So the average blog post is 1600 words, haha go get a snack or something I went way past that with this one. Does this mean I can no longer get mad at the food bloggers that can’t just give me the recipe without going on and on about their childhood experience with fried chicken and how it’s made them the person they are today? Maybe you can take this one in sections.
I broke this into parts because I really want you to read this one, which involves Michelle a whole lot more, but here’s the other part in case you are interested in some of my early personal experiences.
Holy Places, Heavenly Texts and Unexpected Blessings
So I've been feeling a lot of pressure lately to write this particular post I think in part to have it written down somewhere for my children so that they know where dad came from and some of his experiences, and also to make sure that I remember the things that have built the foundation of my faith. But I've been hesitant to do it out of the guilt I feel for being so blessed despite my many imperfections. I know none of us are perfect but in the past year I have met so many people who are so deserving of blessings in their lives, and here I am feeling like they are being so easily handed out to me. I end up feeling guilty that I've had blessing after blessing while others patiently wait for theirs, and I don’t want to be the salt in the open wound of grief, frustration or other trials. I'm part of groups where people ask just once to have an experience, to just once feel a prompting or have a sign that shows them that they’re still loved and thought about by the people that they've lost. I myself have had so many confirming experiences, and why, why me? I have become acutely aware of the righteous desires of people's hearts to just have simple things confirmed to them, much like my eight-year-old son's request simply to feel his mother and know that she's still there. For many like him it can be hard to see and feel those subtle things that come from heaven, and so as a result faith struggles. I on the other hand have been blessed to feel them strongly, to see them, to hear them, and I've come to the realization that just because my son hasn't that doesn’t mean I should hold back out of fear of frustrating him. Because it can be helpful to impart what I know to be true, what I have a confirmation of, to bare my own testimony and witness of the things that I have seen and hope that it brings a feeling of comfort to him and to others that it can happen even if it doesn't happen as often and as readily as we would wish. One thing I have come to believe is that far to many things are written off as coincidence, and therefore I no longer believe in the concept. I feel it is better to look for deeper meaning and treat occurrences as messages, then to write it off as mere chance. Better to ponder too long on something that is chance, then to dismiss a sign or answer to an unspoken prayer as nothing just because it seems too far fetched or too simple. So, when that song comes on the radio at just the right time don’t brush it off as nothing.
I feel that I need to share the blessings, and not just start with the recent ones, but point out the little and subtle ways that God has been leading me all my life, to show how I've been watched over for a long time, how it's not sudden things out of the blue but sometimes little breadcrumbs and little experiences that we don't realize until long after they've occurred. But in the name of keeping it a bit shorter I put some of those earlier experiences in part one. Those little things help get us to where we need to be for the larger experiences, opportunities and revelations that can forever set us on a different path. Many of these experiences have occurred in the most mundane of places, but I now view those places as holy, and when I see them or pass by them, I recall the experiences that have confirmed to me that God see’s us all. These are not places of extreme physical beauty, they are mundane and everyday, and I will share them with you from my point of view as I saw them on those wondrous occasions, and I will do the best I can to convey the spiritual feeling because that feeling and that knowledge are what makes them holy in my mind.
I promise it won’t become a keychain
Many holy places were outside of my home, that is until Michelle’s diagnosis. The first year I think we were both too stubborn and set on being independent. We were capable of taking care of ourselves because there were certainly people that needed more help then us. But as we got further in and things got harder, I feel as though we were both humbled sufficiently to start opening our eyes to what was really happening on another plain. One of the first things that struck me was when Michelle had to start her full brain radiation treatments, up to this point she had been able to keep her hair, and keep up the facade that convinced people she was doing better then she really was. Her hair was thinning, and she had decided it was time to get the first big cut. I remember sitting in bed with her that night before the hair that had really helped her stand out from the other girls at that pool 22 years prior, and that had been a huge part of her identity, was about to get chopped. I remember asking her if she could save some for me, I didn’t know what I was going to do with it, but I felt I didn’t just want it swept up and thrown in a dumpster. She agreed, though seemed to be curious what I intended to do with it, I do recall promising her that I wouldn’t do anything crazy like make a keychain out of it, but I really had no earthly clue what I would do. So, I didn’t know what to think when the next day my friend Rob texts me and asks if he can come over because he has an idea to run past me. Rob comes over and I can still remember sitting down at my kitchen table as he talks to me about the rosin art pieces, he does with snake skin and fangs. Rob’s idea, and the answer to exactly what I could do with Michelle’s hair was right there, encasing the hair in rosin, and what better backdrop for a ballet dancers’ hair but the ribbon from her pointe shoes. I had a thought, a desire in my heart and I have no doubt that Rob was open to the whispering of angles who conveyed to him a place where his skills could bless.
