memorial celebration

Rachel's memorial celebration

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she’s gone

. . . but she lives on in our hearts and our memories and more literally in Oscar! We can’t and won’t downplay the immeasurable loss we feel now. The dying process is difficult to watch, but we are grateful beyond all expression that we could experience it by Rachel’s side. We hope as time passes that the visuals I shared on this blog will quickly fade and be permanently replaced by the Rachel we knew and loved——vibrant, caring, outspoken, beautiful, smart, loving, welcoming, empathic, _______ add yours ________.

Here’s a place to start. The picture goes back a few years but is one of my favorites:

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Thank you all for helping to carry us through these days in ways we could not have imagined. Many of you love Rachel, and we grieve your loss as well.

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from east to west

Meanwhile.

Crews of friends from various contexts gather in Philly to carefully organize and pack the stuff of life for three of their friends who just moved to Oregon.

West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship

Among these faces you’ll find Lorie (front, black top), the pastor of West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship, who gave her permission to share this photo with you. I saw it on Rachel’s Facebook with this message: “Love to you, Rachel, John, and Oscar from West Philly Mennonite. We miss you but are so glad you’re in another place of such beauty, support, and love. Oregon looks amazing, by the way!” These folks poured their hearts and love all over our little family for the few months that Rachel and Oscar attended services in their neighborhood church.

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Another go-getter, Susie, pictured here with Rachel and other friends, has organized another team of helpers to work alongside the church folks to accomplish the big move. Prior to the move, Susie’s love for and friendship with Rachel motivated her to enlist help with food and transportation and care for Oscar and people to look after Rachel while John worked and … and … and … and . . . all while awaiting the birth of her 10 pound 10 ounce son! And now that he’s here she’s on task with the details of packing and loading the truck. (You’ve already guessed Superwoman Susie is in blue next to Rachel, April on Rachel’s other side, with Mara and Emily in back.)

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The very idea that we few family members could make a dent in the task in two days, even with friendly help, was ludicrous! But these folks are making it happen. On Monday, two car lengths plus ramp space will be reserved on the street in front of John and Rachel’s house for the delivery of a U-Pack moving trailer. And then, after all of the inside fun is complete, the loading fun will begin. And if all goes according to plan, John and Rachel and Oscar’s worldly possessions will be traveling from east to west.

I am personally astonished by all of this. The goodness of people who gave financially (many of those only peripherally connected to Rachel and John), who stepped up to the plate with their gift—whatever it was, who offered encouragement to us and others on both sides of the country . . . humbles me. I can only sit here in front of my computer and marvel.

– – – – –

How is Rachel doing? The cancer has ravaged her body and withdrawn our hope for improvement. She herself had high hopes for their life in Oregon, trips to the beach, visiting friends in the area. Instead, in only a week, her condition has continued to decline. She has resigned herself to the inevitable but still enters into life happening around her as she can. Hospice comes regularly; John and the local family see to Oscar’s entertainment and social needs; the community brings in meals; close family and friends take turns “sitting.” I’m here now, enjoying my “turn.” Rachel just sat up and ate some ice cream, she listened while I read a special e-mail to her, she asked to go outside. I sit beside her on the deck. We listen to John and Oscar out in the field, tossing the frisbee. She nods off. Idyllic. While it lasts I will soak in every moment.

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special visitor

All visitors are special, I suppose. But this one Rachel requested: Grandma Williams, her mom’s mom, 96 years old. Interesting, isn’t it, that Rachel also married a Williams?

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These two have always had an uncommon connection.

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First grandchild, apple of this grandmother’s eye. Oh, the stories they could tell!

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This was taken several years after they had experienced the loss of a daughter and mother, Margaret-Rose, who was, ironically, the same age as Rachel when cancer stole her from their family.

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In 2009, electronics and cyberspace allow Rachel and Grandma to share the gain of a son and great-grandson. Priceless!

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where to send your notes and cards

Judging by the number of views on my recent blog posts I can easily say that a lot of you love our family and care about what’s happening with us right now. Gregg described it as a bittersweet time, which is certainly true. We are overwhelmed by gratitude for God’s provision through many of you generous folks who gave financially through Go Fund Me to make it even possible. You might not even want to give him the credit, but when we pray for his help and help comes, it wouldn’t feel right to assume otherwise. More of the “sweet” side is the very fact that Rachel made the cross-country journey so well. If only you could hear the joy she and John express when they look out the window at the scenery, see Oscar’s wonder that he is allowed to go out in the backyard without asking (though he does need to tell where he’s going). For the Oregon family the sweet is connected to proximity. We can be involved in “sitting” with Rachel (Erin is working on that schedule while Bethany works on the meal train) to give John some relief and freedom and can join them in the horror involved with the end of life. It is a privilege to be invited into such “sacred space,” as friend Abbie says.

I’m here now, which is such a sweet blessing. Rachel is a grateful and good-natured patient. We have to chide her for saying “I’m sorry” too often.

You don’t need any words to understand the “bitter” side.

Mainly I want to let you know where to mail hold-in-your-hand notes or cards to Rachel and/or John and/or Oscar. If you know the address of any of the ‘local” Macys, send to those addresses, in care of… and we will deliver them. Any others can mail to Newberg Friends Church at PO Box 487, Newberg, OR 97132. My coworker Denise will gladly hand them to me and I’ll deliver them.

These pictures will help you feel the “sweet.”

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If you squint this one won’t be fuzzy.

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Yoda came out from hiding. Check out his expression. Almost needs a caption.

