but I had to ask her again. So at midnight when Marcus and Susannah arrived we talked to Lisa again and then we took the blood transfusions away.

We called key people in Lisa’s life and told them what was happening, my family came down, along with Jacki Postles. Barbara her best friend and receptionist also arrived. As it was getting late, my family left, but Casie decided she wanted to stay. By this time Marcus and Susannah had arrived. So around Lisa’s bed was Barbara, Marcus, Susannah, Casie and me. We talked through the night and every now and then Lisa would put her two cents in. She managed to fire Barbara her receptionist for the past 10 years (all in jest), and she also asked Marcus if she was dead yet. She was really very comical and still wanting to have the last word.

The morning came and I called more friends who said they were coming straight away. Lisa could now only nod slightly or utter grunts of approval or disapproval, then her breathing changed and I knew what was happening. I couldn’t believe that I was losing my sister. I left the room to heave the pain out of me, it wouldn’t go. Barbara came out to help me and she managed to create some strength so that I could go back into Lisa and be with her without tears and sorrow.

At 10.30 am I said to Dad that I could feel Mum in the room and my two uncles Denny and Carl who had all passed away previously. They had come to greet Lisa to take her onto her next great adventure.

We were all around her as she took her final breaths on 26th March 2007 at 10.50am, she did it with such grace and dignity and I realized then that not only was birth a miracle but so was death.

I believe that the conscious continues after the body has stopped working, I believe that Lisa is free from the body that stopped her from doing what she wanted to do, more adventure, more living and more excitement. Lisa and I often spoke of death and what was after it, she was very philosophical and often calmed my own fears. I no longer fear death as I’ve seen both my mother and sister go through it. What is amazing is that death has a sweet smell both my sister and mother had that same smell, just like birth has its distinct smell.

Lisa has not left me, I feel her with me a lot. I’ve had a dream about her and she guides me to help me through her passing. I have never cried so much as I have cried in the last 5 months since the passing of Mum and Lisa. A couple of weeks after Lisa died I was quite up set and some how I ended up in a store and made a direct line for the book section. There were five books that caught my eye on death and dying, but the two I bought were on life after death. Both books have given me amazing comfort in the knowledge that Lisa and Mum and Grandma are free spirits basking in the light of God and enjoying their next adventure.

As a nutritionist, author and speaker on health I began to doubt what I was saying was right, especially after the death of Lisa and Mum from cancer. How could I possibly help other people if I couldn’t even help my own family? I thought about quitting but Lisa through the book she guided me to read after her passing helped me realize the truth. Deepak Chopra’s book, Life After Death made me realize that I needed to continue to talk and write about health. You see, in Deepak’s book he tells of his father and mother dying from diseases. The message was clear; keep going.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Lisa and Mum. I’ve had two vivid dreams of both of them, one night after the other, Lisa first and then Mum, they were just telling me they were OK and happy. I still go to pick up the phone to talk to Lisa and then realize I don’t need the phone anymore. I can just talk to her.

I will miss them both very much, but know that my time and work on this planet is not finished so what seems like an eternity to me, it could be another 50 or more years that I have to live without them and before I see my mother and sister again, it will be but a second in time for them.

Till we meet again, I love you and will always keep your memories alive.

Cyndi O’Meara

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Thanking My Dad

It's been on my mind seems like forever. It felt like you should know, dad, one way or another. I had taken it for granted all those years, but I'm not taking it for granted now. It didn't go how I had planned, but I had said it and you knew, you know how I feel.

"Dad, I might turn into a big puddle goo and I might start crying but I have to say this."
"What's that sweetheart?"
"You might not remember this, but I was nine, mom was up in Iowa and we were at home waiting on word about uncle T's condition. We got a call, you answered it and found out that he died. You got off the phone, you told me and I dissolved into a puddle of tears. You swooped me up in your arms, sat me on your lap and let me cry. Thank You."

I mean it. It was the perfect response to what I was going through. No words, no comforting cliches. Just me and your shoulder to cry on. It was exactly what I needed. It might not have been what you needed. You were there for mom and me through everything we went through. You were our comfort, our rock, our support, and in most instances you did so forsaking your own grief, your own need for comfort. They were just as important to you as they were to mom. They were your brothers as they were her brothers, but you were rarely able to attend a funeral. Those were tough heartbreaking times. The thing is, I've always thought about those times in terms of mom's heart break, my heart break, grandma's heart break. But your heart break was just as palpable, but you kept it at bay for me and mom.