He didn’t just make one of these he has made many for Michelle’s family members, but this particular one sat in the breast pocket of my suit jacket the day I gave her eulogy, I held it in my hand and ran my finger over the smooth rosin as others talked before me, and it brought comfort till it was time for me to speak, now it hangs beside my desk.
After this my phone and my door bell seemed to blow up, as we faced what would become the final 3 months of Michelle’s battle not a day went by that I didn’t have a thought, a question, a simple struggle and before I could ask for help or come up with a plan someone was there with the solution. Ran out of bread, here is a text from someone asking if they can pick me up something. Just got back from the grocery store and forgot the milk, there’s 20 minutes of time lost with my dying wife so I can go make the trip again, until I get the call from someone saying they just got to the grocery store and thought of me. Legal questions, things that needed to be fixed, kids that needed to get somewhere, funeral questions, whatever it was I never got to ask for help because help always called, texted or just showed up at my door. One or two things occur, and you call it coincidence, but it hits a certain point where you are working harder to call it coincidence than to just accept that something is happening that is beyond what you can see.
I have no doubt of angels now, I know they are round about us conveying messages of how we might help and serve those around us. I’ve felt something near my front door but hadn’t seen anything out of the ordinary myself, but I have had two separate people share with me the almost identical experience of seeing two personages on the path leading to my back yard. Both people spoke to me of seeing what they thought was two people only to, upon a second glance, have no one there. But I believe it because Michelle could feel them, she knew they were there, including her own earthly father who had preceded her, and I know I had messengers conveying my family’s needs to those who were open to listening.
A home of holy places
It started on Sunday September 9th 2018. At this point Michelle had not really eaten and we were struggling to get any liquids into her. Priesthood holders from our church had been coming every Sunday to give her the sacrament. At our dining room table, they would break and bless the bread, and I would deliver it to her in our room. Then they would bless the water and I would deliver that as well. On this particular day as my wife lay so still, I remember coming back from delivering the bread and these faithful brothers began to bless the water. I don’t know why but at the conclusion of that prayer I looked up at the chandelier above the table for just a brief second.
In that moment I saw a path leading through a forest, a man was walking away from me so that all I could see was his back, but I knew it to be my Savior. Held in his arms was a frail body with a hairless head, but with each step he took the hair grew rapidly back till in less than three steps it was a long and vibrant red shining from a sun I could not see. I looked back at the water that I would deliver to my wife knowing that soon she would be in the arms of the greatest doctor there was, that He would make her whole once more, but that it would not be here on Earth.
She would pass a few days later early on the morning of September 12th, and thus began the start of what I have no doubt was her stepping up to watch over her family from the other side. Now it started off rather gentle but let’s just say I’m stubborn, so she’s had to be a little more blunt at times.
Might I suggest that you spend a little time with your spouse talking about what they want for their funeral. I’m definitely grateful that she held on long enough to pick out the plots, but when you’ve lost someone the last thing you want to do is to have to answer questions or worry about getting it wrong. Well here I was leaned up against the pillar in my front landing, looking at my mother in-law seated in the chair across from me trying to pick out the songs for the funeral.
