My Sister Jenny

This story is about my sister Jenny Higley Lynch. Jenny is a 31-year-old mom who loves her family, the outdoors and making people laugh. In 2005 Jenny was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme, an aggressive brain tumor. The prognosis was not good. The doctors told Jenny that she would have less than 2 years to live. Although she was 4 months pregnant at the time, Jenny underwent brain surgery to remove the tumor and immediately began radiotherapy. Five months later, following the birth of her beautiful daughter, Phoenix, she began oral chemotherapy.

It has been more than two years since Jenny's diagnosis. Our family was optimistic since her health seemed to be surprisingly good. She wasn't too sick from the chemotherapy and she was even working again.It was a horrible blow when, after an MRI in July of 2007, we found out the cancer was spreading to other areas of the brain. We were unable to understand how she could seem to be doing so well, but still be so sick. We rallied our hopes and Jenny and her oncologist came up with a new game plan. They decided to have an Omaya reservoir implanted. This device is surgically inserted under the scalp for direct injection of chemotherapy throughout the spinal fluid. This surgery left her in pain and made her very sick for a couple of weeks, but she came through it and began the chemotherapy.

Almost a month later, in October of 2007, Jenny became extremely ill and was taken to the hospital where she was diagnosed with Spinal Meningitis. This illness took a huge toll on her and her family. Not only was it physically devistating, but it was an emotional roller coaster. She was put in a hospital in Salt Lake City which is about 60 minutes from Farr West where she lives. This made visitation, child-care and work for her husband, Ernie, and our mother a logistical nightmare. Jenny had to endure 3 or 4 surgeries (we lost count) to relieve intracranial pressure and to insert and remove shunts and drains. Finally, extremely weak and unwell, Jenny was discharged and sent home. She had less than a month to recuperate before the next phase hit.

On December 21 Jenny got another infection in her spinal fluid which caused a lot swelling in the area around brain. She was taken to the University hospital in Salt Lake City again. Within a matter of hours she lost all ability to speak and many of her motor functions. She was in the University of Utah Hospital for 4 weeks, where she battled infection, endured more surgeries and tried to get well. After this she was moved to Salt Lake Regional Medical center where she had 3 weeks of physical, speach and occupational therapies and more antibiotics.

Thankfully, Jenny is home now and in the care of family and friends. Although she seems peaceful, she has sustained considerable brain damage and needs 24-hour care. She cannot perform most every-day functions without a lot of assistance. Speach is minimal and somewhat confused, and we don't know how damaged her thought processes are. She has a hard time concentrating and understanding problems and she cannot yet walk on her own. Most of her time is spent sleeping, watching TV or watching her surroundings.

My dear sister is not the same active person I know and love. I don't know if she will ever fully recover. My family is in a waiting game. Ideally, Jenny will recover and be able to resume her chemotherapy. Meanwhile, her family is faced with a single insurance carrier that doesn't completely pay for all the care she has undergone this far, let alone the care she needs now. The cost for her hospital time alone is astronomical. There are two young daughters and a husband to consider.Our hope is that people whose lives Jenny has touched can help. Every dollar you give will go to provide Jenny care and her family support. Perhaps more important, it will provide Jen's family some of the hope they need to get through this difficult time. We know that God has a plan for Jenny and we are trusting in him. We know that he will bless you for your donation.Thank you.
by Heather Chamberlain
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Erin, Jenny, Phoenix and Ernie

Monday, December 15, 2008


I've been reading a book my mom and brother Todd let me borrow called "We bought a zoo," by Benjamin Mee. It's a true story about a family who did indeed buy a zoo, but the author's wife is stricken with Glioblastoma and dies. The similarities in the book to my sister's sickness and death were striking. In a way I guess it opened up some old pain like pulling off a band aid on an old wound. However, I also think that it was a bit reassuring for me to see that other people went through similar tragedies and felt some of the same feelings we felt--maybe I'm not a freak after all.

I wanted to write down some of the things that I remember about my sister's illness that were similar to the author's experiences, just so that I will be able to recall them later. They were special times, even though they were tough. They also brought out the best traits my sister possessed.

Here's a passage: "After the funeral, the full horror of the last three months began to sink in. With hindsight killing off hope, her decline looked different. But even within a few days I was able to appreciate that although this was a tragedy for us, it was not such an unusual one. Many people endure far worse. We were not in Darfur, or Srebrenica, or the Congo, where people have recently been eaten by rebels in front of their children. Katherine had had a good life in a wealthy country, and died peacefully and virtually painlessly in as measured and gentle a way as possible."

People often ask how my Mom or Ernie endured those 2 or 3 months when Jen was so sick. I agree with Mr. Mee when he says that the horrific experience of her decline looked different after she had actually passed. I mean, we just took one day at a time, and tried to take the bad news in stride from day to day and the hope we had that she would get better seemed to be helpful. When I look back at it, look back at the long hours in the hospital and the endless surgeries and therapies, I think how the depths of hell seemed to be opening its wide mouth on top of us, but I guess I didn't think that at the time. Yes, it was hard, but it didn't feel as horrific as it seems now, looking back. I can't speak for my Mom or Ernie, but that's how I felt. Also, we were utterly blessed that she was not in pain when she died. She seemed all too peaceful those last few weeks and I think that was a huge blessing--an utter mercy.

Mr. Mee's wife's illness affected her brain much the same that my sister's brain was affected. My sister just one minute was able to speak and almost the very next minute had lost that ability, to never regain it fully. She could say things here and there, short one-word answers to questions usually. It reads in "We Bought a Zoo": "Before she almost completely lost her speech, Katherine was sitting at the table with all the family struggling to say something to my Mum. 'Can I. . .can I. . .can I. . .' Have the salt? The butter? The vegetables? people helpfully suggested. A rare look of frustration passed across her face before she finally go it out. 'Can I pass you something, Amelia?'" If I had a dime for every time Jen would start a sentence and then be unable to finish . . .That was very hard. I cannot imagine her frustration.

One time while in the hospital, my sister was asked by one of the doctors if she wanted the catheter she'd had for weeks taken out and if she would be able to use the bathroom if it was removed. I could tell that Jen definitely did not like that suggestion. I saw her shake her head and could see the conversation was agitating her. The nurse mistook her silence for indifference and said, "Jenny, do you think you could do that?" Finally, Jenny was so opinionated on the subject that she was able to get out, "Highly unlikely." I thought that was so funny and so like Jenny. She didn't just say 'no,' it was an emphatic NO.

From the book: "Her language seemed to improve at bedtime, briefly, when she could still be brilliantly dry and scathing. Having propped her up in bed with several pillows, which she indicated were working perfectly, I over eagerly searched the house for yet another. Propping it behind her, I asked if that was any better. 'Marginally worse," she said, perfectly, after a day of being unable to discriminate between producing a yes or a no.'"

I don't know what these comparisons mean, if anything. I guess diseases and disorders of the brain are somewhat mysterious. You never know which part of the brain will be affected. . .mobility, emotions, speech. I just thought it interesting to note them. I felt somewhat lifted by the thought that someone else had gone through this with a loved one and was able to continue on even though the pain and hurt seemed insurmountable. It gives me hope.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Little Chemo and a Little Cinema

These two got into some trouble with some markers not too long ago. My mom never allowed us to have markers growing up but it looks like she caved with Erin and Phoenix. This is what happened when she left the room one day for a few minutes. I guess she learned her lesson!

When I saw this I was laughing so hard. Those little faces look like they know they're in a lot of trouble. Jenny was always so mischievous growing up and I bet she was having a real good laugh that day, at my mom's expense!!

I just found out my youngest sister, Mindy had a baby girl this afternoon. These are the times I really miss living so far from home. Everyone there is busy welcoming a new little spirit into the family, but I'm stuck here. Oh well, at least I can celebrate here, and I will get to see her in the not-too-far distance when I travel home from Christmas. I can't help but wonder if Jenny has just said good-bye to a little spirit today, a spirit she's been helping prepare...either way, I think she is smiling down on us from heaven, if only for a moment; I know she's busy where she is.

This email was sent to Jennie Sykes on July 21, 2006 and is entitled "A little chemo and a little cinema:"

So let me tell you what my days are like when Im on the chemo drugs. I started on Monday night. I took some Zofran at about 11:00 PM then I took the chemo pills at midnight. I know that if I'm sleepy enough, I can sleep through almost everything. I watch the Letterman I TiVoed and usually fall asleep just after the Top Ten. My kids are with my mom so I sleep through the night until Ernie wakes up at 5:30 AM, but I don't get up, I just lay on the couch and sleep and sleep until 8:00 AM when I feel sick and have to get up and eat something then I fall back asleep until 1:00 PM or so when I wake up, change my clothes and go see a movie. I saw Pirates of the Caribbean, the Lake House and today I saw The Devil Wears Prada. I like going to the movies by myself in the afternoon. The theater is so nice and cool and the movies are a distraction from the reality that I'm facing. After the movie I walk around the mall and look in different stores and can't believe how much things cost at the mall (when I can buy clothes at yard sales for next to nothing -- $50.00 for a blouse? Try 0.50 at the yard sale down in the trailer court! HA!). Today I drove out to my mom's to spend some quality time with Erin. I feel waves of nausea from time to time and really shouldn't drive, but I miss her so much. I took her to Oaklawn Park and we went on the slides and on a walk through the trees. She wanted me to hold her the whole time and came and gave me hugs after she went down the slide. Tonight I put her to bed at my mom's. I sang some songs and read some books and tickled her arms until her eyes were sleepy and she turned on her side and closed her eyes. She's such a sweet little girl and I'm happy to report I've replaced Ernie as the favorite. Its about time!

