Monday, July 20, 2015

“My Son Never Saw the Ocean”

Greetings - I decided I would share another one of my essays from the writing class I am taking. My instructor has already graded it (got 100%). Sweet. It's rather personal since it was a personal narrative essay assignment. I share it in hopes it will touch hearts and help others.

“My Son Never Saw the Ocean”
by Stephanie Abney
My delightful, active and previously healthy ten-year-old son, BJ, lay silently on the doctor’s examination table. He was pale, clammy, feverish, nauseated, and his lips were devoid of color. “I’m sending you to a Pediatric Hematologist Oncologist. Do you know what kind of doctor that is?” our family physician asked. I knew. He didn’t have to say more.
          At the hospital BJ received life-saving blood transfusions while he endured one test after another, including a spinal tap and bone marrow aspiration. The following day the doctor spoke the words that forever changed the lives of everyone in my family, “I’m very sorry to tell you this, but your son has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.”
         Faith, hope, and love became our lifelines. Every moment became a memory. We were the recipients of dozens of acts of service. As news of BJ’s illness spread, so did the number of people who would be there for our family. Not only did they touch our lives, but BJ and his courage touched the hearts and lives of everyone who he came in contact with him.
          BJ and I soon became “regulars” at the Cancer Clinic and Phoenix Children’s Hospital. On the way to the clinic we made up silly songs. Once inside, they would call him back, hook up the plastic bag filled with chemotherapy drugs to his port-a-cath, a direct line to his bloodstream surgically implanted into his chest. Six hours later, we made the 45 minute drive home, usually in silence, followed by a great deal of vomiting and misery for BJ.
It wasn’t long before BJ came to me holding out a clump of his gorgeous tow-head blond hair, “Look, Mom.” Soon, he was completely bald. “Well, at least it will grow back,” he said optimistically. BJ was known for looking on the bright side. It made things easier.

          The next Sunday BJ was well enough to go to church, which was rare. Smiling in their seats were several men in the ward and some boys in BJ’s class who had shaved their heads, years before the look became popular. BJ smiled and said, “Swell,” one of his favorite words.
Back at the hospital, “So, what’s going on in here?” a nurse asked as she poked her head into BJ’s room after hearing little chirping noises. BJ was full of fun, even under dire circumstances and seemed to be a magnet, drawing friends and hospital personnel into his room. BJ had a quick smile and a kind word for everyone he met. He made time to talk to the elderly and to little kids. BJ was a favorite uncle among his nieces and nephews.
Whenever the doctor asked BJ how he was doing, BJ would always reply, “I’m swell.” More than once I overheard the doctor leaving instructions at the nurses’ desk telling them to monitor him carefully because he never really complained and they would have to be watchful.
          When times were good, BJ went to school, making lasting friendships. His art work won “Best of Show.” He was loved by his fellow students and his teachers. New students told me that BJ was the first to welcome them. He held doors open for the girls. One boy said, “BJ brought the art of being a gentleman back to campus.”
Sometimes BJ was in an aggressive phase of chemo which made him violently ill. He’d be too weak to get out of bed. Other times, his chemo was part of an oral dose maintenance phase when could do more things. The summer BJ was 14, he felt well enough to fulfill the requirements needed to earn his BSA Eagle Scout award. He made improvements to a local bird sanctuary for his Eagle project.
After battling cancer for five years, BJ rallied. We dared to think this was behind us until he complained of pain in his eyes, hip and knee. The doctor couldn’t find anything. BJ’s blood tests were in a fairly normal range. We were sent to an ophthalmologist who tried to address the pain in his eyes. BJ even received injections directly into his eyes. The infection remained.
Our ophthalmologist made arrangements for BJ at the UCLA Eye Center in California so a specialist could look at the infection in BJ’s eyes. The thought of seeing his widowed grandpa in California where I grew up and getting his first glimpse of the ocean made him excited for our trip. (We always seemed to visit at Christmas and never went to the beach). BJ got the wind knocked out of his sails when the specialist found leukemia cells in BJ’s eyes.
“This sucks,” he said as we walked to the car. It was one of the rare times he expressed how discouraged he was. It was April of 2000. I couldn’t convince him to go to the beach after that. We returned home to Arizona without BJ even dipping his big toe in the ocean.
The doctor who had treated him with great care for five years gave BJ less than a 5% chance of survival even with an aggressive chemotherapy protocol. Our courageous son was done fighting. He refused treatment, with our support.
Six months later, our precious son, Brian James, tiptoed on the edge of this life before quietly slipping into heaven, two months after his sixteenth birthday. BJ lived six months longer than the doctor predicted. I think it was BJ’s gift to us. All the seats in the Stake Center were filled, to the back of the cultural hall and even up on the stage, when we held BJ’s funeral. He had touched many lives in his short lifetime.
I treasure every memory of my son. I will always miss him, until we meet again. In the meantime, I see a handsome blond, blue-eyed young man doing a work for his Heavenly Father that only he can do. The Lord needed a faithful young man who is as tough as woodpecker lips. And He found one in BJ.