I was really struggling with this simple question; it was narrowed down to two songs and I was stressing over it. And that’s when I felt her, the hand gently upon my shoulder and the whisper of her voice saying “Cameron, just pick one. In the eternal scheme of things, it just doesn’t matter.” I literally turned, but she wasn’t there, but those words and that touch brought me comfort and she has brought me that message several other times, when I’ve let the little things threaten to derail me. “In the eternal scheme of things, it just doesn’t matter.”
I was ready to walk, she pushed me to run
Now I’d like to state for the record, while we had talked about my need to get remarried, and her telling me “not to take too long being about it”, and her saying she was “going to get right to work”, as well as giving my kids assignments to not let me go out looking homeless, I still had every intention of taking some time off. Yeah right, if there is one thing you don’t do it’s get in Michelle Kaley’s way, if she knows there is some place to be she’s going to get you there. So next up on our tour, the back yard. A big thanks to my company, they sent me a magnolia tree to plant in memory of Michelle, luckily it seems to be a hardy tree seeing as it is still alive and seems to be doing well despite my complete lack of a green thumb. I had just finished planting the tree and was cleaning up when I stopped beside my back porch and, leaned against my shovel. I stood there looking at my simple little stone ring that encircled what I hope grows into a strong beautiful reminder of a strong beautiful woman.
Suddenly I saw myself out there on one knee with the silhouette of someone standing over me, thanks for the total lack of detail. Regardless I saw that what I was giving this unknown woman was a set of the jewelry Michelle was best known for, the same set she had sent me out to get two sets of for her future daughter in-laws that she wouldn’t get to meet.
Whoever this was Michelle wanted them to have a set and little did I know it would serve a further purpose in the coming months. That vision closed and I stood there pondering what I was supposed to do with that, I still didn’t want to think about dating, it was too soon, but when your deceased wife tells you you’re going to need to be prepared with a gift then you get prepared. Whomever it was certainly was not getting Michelle’s pair that had been rightfully given to her daughter, and the two pairs sitting in the safe were already destined for future daughter in-laws. So off I went to purchase a fourth set to be kept in my home until this mystery woman showed up.
Burning with Joy
It felt good to know that Michelle wanted to play a role in my life moving forward but I wondered whether she was truly happy about the idea or just resigned to the inevitability of it. I started to wonder what Michelle was thinking, like I’ve expressed in past posts she had evolved to give me a lot of leeway in getting remarried, but she had clearly still had reservations and had left it in God’s hands to help her to understand when the time came. One day as I sat on the edge of my bed I wondered if indeed He had explained things to her. As I got up and started to exit my room, I got to experience something that took my breath away.
Never in my life up till that point or since have I ever felt such an overpowering sense of pure joy. I could feel her smiling, and I knew some of her feelings were being held back, not because they weren’t good feelings but because I was already being allowed to feel all that I could handle. That spot in my room is a testament to the fact that we know next to nothing of what our lives can become, I still ponder upon this simple place in my home and realize that God’s love is something we cannot even begin to comprehend. That experience removed from me the last of the doubt that she had any reservations about me moving forward, and so I let down some more walls and started to at least allow myself to interact with women though the idea of “dating” still seemed like it needed to wait for at least 5-6 months.
Get Out of the Box
At only five weeks out from Michelle’s passing I was convinced to attend a widow and widowers conference in Idaho, it’s here where Michelle stopped being entirely gentle and started pushing a little bit. I went wanting to know what was next, how should I proceed, what was the timeline for my grief? I had placed myself securely in the box of grief, at least I thought I had, and I was going to stay in there because that’s where I thought everyone expected me to be. At the conference we attended the Meridian Temple and there sitting in the Celestial Room looking at the inscription on the ring she had given me when I had been baptized at 18 I asked “what am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to move forward?”