It is now 10:40 PM and I'm kind of hanging out with Ernie. We're in the same room and that's nice, even if we're not talking. I get lonely during the day. At least I get to catch up on some movies that I've been wanting to see. I was disappointed with Nacho Libre, but I was asleep during about half of it (we saw it at the drive-in and this sleep-deprived mom falls asleep pretty easily these days).

I'm about to make another CD for you. These are just some songs that I like right now. I promise not to enclose any pictures of clowns or little people, unless I stumble onto a keeper like I did last time. There is a commercial that comes on with evil clowns in it why do people feel the need to show us EVIL clowns? Regular clowns are just as scary. Do you remember the Ronald McDonald that hit on you?

I hope you and Alrick are enjoying your summer. Are you able to stay cool? When is your cruise?

Hope to hear from you soon,

Friday, November 7, 2008

California Vacation

I've been thinking about Jenny a lot lately. The feelings I've been having are rather uncomfortable. It feels like I'm forgetting her. When Jen first passed away my mom and I talked one night. She was telling me that she doesn't want to forget Jenny. At the time I didn't understand very well, but I now know what she means. It's not that I don't miss her, I do. I guess I just feel like my life is going on even without her--and maybe I feel like it shouldn't be. It's a weird feeling. I dont' like it. I guess there's nothing else to do but go on, but I wish I could do it with her here.

This e-mail was written to Jenny's friend Jennie Sykes-Schwenk from California. It was a trip that Jenny initiated and the rest of the family just kind of showed up. I'm really glad we did. It meant a lot to her to have this time with the family. I remember the trip like it was yesterday. She talks about the "Tower of Terror" ride and I remember how much she liked it. I hate drop rides and refused to go on it but she finally convinced me to ride it too. She was scared also, but when we got off the ride she just got right back in line for it again. I was done but she loved it!

Oh, and "Jen n' Jen" is in reference to a column she and Jennie Sykes did in the High school newspaper that did movie reviews.

Yes, here we are in lovely downtown Anaheim staying at the luxurious Comfort Inn. It's not a bad place to stay and it was the cheapest of our options. On Saturday night we stayed at a place called "Whiskey Pete's" -- it's just outside of Las Vegas in a tiny little hole called Primm -- it's like the poor man's Vegas. I hated every second that I was there. The whole place reeked of cigarette smoke and I had to take my kids right through the casino to get to our room. Ernie told Erin to kiss a quarter that he was going to put in the slot machine. I guess the look I gave him was enough because he just smiled and put the quarter back in his pocket and never got it out again. We did eat Prime Rib for $6.95 (and it tasted really good with crack water). I was happy to leave Primm when the time came.

We went to Disneyland on Monday. Erin could have cared less and Phoenix just wanted to eat all the time (babies!). Erin started getting more excited on Monday when we happened to see a Jedi training show while we ate some $8.00 hamburgers in Tomorrowland. She would really rather be swimming in the hotel pool or coloring on a dry erase board and erasing it over and over. We took her on the Dumbo rides and on Peter Pan. She hated the Merry-Go-Round and never got to see Cinderella (Cinderella was always being mobbed wherever she went). I tried to discourage the whole princess thing at first, but Erin really loves Cinderella, so we'll be doing a princess party -- hopefully not at my house!

My platelets are really low. The chemotherapy was pretty hard on my poor, sticky platelets. I went from having 190,000 to 22,000. On Friday I had a platelet infusion. It's a little bit like getting a pedicure except it involves needles, tubing, and you don't get to pick the color of platelets they put into your blood stream. The volunteer asked me if I wanted something to drink and I requested diet Coke. He told me I couldn't have that (I think he thought I was joking?) If I can have coffee, can't I have diet Coke? So I had a grape juice, two tylenol and a benadryl (which knocked me out). Even after the infusion my platelets continued to drop. My PA wanted me to stay home from my vacation and I started crying. I told her I was going anyway and she arranged for me to have my blood drawn at a hospital here where she could monitor it. She told me to stay away from sharp objects and not to go on any roller coasters. I still shaved my legs and I went on ever roller coaster I could. I don't feel any different and my platelets started going up again on their own. I have to go once more on Thursday. On Friday we're headed up to Visalia to see the Sequoias (spelling?). I'm excited for that, too. Today we went to the Disneyland California park. They have a new ride called the Tower of Terror. It shot us up fourteen floors of this "hotel" and then dropped us. It did that twice. I thought I would hate it, but I loved it! Tomorrow is Sea World. I hope Erin sleeps all the way to San Diego so she isn't such a grouch!

The princess thing here is huge. I don't remember even thinking about princesses when I was younger. I really wanted to be an orphan like Annie and have friends like she did in the orphanage (a daddy warbucks would have been nice). I guess I never thought of myself as a princess and never liked pink. My mom bought me pink things, but if I chose to wear something it was rarely pink (until I saw those soccer shorts - I had to have them!). Have you seen Little Miss Sunshine, yet? The little girl in it was really funny and adorable. It has some tender moments in it. I recommend it. Maybe we could do another Jen n' Jen for old time's sake.

It was nice getting your email. I wish I could write more often!


Monday, September 22, 2008

Snow, Fish Sticks and Mao

Somewhere between the schlepping the kids to their various activities and cleaning the toilet for the 100th time this week I started to feel pretty sorry for myself. Not for anything real specific...just life and all the stuff that goes along with it. Yes, I miss Jenny but that wasn't all I was sad about. I was dwelling on my petty problems and let myself get into a real funk. Then, this afternoon, I got to talk to a sweet little voice on the phone that smacked me with reality. It was my niece Erin. I wondered, but didn't ask, if she is missing her mom like me. I listened to that little giggle as I made some funny jokes I knew she would like, and all my problems melted away for a moment. I'm so grateful the little pieces of my sister that live on (specifically two little pieces I miss terribly in Utah).
My problems aren't even worth commenting on now...

This e-mail was sent to Jenny's best friend Jennie Sykes Schwenk on December 11, 2006. The following bit is an explanation about the email from Jennie:

Jen was convinced that someone had put up a picture of Mrs. Claus that looked suspiciously like the communist leader Mao. She realized it wasn't, but took the picture anyway after getting my hopes up. (I mean, that really would have been pretty awful.)

So I drove out to Ernie’s brother’s house to drop something off on Saturday and I took the camera along to take the picture. When I realized it wasn’t supposed to be Mrs. Claus (as I supposed driving by at 50 mph) it was someones dead mother. I felt extremely guilty but took the picture anyway. I also saw a nativity scene on Friday that was missing its baby Jesus-- really. I tried to find it again on Saturday, but I couldn’t. I'm keeping my camera with me just in case.

I love fish sticks but I don’t usually buy them. I’ve tried the whole fish thing before. I mean, I really tried, but I hate fish…hate it.

So last week was my one year as a cancer survivor. It brought a lot of memories back; places in my life that I really don’t care to revisit. I feel like I’m in such a better place now. I’ve realized that although I don’t have very much control over a lot of things, I can control my perspective. I don’t think I could have done it (or continue to do it) without the Lord’s help and guidance; and when I look around and see all the suffering in the world that I don’t experience, I realize just how lucky, how blessed I really have been.

I’m sending along some pictures. I love Christmas I’m not sure why. I guess I just love the music and the purdy lights. We went with some friends to Ogden’s lights. Erin really liked it, but it was really cold and we only stayed for about ten minutes.

It snowed here yesterday but it was just a skiff down in the valley. I love how snow sounds when big clumps of flakes are falling to the ground. Have you ever noticed that everything seems more quiet? I notice my footsteps because they make squeaking sounds as they pack down the snow into perfect molds of my snow boots. The first snow is always the most special. It’s like when an old friend comes to visit each year. At first there is a lot of excitement because I’ve missed my friend so much but the old friend starts to wear out his welcome after a few months. And I hate the surprise visits in May.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The official tomb stone

It's coming up on a year now that my sister got really sick. For some reason that's making me more nervous and anxious than any other of the milestone anniversaries this year. I guess because once it hits that point, it will be officially a year since I spoke to my sister and knew she understood me. Plus, those months she spent in the hospital are so hard to think about, when I knew she was in pain and suffering, and I couldn't do a thing about it here.