BJ left a legacy of faith, hope, and love. I will always be grateful that God trusted me enough to be BJ’s mom, even if it was only for one short season. I know I will see him again. How am I doing? Surprisingly, “I’m swell."

© 2015 Stephanie Abney

* And if anyone is interested in more of BJ's story - here is a 5 minute "Digital Story" I made of him a couple of years after he passed away ~ "Standing in the Doorway"


Monday, June 1, 2015

Do You Love Your Car Enough to Write it a Love Letter?

So, I'm taking a college writing class this semester and one of the assignments was to write a love letter to an intimate object. Now there's a thought-provoking idea. WHAT do you love enough to presume to tell it so? I considered the matter and then wrote the following letter -- to my car:

 Love Letter to My Shinny Blue Toyota Camry

Dear Toyota Camry,

I was thinking about you the other day and how you have always been there for me. I realized that I’ve never told you how grateful I am. You’re the best, you know that? You make my life so much better.

Sweet Camry, you transport me safely from one place to another. You even cool the car down on hot Arizona days. I love that. All I have to do is push a little button on my key fob and you unlock the door for me. You’re so thoughtful. You offer me a variety of my favorite music at the touch of a button, and you even do so in stereo. You seem to have enjoyed the books on CD, LDS Conference talks and all my Christmas CDs. Remember when I listened to all five of the Fablehaven books by Brandon Mull on my way to and from work? You were so patient.

Fablehaven Series
I’m not sure if you know how much I appreciate what a confidante you are. You have endured my private rants, listened to me sing off key, and witnessed many of my most sincere prayers. Of course, I have to keep my eyes open, but while I’m alone in the car, without other distractions, I can go over quite a bit with my Father in Heaven.

We have made beautiful memories together. Some of my best grandparenting moments have been shared with you. Our grandchildren are so much fun, and you have transported them on numerous occasions, even to far away destinations. Remember the road trip you and I took with Jim and two teenage granddaughters in July of 2013? We went to Sigurd, Utah for the Dastrup Family Reunion. We played all kinds of word games and laughed a bunch. The girls got to see a silly side of grandma and grandpa they might have missed. Remember when Rebekah asked, “When is the next reunion?” That was a great trip. We made precious memories. You took us there in comfort and safety. Thank-you, sweet Camry, for being a part of our lives.
 Oh my goodness, last summer we had that blow-out on the way to Nevada. You helped Jim safely guide us to the side of the road where we took out the spare tire, for the very first time. It had been there for years. Yet, by some miracle, you had preserved it, and we made it safely back to Kingman where we ended up replacing all four tires. I’m sorry if I neglected you.  You have certainly been mindful of us. The tire guy was shocked that the spare tire was in such great condition. He called it a miracle. Your support gave us a happy ending.
Yes, I really do love you, sweet Camry. I love your shiny blue color (and how well you have retained it). I love your ease of handling and your safety features. I love that you seem to enjoy being part of our family. You’ve taken me to nearly every important place I have needed or wanted to go during our years together. Whether it was to church, the temple, to the grocery store, to visit family, or to go to the movies, you have been there.