You know what she said, not a whole lot, but she sure did laugh at me. It wasn’t a mocking laugh, it’s that laugh a parent gets when their impatient child keeps asking the same question over and over and you just shake your head and laugh because you don’t know what else to do. Either way she laughed and then softly she said “patience, soon”. Well soon evidently meant the next day. I think she wanted me to just relax that day at the temple and find some peace because that was going to be the end of it for a while. The next day I went to some classes on grief, had some fun laughing at jokes that seem really morbid until you’ve lost a spouse and then you get your dark humor card and get to say things others wouldn’t dare. I was sitting in the chapel of the church listening to the last speaker of the day when I got a good bit of chastisement out of the blue. I didn’t get the sweet wife voice, I got the flustered mom voice. “Get out of the box, you don’t belong in it. I made sure of it, now get out of it and stop getting in the way of the plan!” I wasn’t sure how to respond in that moment other than to sheepishly apologize while trying to simultaneously decipher that whole message. I knew what the box was, and after talking to a bunch of people at the conference I realized I didn’t belong in it. My wife had been open and honest with me for two years leading up to her death, she’d given me the answers I needed, we’d resolved what needed resolving, we grieved together, and we had evolved. I’d already gone through denial, anger and bargaining with her by my side, I’d already overcome a lot of depression, which is the one that lingers and I don’t think ever entirely goes away, and I’d found acceptance standing beside her till the end. She was right I didn’t belong in the box because we’d done so much work together, even though others hadn’t seen the true inner workings of our struggle. But hey there was a plan, I had no clue what it was, but there was a plan.
So back to Texas I came with a newfound pressure to not hide away and not make excuses for getting out there and moving forward, both for me and for the children. I will put it out there right now that dating as you close in on the age of 40 sucks, and when you have 4 kids in tow and a deceased wife looking over your shoulder there is a little added pressure to not mess around but get down to business. It’s definitely hard to have to take in the opinions of 5 people and taking into account the description your wife left you with of who to find. The challenge was I needed to find the right person for me but also was keenly aware that I wasn’t entirely sure what I needed. Michelle had certainly had an opinion, but I didn’t know how to go about finding this person. In the end I ended up in the wonderful world of online dating, and since I couldn’t sleep anyway I spent late nights chatting with women, some of whom helped me gain insight into what I did want, and others that really convinced me of what I didn’t. Just FYI divorce happens, but if every conversational attempt to get to know you leads to a bitter recollection of how horrible your ex is then perhaps some private counseling is in order, because it’s definitely a turn off to someone just trying to get to know you. Either way I tried my hand at it and found it to certainly be less then enjoyable. That’s not to say I didn’t meet some nice women, some of them are now good friends of mine, just not the woman.
I will admit I messed up a number of times as I fumbled through a process I’d never really experienced before, recall I met Michelle when I was 17, I really didn’t have any idea what it meant to date as an adult and especially as one with so much baggage. I never stepped over the line in any way, but I did leave some hurt feelings in my wake as stumbled about and at times gave too much reassurance of things that I was still rather clueless about. I wish sometimes that I could go back and do things with more tact, not that it changes the fact that all those interactions were opportunities for learning, of which I am thankful for, I just wish I’d left less of a mess. Believe it or not the earrings and necklace actually played a role, I found that if the gift didn’t fit the personality or style of the woman I was talking to suddenly a slew of additional conflicts suddenly became apparent, I wasn’t using them as the litmus test for meeting people they just seemed to focus me to look beyond the surface and to see places where our lives and personalities were in clear conflict. It was almost as though in some way they became a microscope into other areas of people’s personalities. It didn’t occur with everyone, but there you go things that end up having unexpected uses.
I Throw a Fit
What’s next for the holy places in my house? Why right in front of my bedroom TV of course. So again, dating sucks, and when you have a certain type of person you are looking for you aren’t going to find a whole lot of them just around the bend. This means you start reaching out far and wide. You give up your evenings and sleep to try to get to know people and end up sharing the same stories, thoughts, opinions etc dozens of times, to the point that you start hating your own stories. You try to be a good person and listen to the thoughts and opinions of others searching for whether there is a connection, and when there isn’t you get to try to figure out how to call it quits and move on without leaving them hurt. Well in early November I hit a wall. Some things went in a direction I didn’t expect, and I was done. I was taking a break. I was throwing up my hands for at least the next two months and that was that. I got up from my desk and made it a few steps till I was right in front of my TV, and boom.