We finally had the tombstone for her gravesite finished. Ernie had to wait for a few months for the ground "to settle." But he decided it would be nice to have it placed on their wedding anniversary, which was in August. Ernie came up with the idea of what to put on it with my mom's help. A pen and open book seemed like fitting thing. The back side of the stone was all Ernie's idea and we all feel it is perfect.
This e-mail was sent to Jennie Sykes Schwenk on February 23, 2007. It is entitled "B flats and Senior Citizen Yoga." As always it's quite quirky, like my sister. I miss and love you, Jen.

I did yoga when I was pregnant. I rented a DVD from the library and it was mostly senior citizens do the yoga in the background. I remember one stance that I really liked. I think it was called "the mountain" where one feels their feet being rooted to the ground. I pictured myself on top of a mountain with my feet rooted firmly upon the rocky soil and surrounded by the glacier lilies that grow on the White Pine Trail. That one hour of yoga I did in the early days of my diagnosis really helped me to relax and feel peace, even if it was only for a few minutes.

I love ham, too. Did you use your slow cooker? I love ham that is cooked in a slow cooker until it is slightly overcooked but still very tender and it falls apart on my plate!

I heard on NPR that when one plays a b flat on a tuba to a throng of crocodiles that they go nuts and also that the frequencies emenating from black holes can be converted to music and guess what? it's a b flat. Not one word about Anna Nicole Smith or the freshly diapered astronaut -- who does NPR think they are?

I went to the Salt Lake temple yesterday since I was married there. I went with a friend that was visiting from Germany. The inside is so beautiful and all of the finish work was handmade and hand painted. We ate at the Joseph Smith memorial building in a restauraunt on the top floor. It has a pretty nice view of Salt Lake city (wow! Salt Lake is really ugly this time of year!).

I hope there is some leftover ham that you can have for lunch. Please put some in an envelope and send it to me (maybe you should wrap it in tinfoil first).

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

So Funny

I haven't written anything on here for a while because I really haven't had the time or the material. Also, it is hard to write on this blog. It makes me really remember Jenny and then I again realize how much I miss her. That's not a really great excuse, but it's true and I've just now realized it. It starts all the feelings and I try to stay away from them. That's pretty lame, I guess.

I was able to visit family in Utah this past month and was so happy to see Jenny's girls and husband. They are doing as well as you'd expect. I am amazed at my mom and Ernie's strength. I'm sure glad they have each other to lean on. They are doing really great all things considered.

Luckily, Jenny's friend Jen sent me some e-mails that I didn't have before. Actually, some I had but I'm not sure what happened to them. They remind me of Jenny's sense of humor and I laugh and laugh and then sometimes cry. But it's good to remember. Thanks for the e-mails, Jen!

The funny thing is that I received the e-mails from Jen Schwenk when I was in Cedar City and one of them talks about Jenny being in Cedar City. It made me kind of appreciate it through her eyes while I was there and made me feel lonesome for her. I don't know if many of you will understand her humor in this as much as I did, but it cracks me up:

July 17, 2006

I don’t remember the name of the guy who won American Idol but he looks forty-five and is actually only 29. Why are women crazy about him? I just don’t get it. When I was getting my car inspected this week I was leafing through a People magazine and just wanted to vomit.

So we’re all moved in at 902 Grandview Drive. The place is a complete mess most of the time. I’ve kind of given up trying to keep it clean. Usually I can get things picked up pretty well before Erin wakes up so that in about five minutes’ time she can destroy the place again. She has become quite willful. Last night we were at my parents and she saw the peacock and started chasing him. The peacock was running scared and Erin was screaming, “Wait! Wait!” The peacock ran into the neighbors’ dog, pursued by Erin until the black Labrador came in her path and sent her running back to me. She loves playing outside and is constantly filthy. I can’t get her to keep her shoes on for five seconds and she answers every question with “no.”

On Monday we went out to Antelope Island (on the Great Salt Lake). We went in the evening after Ernie got off of work and watched the sunset. My car smelled like brine shrimp for a couple of days. I’m sending along some pictures. The sunsets are especially red these days because of all the wildfires. Each one for the last two weeks has been amazing.

I stopped wearing my wig. My hair hasn’t totally come in yet. I had Ernie cut it all one length with his clippers. The first day I went to work with it like that I felt naked and liberated. It’s so much nicer to just worry about my own hair. The wig was wonderful, but I think it ran its course.

We bought a 1994 Jeep Cherokee and we’re selling my car. I’m going to miss my car, but Ernie is excited about having the Jeep and the $2,000 extra dollars we'll have when we sell the Focus. The jeep runs well but when we first bought it it was filthy. We bought it from a guy in Coalville (that’s near Henefer I had a farm in Henefer). I spent the whole day on Friday getting new tires, an inspection and license (not to mention cleaning it for two hours in the 100 + degree heat). Ernie still has to paint both bumpers. At least it has air conditioning and I’m planning a trip to Moab to take it off road through Canyonlands and Arches. I did that once with my mom and Mindy (my mom rented the Jeep) right after high school and it’s an experience I’ll never forget.

Cedar city was great. We saw Hamlet and it was wonderful and had such a happy ending. I think Hamlet is my favorite work of Shakespeare, but I’m not that well-versed in Shakespeare’s works, mostly what we read in high school. We couldn’t hike the narrows because of bad weather so we drove up to Cedar Breaks and over to Bryce Canyon. I’m sending along some pictures.

I start chemo tomorrow night. I’m a little apprehensive because I don’t do as well emotionally when I feel sick. I got a migraine today because of the heat and really struggled trying to stay positive. Will you pray for me? I did get accepted for the grant and they’re picking up $533.00 of my copays. I still have to pay $90.00 for the anti-nausea meds, but I’m so grateful for this organization that helps people like me pay for incredibly expensive healthcare. Thank you for your prayers.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Some time now

Well, I haven't posted anything for a long time, mostly because I ran out of material. I am looking for new things Jenny wrote all the time and my mom has a lot of her stuff, but I have the impossible job of determining what is appropriate and what is not too personal to post.

Jenny had a book or journal she wrote a lot of her poems in. She started keeping it when she was in high school. It was given to her by her best friend Jen Sykes (formerly). I went through the book when I was in Utah for the funeral and typed all the entries so that we could make a book out of it someday. There are apparently other books and I have yet to get them. Anyhow, when I was busily typing them as fast as I could I turned the page and found a poem she had written to me. I did not know the poem was in there, and so I was shocked when I read the title. Of course, I cried for a long time and tried to compose myself enough to type the poem. I thought I'd share that with you right now:

Sister Dear
(For my Sister, Heather)

The dusty skies
Looked upon us
As we played
From morn’
Until night.
Our naked
Feet ran
The freshly
Cut grass
And the melancholy
Sounds of the the
School bell
Reminded us
That life was
Not all play.

The Soft Spring
Breeze flew our
And the golden
Sun lead us
Dancing behind
In its rays.

My sister dear
Such sweet memories
Linger on
Like a photograph
Album kept
Safely in my mind.

The world was ours
At break of day!

This poem is obviously very dear to me. I wanted to tell you a little bit about my childhood with Jenny. Jen is 2 years younger than I am and so when we were little we spent a lot of our play times together. We grew up on a farm and this made for the best adventures and fun. Mornings we would spend in Dad's barn searching for feral kittens left alone by their mother for a short time to find food. Barns seem to draw this type of animal life. Sometimes we had to be really quiet and listen for the little mews coming from the many stacks of hay. Once we heard distinct signs of life we would climb through the bales and see who could find the little families first. Unfortunately for us, after first contact was made by humans the mother would usually relocate her herd during the night and that would be the last we saw of the kittens. But it didn't matter, nature would almost always repeat itself and we would have new kittens shortly.

Afternoons found Jen and I riding bikes with our neighbors, the Polson's, who also had 5 girls. There was a friend for each one of us in a corresponding age. We would drive back and forth from our driveway to theirs for hours playing lots of fun games. I especially remember playing cops and robbers. It's funny but Jen always offered to be the robber. I think that says a lot about her personality. She also always offered to be the boy when we would play "Love Boat," or "Fantasy Island," she was the ultimate Tom-boy. I loved her for that. She was so reckless and free and had the best ideas.

There's a reference to flying kites in the poem Jenny wrote. I remember many March days running through my dad's fields flying kites. That was a big treat for us. When I think of those days I almost always get teary eyed. They weren't out of the ordinary. Many of you may have experienced similar days in your lives. However, I know a lot of people who didn't have close siblings to play with. I feel very blessed to have had Jenny to play with. Did we always get along? NO, and that's an emphatic no, but the good greatly outweighed the bad and I still think of those days and feel like the angels were watching us and smiling. I like to think that Jenny is now an angel watching her little girls play together and smiling all the while. I hope they are as close as we were.