You are one of a kind. In writing you this little love letter, I have come to appreciate your service to me and my family even more. You are a marvel; a cute, smooth driving, shiny blue marvel. You hold a special place in my life and in my heart. I’m really grateful. I think I’m going to treat you even better from now on. We can look forward to a future that holds more road trips, more giggles, and perhaps a few tears, but definitely more memories . . . together.

Thanks for all you have done for me. I love you.



Thursday, April 30, 2015

Day 30 ~ 2015 “Credo Poem” for #NationalPoetryMonth “30 poems in 30 days” + TODAY is “Poem in My Pocket” Day!

Day 30 ~ “Credo Poem” and TODAY is “Poem in My Pocket” Day!

It’s hard to believe the month of April is finally over. April 30 is not only the last day of #NationalPoetryMonth – but it is “Poem in Your Pocket” Day. The idea is that on “Poem in Your Pocket Day,” people throughout the US will celebrate by selecting a poem, carrying it with them, and sharing it with others throughout the day as schools, bookstores, libraries, parks, workplaces, and other venues, including FB and Twitter (#pocketpoem), ring loud with open readings of poems from pockets, it could be one of your own original ones or just a favorite poem of yours. 

Here is some info taken from the “National Poetry Month” website

"Poem in Your Pocket Day" was originally initiated in 2002 by the Office of the Mayor, in partnership with the New York City Departments of Cultural Affairs and Education, as part of the city’s National Poetry Month celebration. In 2008, the Academy of American Poets took the initiative national, encouraging individuals around the country to join in and channel their inner bard.

This year Poem in Your Pocket Day will be held on April 30. Be sure to share your poem selection on Twitter by using the hashtag #pocketpoem.

So, there is that and then ~ there is this: Today’s poem is a “Credo” poem. 

This is a pretty cool format and it was taken from a scene in the movie “Bull Durham” (which I’ve never seen so this is NOT a recommendation to see it – in fact, when I tried watched the clip of his “credo” I turned it off – not my style; too crass for me). However, it does make for a good poetry form, so here it is ~ fill in the blanks: 

CREDO POEM ~ in each of the blanks, tell something you believe in and on the last line of the 1st stanza list 4 things (separated by each of the commas provided)

Then for the “BUT” line – tell something you don’t believe in, such as “But I don’t believe” … or “But I think … telling something that you don’t support, believe, etc. “But I think whatever is overrated or any way you want to add a line about what you DON’T believe in that starts with the word “But”

Finally, the last stanza is MORE of what you believe in with the second to last line listing 4 things you believe in as you did in the 1st stanza and then – end with one long statement that kind of summaries what you believe or what you have hope in for the future type of thing.

OK, here is the basic format – whatcha’ got? 

I believe in the _________________________,

But _______________________________________ . (something you don't believe in)

I believe in____________________________,
I believe in____________________________,
I believe in___________________________,

And I believe in ___________________________________  _________________________________________________ . (longest line of poem)

Well, that’s pretty much it. Thanks for a great month of poetry!! See you next year. Don’t be a stranger. I hope to post more often but I’m a rather eclectic person – you never know what I might be posting about! Cheers!! 

BTW, as there are so many poetry forms out there, it’s been hard to choose which ones to share each day. So, I’m writing a book with dozens of poetry forms in it and I will post on here once it’s ready and how you can get a copy. Thanks again!
Please remember any poetry found on this blog, written by me, is my personal property and may not be used without my permission. The same goes for any poems that are shared in the comments section of this blog. They are the property of the person who shares them. These poems are their original work and no one may use them in any form without their express permission. It is understood that they own the copyright to it. Thanks!! 

And if you choose to post your poems on your own blog – that’s awesome. But please don’t just copy and paste my daily instructions, but rather post your poem and LINK BACK TO THIS BLOG POST for others to read the instructions. Thanks for respecting my work.