“I said I was going to get to work, now you get back to it and stop getting in the way of the plan.” Now here is the fun part of the story where I quite literally stomped my foot like a 2 year old, I’m serious. I didn’t want to, THIS SUCKS, but I wasn’t going to get another word from her I was just going to feel that unapproving glare for being difficult. So, I formulated a plan as I sat back down at my desk, I was going to do as I was told, I would get back to work, but I was changing the approach. I was going to, without being a total jerk, because then I’d really get it, come at this from another angle. I wasn’t going to break the rules, I was just going to bend them, aka be totally raw with whomever came along and, in the process, chase them away, thus negating the need to prolong this dating game.
Yeah I think she knew what was around the bend, you see while I’d been tied up with one prospect that fizzled, there was someone else that had sent me a message, and to whom I was just now taking a look at. I had to go out and experience a few other people at the same time, who helped me make the final refinements to my checklist of what I wanted, and who taught me a couple last minute lessons, but this woman took everything I said, absorbed it, and came back with insights and responses I hadn’t expected. She fit into exactly what Michelle had said I needed, but more importantly, she filled in all the things I’d come to learn I wanted. Over the course of the next couple months she would become an integral part of my life and someone with whom I experienced a great spiritual growth.
Did the jewelry play a role on this one? Of course, it did. I mean they’d helped before so I had to ask the question as I went to bed one night as I was falling for this woman, would she accept the gift, would she understand the importance, and did it fit her. Well the next morning I get a text, just a simple selfie, man I hate using that word but that’s what it was, of her ready for church. What are my eyes immediately drawn to? Dangling earrings and a long necklace, ones that made it so easy to picture them being replaced by the ones Michelle wanted given. Now that wasn’t the deciding factor believe me, we hadn’t even met in person yet, but it was a small sign to say "proceed". At the end of the day I have no doubt that Michelle and others played a role in getting me to the right place at the right time. I don’t know that this was her plan, I give that credit to God, but I can almost hear the conversation in heaven where He says “Cameron’s going a little off the rails again and being stubborn, who wants to get him back on track” and Michelle standing up replies “he’s mine I’ll go give him a course correction”, possibly motioning that she’s going to go knock me across the back of the head, if that isn’t too unangelic a thing to do. I know she is the first to volunteer to step in on my behalf and that of the children, she continues to communicate, though perhaps not a clearly now, because she got me to the train station on time, but it was up to me to board it. It was up to me to take the months long journey to experience something with someone else, and too ultimately find love again. Michelle didn’t play that much of a role after Mindy and I started getting more serious, this was for us to discover on our own, but she’s still checking in on us regularly.
On a side note can someone run the statistic for me on the probability of finding two Southern California girls, who grew up within 60 miles of each other, who are both left handed, the middle child, LDS, my same age and who when I met them had moved to the Midwest. Yeah I guess I have a type, who knew I was so picky.