I am going to try and post more often. I have to locate material so if you have any stories of my sister or any of her writing please forward them on to me and let me know. I think people would prefer to read her work!!

Thanks for reading

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

As I said last week, Jenny's birthday was on April 26th. She would have been 32 years old. I live in the Seattle area so I was not able to be home on that day. I told you all about how I spent the day, but I talked to my mom and sister about how they spent the day. They planted a tree in the front yard of Jen and Ernie's house that she had mentioned she wanted to do. Then they all took balloons and flowers to the cemetery where Jenny was buried. At this cemetery (where my maternal grandparents are buried) the owner and management allow not only flowers but other tokens of love to be placed permanently or semi-permanently on the grave sites. My sister Amy brought a small little wind chime that had a sun and moon on it (Jenny loved sun, moon and stars memorabilia). My other sisters, mom and Ernie and his girls left balloons and flowers. My mom mentioned how hard it was to leave those balloons floating in the wind behind them as they drove away. In my minds eye I can see it and I would have liked to have been there. After the cemetery the family all met up at Ogden's best pizza spot "the Pizzeria," where Jenny ate often and where the family frequents. All in all, I heard it was a good day. I'm glad; I was worried it would be very difficult for them...Now we just have Mother's Day and Phoenix's birthday to look forward to. Phoenix was actually born on Mother's Day in 2006. Boy, I think this year is going to be hard!
I slyly procured a copy of a letter Ernie wrote about Jenny from a source which shall remain anonymous. It is so beautifully written and touching to me that I had to add it to the blog. Ernie and Jenny were more similar than I had thought. I hope he doesn't disown me for posting this!! Just kidding....I wish I had more pictures to put with this but my scanner is not working--Sorry.

Dear Friends,

It isn’t often in life that you get the opportunity to meet someone who will manage to forever change your life for the better. Jenny was one of those people for me.
She was my niece LaCher’s teacher when LaCher was in the 7 and 8 year-old class in Primary. My sister Cheryl knew that Jenny had gone to Germany on her Mission, and was very impressed with her, so she went about getting her number for me. I can’t remember what I said during our first conversation, but the date we went on was to LaFerrovia, an Italian restaurant on 25th street in Ogden. (I always went there on my “first date, because everything on the menu is good, so if she ordered what I usually got first, I’d still be able to enjoy the backup meal.)

When I picked her up, I noticed a sign by the front door that said, “Martha Stewart does not live here…” I knew right away that the family had a sense of humor.
While at the restaurant, we talked a lot about Germany, and tried to see who had the most hair-raising rejection experiences…I think we tied there. I soon found out that Jenny was someone I genuinely liked being with, could talk about anything with, and who noticed some of the unconventional things in life like I did. She had it all: Smarts, charm, and good looks. I wasn’t sure at the time, but from the first moment I saw her, it was “love at first sight.”

Our second date started out a little on the fishy side…I pulled up to her house, and she came running out before I even set foot on the pavement, jumped in the car, and said, “ok, let’s go!” When I asked her if everything was ok she just said, “Oh my family‘s all in there and I don’t want you to meet them just yet.” Not sure of what to think of that, I just started driving.

We went to the Galaxy Drive-in that used to be on Harrison, and she asked me this totally off the wall, but serious question: “If you were stuck in the wilderness, hundreds of miles from civilization, totally out of supplies, and had no other hope of survival, and someone in your group died, would you resort to cannibalism?” Totally thrown off guard, I decided that the truth was the best answer in this situation, and said, “It depends…” I won’t go into details, but apparently, I was the only person she had dated that didn’t just give a yes or no answer when she asked him that question. We then went to Some Dude’s Playground to exert some energy, and have some fun.

A few days after our very odd second date, I was sitting around my house trying to come up with something interesting to do on our third date, when she actually called me up. When she asked if I wanted to come over to show her how to change the oil in her car, I knew my days as a single man were numbered…
We married in the Salt Lake Temple on August 14, 2001. It was a brisk 104 degrees in the shade, and will always be remembered as one of the happiest days ever in my life.

The wedding reception was held at Jenny’s Parents house, because Jenny wanted to have a more “personal” reception where we didn’t stand in a line, but went around, actually talking to the people who came. I loved the idea. We took Polaroids of everyone who signed the guest book, and had a very lovely, casual, and unique event that will always be special to me.

Our Honeymoon was unconventional as well. We both have always wanted to go to Washington, D.C., so we went there. We both loved going through the museums, and seeing the architecture of the different monuments. Jenny was always a History Buff too, so our marriage could not have started out any better.

Our first residence was an apartment near the Roy Fire Station. The upstairs was inhabited by a tribe of shoeless rhinos that would “stampede” until around 2:30 a.m. making the windows rattle, so we exited immediately after our lease was up.

Our first “home” was located in Syracuse, and we loved it there. All of our neighbors were nice, we had a cute house, and we had peace and quiet. Too quiet, in the beginning. It actually creeped me out the first few nights to sleep so well. I wondered if my alarm would even wake me up to go to work.

Erin blessed our lives with her arrival shortly after that on October 27, 2004. She was born within minutes of the Boston Red Sox winning their first World Series in 96 or so years, on a Blue Moon and the night of a Lunar Eclipse. We chose the name Erin because it is the Irish name meaning Peace. Her middle name, Piper, was chosen, because we wanted her to have a sassy/fun side as well. It seems to fit her well. She is the spitting image of Jenny when she was Erin’s age: Big bright eyes, and beautiful, thick, blond hair. They even ride tricycles the same way!
Shortly after that, we were blessed with the news that we had another young one on the way, but this is where the trouble started.

Jenny was having double vision, and some really bad head-aches while trying to finish up her teaching certificate. We thought her sickness was just related to her pregnancy, but decided to take her in to see a doctor to make sure we knew what was going on with her.

On December 7, a “day that will live in infamy,” they found a tumor growing in Jenny’s brain, and we were forced to make some of the most difficult decisions people can make in life. Jenny was about 15 weeks pregnant at the time, and every doctor in the country who deals with cancer like this one, recommends the patients to have an abortion to make treating the cancer the primary focus…Somehow, we were “lucky enough” to stumble onto a brain surgeon who had done some research on removing tumors in women that are pregnant, and was willing to do all he could to protect the little baby growing inside Jenny. Not much was known about how to accomplish this, it’s extremely rare, and the odds are about 100% for us, but 1 in 300,000 for everyone else, so the information on “success stories” was almost non-existent.

The surgery went as well as it could have gone, and it was on to radiation therapy. Being pregnant complicates the things here as well. One of the beams that is used to shrink the tumor bed area is shot directly down through the body, which would potentially do significant damage to the baby…Again, we were “lucky enough” to stumble onto a Radiologist who had done some research on that too, and was willing to try reconfiguring the radiation program to reduce the exposure to the baby. He and his engineer even constructed a lead shield that Jenny could shimmy into that covered her belly to protect the baby even further, and treatments went very well. They had a monitor on Jenny’s belly that took radiation measurements, and never had any reading turn up.

We chose the name Phoenix Jenny Lynch, because of the symbolic meaning of Phoenix being born out of the ashes of Jenny’s body. It seems to fit her as well. She can be a real ball of fire sometimes. The only problems she has had so far have been Stenosis. (Her soft-spot bones were already fused at birth) that we had taken care of at Primary Children’s Hospital when she was 3 months old, and knowing that she is cute enough that she can get away with “almost” anything.

Jenny rose to every one of these challenges, and so many more. It was amazing to me to see all that she was able to accomplish, with all that was going on in her life at that time. She was always so strong, active, and doing something productive. All while taking care of the kids, doing house-hold chores, working a full-time job, taking chemo, finding time to scrap-book, cheering her heart out at Ute game, toting the kids around at Lagoon, going on family trips all summer, and many other things. She was the happiest spending time with Erin and Phoenix.

If you imagine our troubles as a big rock that you have to push up a hill, Jenny’s kept getting bigger, and bigger with all of the problems that she had to go through. Every step along the way, I watched her dig just a little deeper to keep pushing that rock up the hill of life. I was a witness to how precious this life is, and how important it is to have a body, and how hard our spirits try to hold on to this precious gift. In watching her, I feel like I caught a brief glimpse of her “true self,” and the nature of her very soul. Not only did she not give up the fight for life; she never even let up to try to catch her breath…

Her obituary says, “She lost her final battle to cancer…,” but from what I saw in that small glimpse was that cancer wasn’t strong enough to beat her. Nothing was…I think it was a little closer to her being pulled from this life kicking and screaming the whole way. That’s just how she was. My Best Friend, Eternal Companion, “Soul-Mate,” and Hero…. Jenny.