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a stone’s throw away

If this were a piece of paper, it would be covered with eraser crumbs and smudges from all my attempts at an opening sentence. The emotions, the pace, and the details, mixed with the surreal nature of the past few days leave me a little cloudy upstairs. So don’t expect poetry as you read this update on the events that unfolded since you saw the three Macy men set out to “get their girl.” “Their girl” plus her John plus their Oscar comprise the family unit that wanted and needed to move to Oregon. This want and need were completely understood by the Philly friends who circled up and remain the power force behind making it happen.

[Before I tell the story I need to let you know something about the photos in this and subsequent posts. I will be very selective in what I share on this public setting. I want to be super careful to protect the privacy of each of my family members. For example, I have a very sweet picture of Sage talking to her aunt Rachel, but I don’t plan to post it because it was their own personal moment. You might misinterpret their expressions, and that risk isn’t fair to them. Plus I don’t want to make any of you squirm from the discomfort of feeling invited where you don’t belong. This happens to me sometimes; can you tell? For that same reason I want you to know that pictures I share of Rachel have first been given her stamp of approval.

One more thing. I use the word I a lot because I share stories from my own perspective. I don’t like speaking for someone else.]

OK, now that we’re all comfortable, let me bring you up to date.

The Macy men spent just a little more than one day in Philly helping and watching the camaraderie happen around them. People came and went every waking minute, some to say goodbye, some to help, some to pray. So much needed to happen in a short time! Photos were taken of each room to help Rachel and John orchestrate the move from long distance. A cat carrier was purchased so Yoda could move too. Someone sorted through Oscar’s toys, making sure all the Legos and Transformers get sent to Oregon.

Enlight

Mauri caught this scene as he “modeled restfulness” for Rachel, whose brain and conversation had shifted to overdrive. They were ready and waiting for the taxis to the airport, which arrived nearly an hour late! Tense! Then the driver didn’t know the way, of all things, requiring Rachel’s help with directions. She saved the day!

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Finally the time came to say goodbye to their Philly home. Many happy memories are stored in their hearts, especially the ones since Oscar’s arrival six years ago.

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Meanwhile, lots of bustling preparation was happening in their temporary home in Oregon. John and Erin needed to move much of their stuff out of the living space (They’ve had practice; remember this?) Hospice delivered a medical bed like she had in Philly—absolutely essential for the comfort challenges Rachel endures.

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All little-girl accessories removed to make way for little-boy accessories.

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The added touch of Mother Nature, via Aunt Julene.

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A bucolic backyard to enjoy outside or just as pleasantly from the inside.

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Necessities for the family feline.

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And the finishing touch—the requisite welcome sign. Erin put her heart and soul into these preparations, accomplished through the grace and servanthood of her own community of friends. She even enlisted the help of two nurses, a married couple, who helped think through placement of furniture to accommodate Rachel’s specific needs.

And then! After taking these pictures of the readied house, I headed down the road toward Portland International Airport. I parked in short-term and met John’s mom, Elizabeth, inside the terminal. We chatted and waited and waited and chatted. We were both sitting on pins and needles, so eager to see the traveling sixsome.

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These two enjoyed the comforts of first class. Rachel’s lymphedema, a most uncomfortable part of this stage of her illness, is eased by elevating her feet.

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Arrival! Finally! Flying west means these bodies feel like it is midnight.

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Oscar’s other grandma had entertainment at the ready. We each walked out with a dinosaur on our belly then quickly piled people and stuff into cars and headed toward Newberg.

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More words offered to make the welcome clear — “You are home, and we are glad.” So glad. Tears and smiles came easily as John and Rachel scanned the rooms. I carried sleeping Oscar in the house, down the hall, and into bed. And it was good.

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Morning came soon enough. We expected the Legacy hospice nurse and social worker mid to late morning, so Erin, Elizabeth, and I arrived in plenty of time to wait for their arrival. I was eager to give Rachel the book published from all of her blog posts. All of her diligent efforts to journal Oscar’s first four+ years of life needed to be preserved in something they can hold in their hands.

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Some passed the time by harvesting golden raspberries.

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And when all of the questions were asked and answered, we asked the nurse to snap a picture. Because sometimes I need to be on the front side of the camera.

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What’s next? Cousin time! They and the uncles showed up with Burgerville lunch, and the party moved outside.

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Better look fast! All four of the Macy-side cousins in range.

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Brynn offers Aunt Rachel a bracelet. And about this point in the afternoon I climbed in my car and drove home.

Now that this post is written we will climb in a car once again and drive back over to say hi. The distance between us this past year has been challenging, becoming more so as Rachel’s cancer progressed. Now they’ll be a stone’s throw away. A blessing we hope to enjoy for quite a while longer.

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and in a moment things changed

I promised updates here, and I have one already.

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These three Macy men are on their way to Philadelphia tonight to escort Rachel, John, and Oscar home to Oregon. On Friday evening! It took some convincing on the part of Rachel’s hospice nurse and the hospice social worker for her to lay down her hopes to spend some days with all of us at the Jersey shore in order to favor a plan to make their move west sooner.

Of course John was a convincer as well; he could/would give up packing a truck and shore-ing to help enable Rachel’s top goal—to be with family during these important days of her life.

Sadly, it will mean their Philly friends won’t get to throw the farewell parties they planned. One was for Oscar with his friends at the park. A photographer and videographer were commissioned by dear friend Susie so that his memory of them could be captured. The other was planned for during the truck packing so they could all meet Rachel’s beloved family. Yes, she does really love us!

They’ll have a little work to do to get everything in order for the return flight. And we’ll have a little work to do on this end. And by Saturday I should be able to report their arrival!

OK, Rachel——ready or not, here they come!

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