Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
Ami, the children and I toured the Georgia O'Keefe Museum -- the perfect stop before our drive north through rugged and beautiful northern New Mexico. We drove through the same region that inspired so many of O'Keeffe's landscapes. We especially enjoyed seeing Pedernal Mountain -- the mountain that O'Keeffe loved. ("God told me if I painted it enough, it would be mine," she once said.)
Cooper, Katie and I are home after a huge adventure last week at Rainbow Trout Ranch in southern Colorado. We've been looking forward to this vacation since December, and the experience was even better than we imagined it would be.
I'll write more this week (about topics including Katie's birthday, what Katie thinks Daddy was doing at the ranch, Cooper's bush-whacking wound, river rafting and my fall from a really tall Belgian draft horse). For now, here are a few photos.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Saturday, June 19, 2010
It's been awhile since we've gotten together for a run to honor our dear friend Steve. There is a run this summer, Too Hot to Handle, that would be a great one. Some of us did it last year!
Register before June 30, when the price goes up. We will meet before the race to try and get a picture!
Thanks so much for everyone's support in the past, and we look forward to seeing you in July.
This a great way to get in the groove for the fall running season. The Run for Steve runners will also be at the White Rock Marathon this year!
Let me know if you have any questions!
-- Liz Smith
Friday, June 18, 2010
This week I survived another "first" in my grief journey. I helped my son shop for a Father's Day card – but only for Papa, not for Daddy, who died nine months ago.
As we stared at the mass of cards in our neighborhood Hallmark store, I was thankful for the greeting card industry's hyper-specific labeling: for Daddy from all the kids, for Daddy from daughter, for someone who's like a dad, for Grandfather. We could easily identify which cards to avoid.
We scooted out of there as quickly as possible, and I started breathing normally again. And I resumed my internal brainstorming on how to honor the best father for my children.
Though we can't hand-deliver a card to Steve this Sunday, there's no question that Cooper, Katie and I will wish him a happy Father's Day. We'll just do it differently than we ever have before.
A close friend who lost her father when she was 12 suggested that we listen to some of Steve's favorite songs that day. Since then I've been compiling a playlist in my head that reflects Steve's eclectic taste in music – ZZ Top, George Gershwin, M.I.A., Aaron Copland, Coldplay, Radiohead, the Dixie Chicks, Joe Jackson, the Northern Pikes.
We'll also tell Steve stories. Katie especially loves tales of peril – when Steve flew off a swing face first into gravel, when he threw up just before leaving for sleep-away camp.
Both children love to reminisce about happy Steve times. On Sunday, we'll probably relive favorite vacations and birthday parties. We'll talk about the books he loved to read them at night. (He had the perfect cadence and intonation for all the Skippyjon Jones books.)
We'll try to imitate his exaggerated German accent, one of his surefire ways to draw a laugh at the dinner table. We'll talk about how much he loved going to Cooper's soccer games and how he wished he could have watched Katie play.
I'll tell them that on the day he became a father for the first time, almost nine years ago, he held his son and cried. He did the same four years later with baby Katie.
I also plan to share with our children one of my favorite quotes.
Catholic priest and former Notre Dame president Theodore Hesburgh said, "The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother."
Steve's greatest gift was his love.
When we were first married, I would sometimes think I was unworthy of such strong love and adoration. With time, I realized that every human is worthy of the kind of devoted, unselfish, all-encompassing love I received from Steve – I was just fortunate enough to have found it.
And our children were blessed to have received a lifetime of love from their daddy in just a few short years.
Lately, our dinner conversations have turned to what kind of spouses the children will look for when they're adults.
Cooper says he'll look for a future bride who is nice, can cook well, likes to take care of children, knows the difference between a real diamond and a fake diamond and "isn't too fancy."
Katie says she wants a husband who has good manners and is kind and compassionate. "Someone just like Daddy."