Thank you so much for all of your love and support during these troubled times. It is deeply appreciated.
Ernie Lynch

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Fortune Cookie Tell All

Last Saturday was Jenny's 32nd birthday. It was a hard day for me and probably everyone else. I had to try really hard to not yell at my kids who were bugging me and to keep my mind off the fact that Jen isn't here anymore. It was a sunny day (the first one in a long time here in Seattle) so I tried to focus on that and how much she loved sunny days. That helped quite a bit. As I drove around I looked at the beautiful landscape that is everywhere here (springtime in Seattle is gorgeous). I listened to her music on my cd player in my car and I also got to go to a baseball game where my son played. He is really into baseball and is quite good. He did a great job at the game and I thought about how proud Jen would be of him. She and Alex always liked to tease each other about what Major league team was the best. He loves the Yankees and Jen has always been a Red Sox fan. So, all in all, the day turned out to be nice...nice, but sad. I don't know how my mom and Ernie dealt with the day. I'm sure it was difficult. Thinking about that is a little much for me.
This e-mail Jen entitled "Fortune Cookie Tell All," and it was sent out on October 3, 2006. Hope you like it:

I got a new set of scriptures about five years ago. Ernie bought them for me for my birthday. Although I loved my old scriptures, they were hard to read. The maps in my triple combination were really stiff and every time I opened my scriptures, the maps would pop straight up in the air. My new scriptures are much nicer and I’ve finally started to wear them in. The other night I was reading in Matthew when I found a fortune from a fortune cookie. I don’t remember putting it in there. The fortune read, “He who loves you, will follow you”. I read it a few times and I’ve contemplated exactly what that could mean. I don’t know what I was thinking when I placed the small slip between the thin pages, but it didn’t matter. Just as the scriptures speak new things to us each time we read them, this small slip of paper meant something completely different to me. I thought of Christ and his disciples, especially Peter who was closest to the Lord. I contemplated how the Lord took Peter with him to the Garden and asked him to wait outside the gates. Peter loved our Savior, but he, undoubtedly exhausted, fell asleep. His spirit was willing, but his flesh was weak. How awful Peter must have felt when Jesus returned to find him and the two sons of Zebedee asleep when Christ needed them most. I wonder how often “my flesh has been weak”. When I’m dozing off in sacrament meeting? When I’m on vacation and break the Sabbath? When I eat breakfast on a fast Sunday? Doesn’t the Lord need us especially now to be vigilant and strong?

I also think about Paul in his epistle to the Corinthians when he writes, “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10). I wish I had learned this on my mission a little better. Instead of feeling beat down and dishearted at the end of my mission, I surely would have grown more and become stronger. I’m learning that principle now, but I still can’t say I’m taking pleasure in my distresses; I am able to still find joy amidst them.

Last Sunday after General Conference, we drove up past Mantua and took some pictures. We climbed into a dry creek bed and stepped carefully, for although the rocks were smooth, the way was still rocky and precarious. Writing about it now, I think it could be a metaphor for our lives. The way is sure, but we must step carefully, lest we fall by the wayside and not reach our destination. My mom and dad came with us and we were able to take some pictures and absorb the autumn splendor. I’m enclosing some of those pictures now.

Next week we are headed for Disneyland. Under normal circumstances I don’t think we’d be going because we really can’t afford it, but we feel compelled to go and spend the time together as a family. I’m excited to see how Erin fares. She loves Cinderella. I think she’ll be ecstatic to “meet” Cinderella. As soon as we arrive home, I start my chemo again. It will be the hardest vacation to come home from ever!

Please continue to pray for us, and for all those who need the Lord’s help at this time (I guess that means everyone).


Monday, April 21, 2008

The Spongebob Devil Baby

When I was in Utah I stole some of Jenny's cd's and downloaded them onto my computer (don't call the cops). I haven't had time to go through them and categorize them until this week. I hurt my back so I've been taking it easy and this was a good time. Most of the cd's she had were mixes and not marked as to what was on them so I had to go through them one song at a time. Little did I know that it would be such an emotional roller coaster. I don't know how many songs I had but probably around 150. Jenny and I have always had similar taste in music. She had a more eclectic library, however. There were so many songs that remind me of her. So many songs from our childhood and teenage years. There were also a lot that I'd never heard before. Anyway, I was crying on and off for several days. We were taught to love music from an early age in our house. Our Mom is an incredible piano player and choir leader and my Dad is a terrific singer. Music was just a part of our lives and we were introduced to Neil Diamond and Simon and Garfunkle early on. I think Jen liked music because it could define a mood. I like it for that same reason. Sometimes I don't know how to get a feeling or emotion out and I'll hear a song that says exactly what I want to say. I love those moments. Jenny could write poetry and do this and she loved the poetry in music. Her music was another gift she left me. Thanks, Jen.

This e-mail was sent on February 13, 2007 and it's entitled "The Spongebob Devil Baby." Hope you like it.

I have had kind of a hectic week. I was able to go visit my best friend from high school, Jennie Sykes (Schwenk). She lives in Green Bay in a lovely old house that was exactly what I pictured her house would look like. I was able to meet her son, Alrick, who is Erin’s age and adorable! and to see Jennie’s husband, Charles again. They were both such wonderful hosts. Jennie and I mostly stayed inside (it was sooo cold) and I haven’t laughed that hard in a really long time. It was so nice to see her again – it was like absolutely no time had elapsed since she and I saw each other. She’s been such a wonderful friend and I was happy to celebrate her thirtieth birthday with her and her family and friends. I’m sending a picture of me at Lambeau Field.

We also celebrated Ernie’s birthday. He’s been working all hours of the night doing the finish work at the new house. I surprised him with his favorite, a German dish, Rouladen and
Spaetzle. I set up a table in the new house and had some music playing. I lit some candles, but we still had to have the work light on (what was I thinking?). It was meant to be a surprise, but he figured I was up to something. He’s 29 now and talking about how old he feels. I tell him he can’t complain about being old at 29 -- he needs to wait until he’s at least 79 to start complaining about that. It was a really wonderful experience and it was nice to just spend some time together and I really love spending time with him.

The house should be finished by the end of this month (fingers crossed). It’s such a wonderful feeling to know that Erin will grow up with the same view from her front porch as I did. I’m enclosing some pictures. Ernie did the finish work. I helped a little bit with the closets. He cut the boards and I glued and nailed the shelves to the wa
lls. It was a lot of fun and I can understand why powertools have such an appeal!

I got the results from my MRI today and everything looks great. The tumor is continuing to shrink – yea! I have to go back in two months this time because of a small dot they think is a small vascular rupture from the radiation. It’s perfectly round, so it’s most likely nothing serious. Julia is always very honest with me and she gave me no indication that this was very serious. Maybe this is the Lord’s way of keeping me humble. I’m learning so much about humility -- something I’ve always lacked in the past.

Erin and I have developed sort of a ritual at night when I put her to bed. I put her in her crib (she usually gets pretty mad at this point and starts screaming) then I pick up her “babies” (2 Carebears and a Spongebob dressed like the devil). They tell her how tired or cold they are and then Erin’s little heart gives in and holds each one and she stops crying. She gives them hugs and kisses and wraps them up in receiving blankets. When it’s time for me to leave I explain to her that I’ll be right outside the door if she needs me. She has learned that I keep that promise, so those words mean a lot to her. Sometimes she’ll call out for something, or reassurance, but most of the time she just wraps up her babies and then falls to sleep.
Last night in my prayers I thought about the importance of having someone there. If Erin is afraid because of the darkness or because she has had a bad dream, she knows she can cry out and that I’ll hear her and come and comfort her. I reassure her of my presence, and when necessary, let her stay with me through the night. I felt the Spirit as I made a connection between my love for my children and my Heavenly Father’s love for me and desire to protect me. When my life is dark and I can’t see any light, I can call out to Him, my Father. He will comfort me, and when necessary, stay with me through “the night”. He doesn’t make the darkness go away, but rather gives us comfort until the daylight comes once more – as it will for all of us that carry heavy burdens. . .“Come unto me all ye that labour or are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest . . .”

Happy Valentines Day!


Monday, April 14, 2008

I am glad to be able to share these emails with all of you. As I sit here and go through them and try to decide what to post next. I am amazed that my sister left me and others such a wonderful gift...the gift of her faith and beautiful words.

I am having a hard time lately. I feel like I will burst from the pain from missing Jenny. I suppose this is to be expected. I'll be fine one minute and an emotional wreck the next. My husband, Martin and I went to the Olive Garden to eat last Saturday night. I was just thinking I hadn't been there for a while and I was excited to go because I love the food. When we were there waiting to be seated I remember a time, not too long ago, that Jenny and I went to the Olive Garden together alone for lunch, when I was visiting in Utah. It was a few years ago, before Erin was born, but I remember that we had so much fun talking and enjoying the food. Nostalgia got the best of me and the next thing I knew there were tears in my eyes. Silly really, but true. I am really glad that I live in Seattle where I don't have to drive by her house and all the places that remind me of her. She was here visiting last year this same time. Spring was one of her favorite things.