I remember that 6:00 am phone call I received when grandma died, and how Chris said nothing. He just held me and let me cry. The perfect response to what I needed. I also think on the fact that you were all alone. My mom and I had each other at grandma's funeral, but you were alone, suffering silently.

After I told you this, you said:

"Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we get it right. Now stop it. You're making me cry and I'm driving." I think you called me a little shit-ass (you've really got to come up with a better term of endearment) and then we said goodbye. I'd say you got it right more than a few times. I love you, you old BAI (Blooming-Ass Idiot, guess I've got to come up with a better term of endearment, too. Old habits die hard.) and thanks again.

The Stories About My Grandmother

Here are two of the many articles John Carlson wrote for the Des Moines Register concerning our family. I've copied and pasted them into the blog with permission from John Carlson. The first one was the story he wrote regarding her 90th birthday. The second was the story he wrote when she died. They both perfectly sum up and explain our family story better than I ever could. Thanks again John Carlson. If these articles have been put up with out the correct permissions, please let me know and I'll take them down immediately.

- Sunday, June 13, 2004

Headline: No one deserves a happy birthday more than Mary

John Carlson's IOWA

An Iowa family gathered for a birthday party a few days ago, celebrating 90 years of life for a fine lady.

They had cake, told stories of life back on the farm and shared some laughs.

There was a time, not all that many years ago, when anybody who heard of the suffering wondered if the Goedkens would ever smile again.

No family more deserves a happy time. No lady is more worthy of celebration than Mary Goedken, their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

She has been through more troubles than any 10 people should have to endure.
First came the death of an 11-year-old son, Tommy, in 1971, of the hemophilia that ravaged the family.

Then, beginning in March 1987 and continuing the next 10 years, came the loss of five more sons -Ernie, Carl, Dennis, J.J. and Loras -two daughters-in-law and a grandchild -all eight from AIDS.

The five sons contracted HIV after taking a contaminated blood product designed to treat their hemophilia. Dennis and Loras unknowingly passed it on to their wives. The baby, Clayton, contracted the virus from his pregnant mother.

Remarkably, few people in Monticello realized what was happening to the family. The country was just learning of HIV and AIDS, and much of the talk was harsh. It was, most believed, a disease confined to gays -certainly not something that would decimate a "nice" family.

The Goedkens, a stoic, German Catholic family, barely spoke of it, even amongst themselves.

Ernie died and the reason given was hepatitis. Others died and friends were told it was pneumonia or vague illnesses related to hemophilia. It was an unimaginable silent suffering.

Mary got herself to Mass every morning at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Monticello, just a few blocks from the little house she shared with her husband, Vince.

It was, she said, her strength.

I came to know Mary in 1993, when she and the rest of the family allowed me to tell their story in the Register. Every person interviewed, at some point, spent a few minutes talking about her. Not because they were prompted or asked. It was because they respected her so much and looked to her for strength.

"Mom's the strongest one of the bunch," Loras told me. "I guess she has to be to endure this."

Nobody doubted it.

People heard about the family tragedy and used words such as "unimaginable" and "horrific." No description seemed adequate.

Mary quietly led them through it.

She told me she did it through faith and, incredibly, without tears.

"I was afraid if I started crying, I'd never be able to stop," she said one day, sitting at the kitchen table, carefully turning the pages of photo albums filled with pictures of her dead sons.

Their story was told, and the community responded with a love and support none in the family could have imagined.

"People have been so nice," Mary said. "I'm glad they finally know what happened."
Vince Goedken, Mary's husband of 61 years, died in February 1997.

Loras was dead six months later, the last to be taken by AIDS. Mary was with him, at his home in Houston, when he died. She gave her son comfort at the end, and when he was gone, washed his body, helped dress him and said goodbye.

She came back to Monticello and, a few years ago, moved into a nursing home. Trips to church are fewer now, but the faith remains.

"She says the rosary three or four times a day," said Steve, her surviving son, the only one not born with hemophilia. "That's very important to her."

At 90, she tires easily but enjoys her life. And she gets confused from time to time, Steve said. "She'll say, `Why haven't Loras or J.J. come to see me?' Then I'll remind her what happened and she remembers right away. She just kind of shakes her head and wonders how that could have happened to us. But she's doing very well, considering everything."