I couldn't ask for anything better.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. E-mail her at email@example.com.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
From Dr. Chitnis:
I was attending at Parkland hospital in December of 2007 when I met this young man who was admitted to our service. It was heart breaking when I had to walk into his room one day with my team and tell him and his young wife that the lesion in his brain stem appeared to be a malignant high grade glioma. Eventually his care got transferred to Dr. Maher in Neuro-oncology, however Steve and I had stuck a chord and we remained in touch through emails and phone calls and I continued to follow his cancer journey. It is unusual for doctors to become personal friends with their patients, especially when you are not involved in their long term care, however there was something quite special about Steve and Tyra that also made me reach out to them.
In spite of the grim prognosis, Steve was determined to give his life his best shot. He put himself through grueling radiation and chemotherapy, was willing to try any experimental therapies that could slow down his rapidly growing brain tumor. Most importantly he did this with a smile on his face and a sense of humor that is rarely found under such circumstances. Steve had immense faith in his GOD and a wonderful life partner who put her life on hold to care for him and together they fought this advancing menace with grit and determination. In spite of the challenges, Steve and Tyra tried to provide a semblance of normal life for their young children with unconditional love and support from Steve’s equally wonderful parents, family and friends. Steve knew that his time was limited but the way in which he lived his life in those 21 months has served as a source of inspiration for his family, friends and the community.
In his short but amazingly blessed life, Steve taught me and so many others to take each day and live and laugh and to make the most of every moment. He never stopped working and continued to work from his hospital bed at home until few days before his death. On the professional front Steve was an administrator with Children’s hospital and was responsible for pioneering the Physicians for Children initiative, or PFC, which would provide health care to under privileged children. Since then many such PFC clinics have sprung up across town. He had genuine passion for his work and compassion for others who were less fortunate.
In his short but truly inspiring life, Steve left behind a legacy for his young children who continue to deal with this tragic event in a stoic and determined manner which is unexpected of children in their age group and continue to provide strength and purpose for their mother who herself is the epitome of love, faith, strength and perseverance. My family and I wanted to honor his exemplary life and memory by creating the Stephen Damm Memorial Award for excellence and compassion in patient care in Neuro-oncology. His oncologist Dr. Maher helped select the recipient for this award and the award goes to Dr. James Battiste.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Sunday night I was able to fulfill a promise I made to Katie more than two years ago, while we were in Chicago. She saw Wicked!
No time like the present to enjoy a stuffed monkey
One of the gifts of my late husband's brain tumor was the reminder that life is finite and time is unbearably short.
Until Steve's cancer diagnosis, he and I had always assumed that we would have decades to fit in all that we wanted to accomplish together. Our list was long and always growing.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Some recent examples of Cooper and Katie joy:
"Mommy, I'm glad God made your hair curly the way it is." (It was if Steve were whispering in her ear. He told me the same thing all the time, especially on the days when my hair resisted my amateur wrangling.)
"God doesn't have a phone number or phone. To talk to Him, you should always do the right thing and pray."
"I told Daddy I love him so very much. I know he heard me."
"You don't buy love. You have love. And then you give it away."
"I think God and the angels always smell clean."
"You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit. But sometimes you just can't hold it in and you do throw a fit."
He was watching Star Wars: Attack of the Clones this weekend. He told me that he felt sorry for Anakin Skywalker, whose mother died. "I know what it feels like to lose a parent."
Katie spent the night with her dear friend Julianna on Friday night. Cooper was mopey all Saturday morning. "It's just not the same without Katie."
As I tucked him in after a particularly excellent day, I told Cooper how proud I was of him and how proud Daddy is, too. "Yeah, he's bragging about me in heaven," he said.
"In heaven there is no sickness, no rainy days. Only sunshine."
A year ago today, the fabulous Jen Weintraub of Sugar Photography spent an hour with our family to capture these amazing images.
I wrote her tonight that I'll never be able to repay her for the lifetime of joy I'll have with these photos.