This email was entitled "Another MRI and something to be grateful for." It was sent out on November 21, 2006. She talks about the little home in Ogden that she and Ernie and their little family lived in while their home next to my mom and sister was being built. It was a cute little house or duplex that Ernie's sister and brother in law let them live in for a while. This is a photo of them there. I love the way Erin is sitting there!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I am thankful for so many things this time of year. I got the results from my MRI today. It was really great news. My PA, Julia, was visibly excited as she showed me the last MRI from June and the MRI results from yesterday. The little bits of tumor that remained after the surgery are still shrinking. Julia told me and Ernie that means the Temodar is working. Of course, I had imagined every scenario in my mind leading up to today’s appointment (whether I wanted to or not). It’s nice going into the Holidays to know I’m going to be around for awhile (God willing). The MRI was pretty easy this time. I slept through a lot of it (owing to my lack of sleep with two little girls) but when they injected the contrast into my arm and put me back in the tube, it felt like a bee was knocking around in my head – or a pinball. It didn’t hurt, but it was a very odd, very unpleasant sensation. Apparently a lot of people report little neurological disturbances like this after receiving the contrast. I felt it again a little bit this morning and it made it so I couldn’t sleep – It was driving me nuts!

I’m reading a terrific book called “The Peacegiver” and I highly recommend it to anyone who has had problems in their families or even just in their own lives. Through a fictional story, the author subtly helps the reader begin to understand Christ’s Atonement for us. It was hard for me to put down last night and go to sleep. I’m excited to get my hands on it again tonight (that is, if I can get Erin to go to bed already!).

My dad would always think he was funny at Thanksgiving, and as we would sit down at Thanksgiving dinner with all of those tantalizing once-a-year foods sitting in front of us all warm and tasty, he would say we needed to go around the table and say what we were grateful for. Since he was doing it largely to annoy and antagonize my mother, we usually didn’t have to do it, but it might have been something nice to do after dinner as we were all dropping off to sleep due to our gluttonous appetites. :o) If I were sitting at a Thanksgiving table right now, these are the things I would list:

Of course, the first thing I am thankful for is the knowledge that I am the daughter of a Heavenly King, who loves me and cares very much for my spiritual welfare. To quote Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “”plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Secondly, I am thankful for my family, and for Ernie’s family, and for those friends that I grew up with that are very much like family. The Lord gave us families to help us enjoy the good times, to get us through the bad times, and to test us; for I believe that there is so much to learn from those family quarrels – will we choose family, our blood, over other things like money? Will we be slow to forgive family members for the little and big transgressions against us?

I’m thankful for the cozy little home we are living in now. It’s crammed (should I say it?) full of love (too cheesy?). It’s nice and warm and, although it’s taken some getting used to, I love that Erin has a little yard to play in. I wish I spent more time outside with her. It feels like I spend all of my time cleaning the house, doing laundry, cooking, etc.

I’m going to have to wrap this up now – both kids are asleep in the same room where I’m typing this! I hope I can finish it tomorrow.


Monday, April 7, 2008

Phoenix's Surgery and BBQ chippies

Many of you may or may not know that Ernie and Jenny's daughter Phoenix was born with a condition called Craniosynostosis. It is the premature joining of the bony plates that fuse to enclose and protect the brain. Normally the plates close during the first two years of an infants life, but Phoenix's had already fused. The abnormal shaped skull that results in Craniosynostosis is due to the brain not being able to grow in its natural shape. Instead, it compensates with growth in areas of the skull where the cranial sutures have not yet closed. So when Phoenix was about 3 months old she had to undergo surgery to her skull, something Jenny knew quite a bit about, ironically. Thankfully, Phoenix will not have any lasting effects from the condition. She just has a scar that is not detectable underneath her hair.

I also wanted to tell you the reason Jenny and Ernie chose Phoenix's name. When Jen was first diagnosed she was almost 4 months pregnant. The doctors thought it would be best if she terminated the pregnancy. It was an agonizing choice to make, but Jenny had an oncologist who had faith enough that the baby would be fine and that treatment could continue during Jen's pregnancy. But ultimately, the decision was Jenny and Ernie's. They prayed and exercised great faith. Christmas Eve night, when our family all got together at my mom's house, Jenny announced the baby would be born as planned, and that the name they had chosen was Phoenix. If you are not aware, a Phoenix is a mythical bird that rises out of its own burned ashes. You see, Jen felt like out of the "ashes" of her sick body, a beautiful creature could be born. We all thought it was a beautiful idea but were a little unsure of such a unique name. However, as soon as Phoenix was born we could not think of a better name for her. What a legacy her mother has left for her even in just a simple thing as her name.

Now that you have some background on our sweet little Phoenix here is Jen's e-mail she entitled "Phoenix's surgery and Barbecue Chippies" dated August 31, 2006.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a chance to sit down and write. I hate that I sometimes let myself get caught up in everything else and forget to do the things that will really matter one day (like writing in my journal). We’ve had a busy summer and I feel like we’ve finally “moved-in” in Ogden. Most of the boxes are unpacked and I’ve gotten used to less space. We’re really lucky that Netty and Marcus are letting us live here.

Right now the air is pungent with the smell of bbq chips. I can’t even remember where they came from or why they were in my house, but Erin saw the little bag of chips this morning and is currently devouring its contents with gusto. Her greasy hands seem to be touching everything and I have to decide whether it’s worth it or not to wash her face and hands because that means no more “chippies” and a screaming two year old. Phoenix is resting, so I feel like a little potato chip grease on the rocking chair is a small price to pay for my little baby’s slumbering bliss. It’s also the reason why Erin is walking around with snot dried to her nose. Normally I’d pin her down and wipe it off, but that is usually followed by about five minutes of shrieking and screaming – so the snot stays.

Phoenix’s surgery was on Monday. We drove down to Primary Children’s Hospital in SLC on Sunday to have some labs done. On the door of the lab the techs had funny pictures of themselves as children on the door and a poster board with the heading “Who would you marry” on the door with a picture of Han Solo in one column and Chewbacca in the other column. There were names scrawled under each picture. I chose Han Solo in my head (although Chewbacca is a wonderful conversationalist), but I wasn’t able to write it on the board – I think they would have found that a little cheeky.

(Erin is offering me one of those revolting potato chips – I’m holding my breath – I am happy that she is sharing).

We arrived at Primary Children’s on Monday morning. We were late (as usual) but so was the surgeon (as usual), but Phoenix was really good, especially considering she hadn’t had any formula since midnight and only Pedialyte at around 5:30 AM. They weighed her and examined her to make sure she was healthy enough for surgery. Her surgeon wasn’t extremely friendly, but I guess that’s what nurses are for. He came and explained the surgery again and the anesthesiologist came and explained what he was going to do. Fifty percent of babies that have this surgery require a blood transfusion, but Phoenix came out not needing one. We waited in the waiting room for about two hours. I brought a David Sedaris book to read (Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim) but I couldn’t concentrate on it so I watched Ellen (a show I’ve never really cared for because of the screaming audience and the dancing) but thank heavens Dennis Quaid was the guest, I really like him. Then I fell asleep and was awakened by Ernie calling my name and motioning me into a room. I was so out of it that I just sat there for a few moments trying to remember where I was. The surgeon explained that everything went fine and that one of us could go to the recovery room and be with her. I got the lucky job of going (I think if I hadn’t I would have wished that I had). She was crying a hoarse little cry. The nurse was a big guy who told me that he had given her some morphine and was monitoring her heart rate and her breathing. I felt sick when I saw the jagged, oozing incision on my little babe’s head. There was a tube coming out of her head that was draining into a tennis-ball sized receptacle. I felt useless standing there. It was overwhelming and I felt my stomach knot and my head start to spin. I sat down on a chair at the end of the crib and put my head between my knees. I felt like a moron when all the nurses crowded around me and started shoving apple juice in my face (I don’t like apple juice, bu
t it was cold so I drank it). They asked if I wanted Ernie to come in and relieve me, but I wanted to be with Phoenix so I sucked it up and was able to be there for her a little bit.

They moved her to a room on the fourth floor. All they could give her the first day was morphine and she was really sore and crying a lot. Ernie stayed with me until my parents came at around 4:00 PM with Erin and Ernie took her home. I stayed the night in the hospital on a chair that folded out into a bed. I was so tired I could have slept any where. Another patient was admitted to our room. I think he was a little bit less than a year old. His parents kept leaving for smoke breaks so I had to endure a lot of screaming and crying from a baby with a much larger set of lungs! His parents didn’t come back that night, but I was tired so I was able to sleep through a lot of the screaming. Phoenix slept alright and would have slept more, but they had to take her vital signs often. By Tuesday morning she had eaten for the first time and was able to have some Loritab (I hope she doesn’t become a junkie). She was able to rest much better and I think the Loritab managed her pain a lot better.