The birthday party originally was planned as a community gathering, but the family thought it might be too much for Mary. As it was, about 50 family members were there.

Clare, a daughter, said it was a fine day for her mother.

"She had a wonderful time," Clare said. "People came from all over. Nobody wanted to miss it. Really, it's hard to imagine she's still here, given all that she's gone through. I'm really proud of her. We're all very proud of her."

I'm proud to know her.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Headline: AIDS stole her sons; now `Mom's home,' too

John Carlson's IOWA

I'd been in this business nearly 20 years and was walking into what almost certainly would be the most difficult interview of my life.

What do you say to a woman who had lost four sons, two daughters-in-law and a grandson to AIDS?

The lady across the kitchen table in the tiny Monticello house smiled and offered me tea. A private, quiet person, she was uncomfortable as well, not quite certain of herself or what to say. So she did the only thing she was capable of doing.

She told the absolute truth about the unimaginable tragedy that had decimated her rural Iowa family.

It turned out to be a fine interview. For both of us, I think. She hadn't said much about it to anybody but family and clergy, and she opened up, answering every question, almost relieved to be able to say things that had been held inside for a very long time.

Mary Goedken talked about raising a family with six of her seven sons suffering from hemophilia, the youngest, Tommy, dying of the disease at age 10.

And how a blood-based treatment, something that was to make their lives so much easier, had infected five of her boys with HIV. And how two of those sons unknowingly infected their wives. And how a grandson was born with HIV. And how all but one had died of AIDS.

That was in 1993. Four years later, another son died. That's eight members of her family taken by AIDS in a 10-year period, more than any family in America to die of the disease.

Now Mary is gone. She died Monday at the age of 91.

One Iowan read their story in the Register and wrote a letter to the editor that read, in part, "They say God never gives you more than you can handle -I wonder."

I've known people who have talked about their faith being tested, that they didn't think they could endure whatever they were facing at the moment.

I wish I could have introduced them all to Mary.

Every day of her adult life -at least until she became too ill -she went to Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Monticello. Her sons' funeral cards were always with her.

Faith, she said again and again, is what got her through it all.

That and strength, a tiny woman holding up an entire family.

"I live from day to day and keep going," she once told me. "I go to Mass every morning. That seems to be where I can get relief. . . . I just can't believe the six of them (her sons) are gone. I think about it, and I just can't believe it."

I got to know her a little better and felt comfortable telling her that I was amazed she could discuss these deaths in such excruciating detail without crying.

"I didn't cry," she said, describing how she coped with the 1988 death of her son, Carl. It's something that stayed with her through it all. "I was afraid if I started crying I'd never be able to stop."

Steve, the one Goedken son who was born "healthy," without hemophilia, shook his head in amazement and gratitude describing his mom.

"I marvel at her," he said in 1997 as the family prepared to bury Loras, the last to die of AIDS. "Until you're a parent, you don't understand what it might be like to lose a child, the heartbreak and the emptiness you must feel. And she's been through that six times. . . . I don't have an answer, except the obvious -a strong faith and the belief that they will all be reunited again some day. She believes that, and so do I."

It's hard to be absolutely certain what comes after death, and I certainly have no credentials to speak on that score.

But I'd like to think Mary and Steve were right, that very early Monday morning, a few seconds after Mary took her final breath, she heard a half-dozen very happy boys yelling the very same thing:

"Mom's home."

The Rosary Project Story This Far

So, about bi-weekly, my mother (Hi Mom! 'Sup, all her kids at Loving High School! She says you've checked out the site. I just thought I'd say hi!) has been calling me with stories from our family in Australia. Apparantly, the rosaries I've sent them have had a pretty big impact on the family. I won't tell you their stories here. They aren't mine to tell. I'll leave that up to the individual members if they want to contribute. When mom told me some of their stories, I couldn't help but get a little emotional. I wasn't aware that something so simple as a rosary was having that tremendous effect on the family.

This project has affected me in ways I never knew it could. So far, it has surpassed any expectations I could have had for it. All I wanted was to let everyone in the family have a piece of our grandmother that they could treasure. I'm coming to find out that the rosaries happen to be doing a lot more than that. For some, they are bringing solace and comfort and that more than I had ever anticipated for a simple little peace of jewelry.

In other news, I'm hoping to get a couple of articles from John Carlson posted this week (so my mom's students can read them. Hi again! If you want to, give her a big hug for me.).