(I just had to stop Erin from slamming all the doors in the house. It’s her new thing and she’s almost as compulsive at this shutting doors thing as she is at putting on everyone else’s shoes).
I went to work after Ernie came to the hospital on Tuesday. Erin stayed at Stephanie’s house (she loves it there) and I went to work. I thought about Phoenix the whole time. I felt bad that I wasn’t able to be there with her, but I think it gave her some special bonding time with her daddy. Grandma and Grandpa Lynch visited her that afternoon. Steve was really excited about an antique clock on display in the lobby of the hospital. They came right when the nurses were removing the drain from Phoenix’s head. Ernie said it went in about five inches. I’m glad I wasn’t there for that. I could never be a nurse! Ernie stayed with me on Tuesday night. On my way down I stopped at the Gateway and bought a bear for Phoenix. I know she’s just three months old, but I thought she might appreciate it later. I sprayed it with some of my perfume and put it in her crib. She also had a Care Bear blanket from home which seemed to comfort her a little. They moved the other baby and his parents to another room, but one of us still had to sleep in the rocking chair. I decided that I could do that. It’s was kind of like sleeping in the car during a long road trip. I would wake up with kinks in my neck. Ernie gave me the bed around 4:00 AM and I slept until around 8:00 AM. We were finally able to check out on Wednesday afternoon.

Phoenix is doing great. She’s getting better every day. She sleeps a lot and Erin has, miraculously not bothered her at all. (She’s currently trying to put one of her diapers on her Care Bear). Thanks for all of your prayers and all the support that you’ve given us. We appreciate it a lot. I’m enclosing some pictures. I made one black and white because the color version would have been a little too much for some of you! It was for me when I opened it this morning on my computer.

We’ve been so blessed. I feel the power of the Lord working in our lives every day. I don’t know what He has in store for me and my family, but I trust Him. I think a lot about the scripture in Matthew 6:28-30:

“. . . Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29. And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

30. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?”


Monday, March 31, 2008

Great MRI and 4th of July

It's been two weeks since Jenny's funeral. I meant to update the blog more often. I am a week behind! When we were all together as a family in Utah I it was wonderful. We spent a lot of time together which helped us. I know a lot of you have asked after my mom and Ernie and the girls. Since coming home, I think they are all about as good as can be expected. It's hard to go from caring for someone 24 hours a day to start back at a job and real life. All I can say about that is the Lord is watching over us and helping us cope.

I wanted to share some more of her writings with you. She amazes me still with her optimistic outlook and her happy take on life as well as her faith. I feel like if I didn't share these things with others I would be doing a great disservice. I hope you read her words and bring something of joy and peace away with you. I know many of you have donated a lot of your money, time and prayers and my family thanks you whole-heartedly.

I feel so blessed to have known her. I love her more everyday and miss her so much that I can taste it. My heart aches to see her and talk to her but I know she's not far. I feel her all around me. Sometimes when I make jokes in my mind I briefly think, "Oh, I gotta tell Jen that one," and then I remember she's not physically around to do that. However, I know she is hearing them and we laugh together...that's what we did a lot together, laugh. I still laugh and that, oddly enough, comforts me. I think my family feels the same. If Jen had one thing, it was a sense of humor.

The following e-mail was sent out July 6, 2006 and was entitled "Great MRI and 4th of July."

It isn’t that I haven’t had a lot to write about, but I’ve had so little time to actually sit down and write that I haven’t had a chance. Last week was my second MRI since radiation treatments. I was a little bit anxious about what the results might be, but, overall, felt peace about whatever might happen. I haven’t been reading as much in the Book of Mormon as I like. If I ever slowed down long enough to read anything I was pretty much asleep in a few minutes, but I tried to read as much as I could. I read Ether 12 a lot and I got a lot out of the following verses: “27: And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them,” and v. 29: O Lord, they righteous will be done, for I know that thou workest unto the children of men according to their faith;” I prayed for a long time for the spirit of healing to be upon my body and also prayed for the faith to allow myself to be healed, but I also understand the the Lord gives and the Lord taketh away. I long for the opportunity to see my children grow up, but I also understand that the Lord has us in mind when He gives us our struggles. Hugh B. Brown gave a talk in the 1960’s at BYU called “God is the Gardener” which I keep in the desk drawer next to my PC. He talked about an experience he had just after he had bought a farm in Canada. There was an overgrown tree on the farm and he went out to prune it. As he cut away the tangled and sick branches, he imagined what the tree would be saying if it could talk, “Why are you doing this to me? I was doing just fine until you came along and started to cut and prune my branches,” to which Elder Brown answered quietly, “I’m the gardner here, I know what’s best for you.” Years later when he was in the military he came up for promotion and was denied it based on the fact that he was Mormon. He felt angry with the Lord and felt himself asking, “Lord, why are you doing this to me? I’ve been faithful and true to your commandments,” to which he felt the Lord answered, “I am the gardener here, I know what’s best for you.” Whenever I get discouraged or sad, I think of that line “God is the gardener” and I am comforted.

The MRI went a lot better the second time. I had it at the Huntsman Cancer Center instead of the University of Utah. It made a really big difference. At the U I had to change into a gown in the bathroom and put my clothes into a garbage bag. At the Hunstman center they showed me into a dressing room where I had my own locker. The techs were a lot nicer, especially considering it had been a long and busy day by the time they got to me. I didn’t get a sedative because of some mix-up so my mom gave me a Tylenol PM she had in her purse (mom’s are always prepared). I was already feeling a lot easier about it than the first one. I’m in a lot better place now than I was even three months ago. My faith and trust in God is even greater now than it was then and I imagine it will continue to grow. I actually fell asleep this time during the MRI which takes about 45 minutes. Dr. Choukair met with us right after the MRI. He asked me how I was doing and then he smiled and laughed when he told me that my MRI looked fantastic and that comparing this MRI to the MRI’s in March and December he exclaimed that neither doctors nor medicine had done this. He pointed heavenward and said, “this is the work of some higher power”. We all had really big smiles on our faces (except for Dr. Choukair’s PA, Julia – you know how I feel about PA’s. She seems very capable but really grouchy). That was the good news. Dr. Choukair said he wanted to start Chemotherapy anyway because it is generally what happens after radiation. The Chemotherapy will help what’s left of the tumor to shrink (and hopefully disappear) and hopefully prevent any new tumors from forming in other regions of my brain. I’ve read that soy also helps to keep tumors from popping up in other areas of the brain, so I drink as much chocolate soy milk as I want and think of it as medicine (ha). My brother Todd said it tastes like chocolate yoo-hoo. The chemotherapy is taken orally and is really expensive. We’re hoping to get a grant to help us pay for our 20% co-pay (it’s about $700 a month). Julia chastised me for not sending the paper work for the grant in sooner, but we were hoping it could be given through IV and thus covered under major medical. Blah Blah Blah – paying medical bills sucks (sorry mom about using that word).

As I was walking to another clinic in the hospital to get some blood taken after my appointment with Dr. Choukair, I felt the warmth of the Spirit wash over me. I stopped in the middle of a deserted hallway with sunlight pouring through the windows that were overlooking the Salt Lake valley, and I prayed and thanked the Lord and gave him all the glory for all the good news we had received that day.

You might be asking, “so what does this mean?” and my answer is that I honestly don’t know, only the Lord knows what is in store for us, but faith will help us through the toughest times in our lives. I might have fifteen months or fifty years. I’m hoping beyond hope that I will be there for all the milestones in Erin and Phoenix’s lives, and that Ernie will always have me around to support him and make him laugh when he needs it the most, but God is the gardener and He knows what is best for all of us.



Sunday, March 16, 2008


It's with a heavy heart that I write this today. Jenny passed away on March 13th, this past Thursday. She went peacefully with my sisters Amy and Lesa and my mom beside her, in the early afternoon. It just happened to be the day my sisters usually came to help with her care.

Now family is gathering and we feel such joy in that. Now is the time that we are mourning her but also celebrating her life. What better way to do that than by being together? She would have loved that. We feel her everywhere around us, especially in the laughter. It helps to heal some of the pain.

As we are getting ready for the funeral we are all contemplating memories and trying to make sense of it all. We are getting ready for the day we say our final good-byes. Lots of planning, practicing songs, making videos, and writing talks. Tomorrow night is the viewing and the following day is the funeral. We are busy, and that helps ease the pain. When we all go home our perspectives will be different, but for now we are basking in each other's company and comfort.

Jenny's best friend from high school wrote the following. My family has gotten much peace from this in the last couple of days. And today as I'm thinking what might be best to post I believe this is ideal. We feel Jennie (same names different spellings) may have known her better than any of us did and her words sum up much of what we feel:

As I was driving over the Mason Street Bridge today I saw the first set of fresh water pelicans flying in return to the Fox River; the first sign that spring is here. Sometimes signs are obvious and sometimes they take a little more time to notice. I was crying as I drove over that bridge today because my beloved friend has passed and the pain I feel resonates so strongly inside of me. No matter how much time you have to say goodbye to someone you love, you can’t help feeling like you’ve just had the wind knocked out of you. I drove around a lot today, thinking about Jen and all of the time between us. And then I thought about the last time we ever saw each other; I was dropping her off at an airport in Chicago so she could fly back home to Utah. We told each other we’d “see ya later” and I can vividly picture her leaving my car and closing the door. My first thought was “That CAN’T be the last time I saw her!” I thought about how awful that was, to have a drop off at the airport be the last time you see your best friend. But then it dawned on me; as clear as those pelicans flying over the bridge were a sign of spring’s arrival, dropping Jen off was also a sign. For those who didn’t know the two of us in high school, I wasn’t allowed to have either a license or a car so Jen was always the one to pick me up and drop me off. We would spend hours just driving around the back roads; talking about politics or movies or any old thing. Jen was always at the wheel. But now, this last time we were together, I was the one at the wheel. Come to think of it, I can’t remember another time when I was the one driving. Our time as friends on this earth has come to an end; a door, even if it’s a car door at an airport, has closed.

I first met Jen in the Mrs. Stettler’s journalism class at Weber High school; she was the girl cracking all the jokes and I was the one laughing loudly from the back row.
I had lots of friends, but had never met anyone like Jen. She was an incredibly funny girl with a matchless wit and a pirate smile. For all her shouts and charisma, she was at the same time a humble and devoutly spiritual child of God. She was emboldened by her faith and made strong in her trust of our Heavenly Father’s will for her. She once said to me that she feared sometimes people misunderstood her humor as an attribute to a dark personality, but that simply wasn’t so. Jen’s life was a light by which mine and everyone’s around her was made brighter. She was my best friend and if I had never met her, than I think I would have made her up for the sheer wishing to have found a kindred spirit like hers.

I am forever moved by her humor and her grace. I want so much to share with everyone what my time with her was like because it bears importance; because it was a time in our youth when so much of our young personalities and character were created and shaped. Without her presence in my life there would be a huge part of myself that I never would have known and without her friendship I don’t know where I would have ended up. Jen always believed in me; she celebrated my triumphs, she listened to my woes and she championed my spirit when I swore I simply wasn’t going to make it. No matter the latest boyfriend or bad grade, a night of watching movies, drinking root beer floats and singing along to Barbara Streisand made the whole world right again. Anyone who knew her, knew there just wasn’t anyone else like her; When she made me mix tapes they had titles like “You’ll Hate This and It’s Okay” and when she went on vacation she sent post cards to my cat. Jen always did the things that made her happy, no matter what those things were; we could spend one afternoon visiting antique shops and farmer’s market, the next at an all day concert in a mosh pit and the day after that flying kites and eating old Easter candy. As I mentioned before, out of the two of us, Jen was the one with a car and a license so a lot of our time was just spent driving around with her at the wheel, the two of us listening to music and talking. Even in the years after high school, with husbands and babies and mortgages between us, we never lost the words that carried us into hours of conversations. Jen was so incredibly smart – If there was a subject I didn’t know anything about, I needed to only ask her about it. The economic structure of third world nations, the political ramifications of having an electoral college, the inner musical workings of a Neil Diamond album, you name it, she could give you an education on it and often have you laughing in between bullet points.

The first time anyone met Jen she was cracking a joke. You either got it or you didn’t and if you didn’t, well then, she would just try harder the next time. Her humor was so great that it almost preceded her presence. I’ve never laughed as heartily as I did with Jen. There was a time in our early friendship when the jokes between us morphed into almost a second language and if you weren’t paying attention it was easy to get confused. For anyone who didn’t know the name “Sultra” in reference to Jen, well that’s just a pity. I’ll let you in on a little secret, in case you didn’t already know the origins of the name. The summer before my senior year of high school, Jen and her family graciously allowed me to accompany them on their annual trip aboard a houseboat in Lake Powell. One hot Lake Powell afternoon Jen and I took one of her niece Ariel’s dolls and hid it. Well, maybe we hid it or maybe we tied it up to a window curtain, but whatever the case, Ariel was pretty upset with us. To make it up to her we then engaged in playing a game with dolls and when we asked Ariel the name of that particular doll we had taken, Ariel, with a deadpan look on her face said simply, “Sultra”. Perhaps it was the summer heat or the giddiness of afternoon, but Jen and I just cracked up. From that time on “Sultra” was the watchword. If we were ordering a pizza, “Sultra” was the name of the person placing the order. If someone had gotten out of hand somewhere, “Sultra” was the scapegoat. Inevitably and in my absence, Jen achieved ownership of the name and it became her alter ego. “Sultra” will forever be a sacred word to me.

Before I knew that Jen had died, I spent a lot of time going through old journals and yearbooks. I have a lot Jen’s poetry, as she often shared her writings with me. Jen cherished words; she was never one to throw away a compliment and she was never wasteful with the sentiments she chose to describe the people and the things she loved best. Jen loved her family; she loved growing up in a full house of family on Higley Road. She loved to tell me about how her father was a farmer and the time she spent helping him harvest sugar beets. She loved to tell me about the adventures she had with her sisters and brother. She loved sunsets, but especially the ones seen from her own yard. Jen was entirely grateful for the life she loved to write about; she was always inspired by those around her. As I look back now on her poetry and even the words she wrote in my yearbook, I realized that with Jen it was grace everyday. Not many high school seniors would quote Abraham Lincoln in their best friend’s yearbook, but Jen did. The year she graduated high school she wrote this in my yearbook: “You’ve been a great friend and I really appreciate your love. Abraham Lincoln once said ‘ The good thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time.’ That way it isn’t so hard to say goodbye.” There was of course a passage about us trying to go see Oingo Boingo that summer in concert as well, but the point of it was, that Jen was always extraordinary, even as a girl. And now I have a mountain of grace to remember her by; in old letters and post cards, poems and passages on the backs of photos. I have a mountain of grace to help ease the mountain of pain inside of me.

There is a photo in with all of these great letters taken one afternoon in late spring the same year that Jen graduated. It’s of a “No Trespassing” sign in front of field and in that field is a bramble of wild yellow roses. I had come home that afternoon and answered a phone call from a very excited Jen telling me she was on her way over to pick me up because she had to show me something. Once in her car we drove for about ten minutes and out onto some back road that only Jen would have known. Suddenly it was upon us; a giant stretch of wild yellow roses just off the side of the road. It was like a miracle; wild and growing quite out of the ordinary in a place you’d never thought to look. We jumped out of the car and ran toward it slowing down only to carefully creep in as deep as we could into the bramble. It was magic. Jen made me pose for a picture smelling one of the roses, but other than that we didn’t speak. The rose bushes grew as tall as ourselves and we felt entirely surrounded in God’s beauty. That afternoon was a gift, but the greater gift was knowing that I had a friend who not only appreciated something like that, but was kind enough to share it with me.

Jen and I talked about our future as much as we talked about our present. We even, as girls in high school, talked about the children we might one day have. Jen told me once that she believed her children were already watching her; that they were witnesses to the life she was living. The first time I saw her daughter Erin I couldn’t believe how much she looked like Jen and I found myself thinking, “Yes. This child knew you.” Jen loved being a mother and in talking about our kids, her two daughters and my son, we bonded all over again. Jen always knew she wanted to be a mother and God blessed her with two amazing little girls. When I look at pictures of Erin and Phoenix, I see their mother’s heart and the slightest hint of that same pirate smile. Jen’s girls will always know love; as they grow up in the sight and arms of their father and all of Jen’s family, they will know the same love that Jen knew as a child and thus know how much their own mother loves them. They will watch the sun set in the same space that Jen did; they will have Jen’s love of scrap booking to show them pictures of a life lived in grace and they will amaze all of us as without even knowing it, as they continue to remind us of our unique and beloved Jenny.

Spring is returning to the earth and with each day of growing warmth, our sorrow and our grief will wane. Spring reminds us of the promise of new life; it’s all around us now. It reminds us of the new life that is eternal; a promise that Jen knew in her heart to be true. It was a promise she held fast to as she entered into a Mission to Germany; It was a promise she held fast to as she entered into the holy Temple marriage to the love of her life, Ernie and it was a promise she held fast to each day she spent with her precious girls. Jen’s spirit was boundless. For every challenge she ever faced, she only came back stronger. She pointed out the humor in everything; even when she was weakened by medications and another surgery this past November, she called me from her hospital bed to “try out new comedy material” about her current hospital stay. She was utterly exhausted and yet propelled to get a laugh out of me. Those phone calls meant the world to me. Even when we weren’t together I could hear in my head the joke she would have made or the punch line she would have delivered perfectly; I walk through this life with her laughter, her humor, her comedic intervention. I walk through this life, not burdened with the memory of grief, but with a soul made lighter with the memory of whimsy and devotion. I walk through this life and into this spring, a better woman and a better person because I had a friend named Jen.

by Jen Schwenk