Half a degree
To restate I feel guilty for what I have gotten to experience, I’m not sure how to get over that feeling. It was like for a time I had interactions and communications from heaven being piped right into the phone that sat right there on my desk or in my pocket, it was so clear and so constant. But I can say that now I’m back to where I think most people are. They got me to the destination on time and now they are busy with others who need to get to their destination and require more of their focus. The messages aren’t being sent right to this device that sits in my hand, instead it is the single word written on a sticky note, that’s barely peeking out of a book on the top shelf, that you may not notice for months and that’s only if you stop for one dang second to chill out and observe the world around you a little more in depth rather than getting caught up in the hustle and bustle. The signs are there, and they aren’t in bright neon, and most of the time they are ridiculously simple. They offer perhaps a half of a degree of course correction, and so we ignore them because that half a degree isn’t going to change a darn thing one day and 100 feet down the road, but what we fail to see is that half a degree 6 months from now and 100 miles away will have us in a vastly different place. In my case it got me a wife (you can read that announcement here) who does not compete with Michelle, but rather who is another partner on equal footing with the two of us. Not another chapter in the same book, but rather a whole new book all to herself. Someone who has faced her own trauma, and where we don’t compete to see who’s had it worse, but rather we recognize, empathize and support each other with the residual effects of our own personal losses. It has also brought me the new title of stepfather to five bonus children, which comes with its own wonders and challenges, it’s not going to be easy, but I believe it is worth it. We will continue to find Joy in this crazy journey, and thankfully it is with someone that allows me to remember the woman that got me here, and with whom I can share these experiences and holy places and she doesn’t think I’m crazy, rather she sees God’s hand in our lives. I still communicate with Michelle regularly, and things happen around this house all the time that give us pause. It isn't always clear but for a moment we ponder as to whether there is something else we need to be aware of.
So the next time that song comes on unexpectedly, the next time you get a message from someone that answers one of your questions, the next time you feel that little tingle on the back of your neck, don’t ignore it, don’t call it coincidence, see if God has sent someone to lay a heavenly breadcrumb before you to show you the way you should go, and then remember those moments to keep you strong and spiritually fed as you travel forward. Let your experiences, your faith, and the ones that love you anchor you that you may weather the storms of life
This is a quick part one of a two part story. I thought about combining them, but I didn’t want people to miss the most important part. So you can read this to get a back story on me, or if you want to just get the most important part you can read part two, just be warned I really couldn’t figure out how to shrink that one much more.
Here is my story of Heavenly experiences prior to Michelle’s diagnosis. I wanted to document some of the spiritual interactions that I have gone through in my life, in part to have them available to my children, and in part to show that our journeys happen over the course of years, and so the little things can bring us to truly unexpected places years later.
going back in time
So we're going to have to go a little bit back in time to recount some of the many things that have brought me on this whirlwind of a journey that I never expected to be on but which I would not trade for anything. As a youth I was blessed to be curious about what else there was to life and not be satisfied with what I could simply see with my own two eyes. As a result, I was always very curious about the world and what exactly set all this in motion. I had many questions throughout my youth, many that were not readily answered. I unsurprisingly took the path of many teenage boys and became filled with angst, anger and depression in my search for some way to make sense of both the good and especially the bad in the world.
We’ll start on an evening in May at the age of 15 when alone late at night in a park I had an angry conversation with a God that I did not know, that I could not wrap my brain around.
I cursed him and I yelled at him I challenged him, and in what is still a very sacred experience for me I got to witness something that cannot be explained and which I still hold quite privately to myself because of how easily it may be subject to ridicule, but suffice it to say I felt something like I had never felt before in that moment, and simultaneously witnessed a natural event happening in a most unnatural way. But being the obstinate teenager that I was I couldn't admit that what I was seeing could possibly come from God and therefore in my arrogance I attributed it more to myself and was convinced that I had somehow tapped into something. Of course, you would think I would have figured out after I was unable to ever recreate it that perhaps I wasn't as wise as I thought I was. After this, and along with my newfound arrogance, I kept searching for answers and for truth, and so I investigated every spiritual and religious avenue that I could. If you haven't figured out from other posts I am this day a Christian, but that did not come easy because unfortunately I had many during my teenage years who invited me to Christian churches but whom when I asked questions and challenged them the simple answer was just too accept Christ even though no one seemed to have the time to explain to me who exactly He was, and because of my questioning I was quickly rejected the next time we would meet at school or other events. This left me convinced that Christianity was full of hypocrites, and that I would have nothing to do with them.
An unexpected meeting
If you haven't read Michelle's post concerning how we met now might be a good time for a refresher. But the short version as it pertains to this blog is that I met a girl unexpectedly to whom I asked many questions. What I thought was a pure chance encounter changed the direction of more than just the lives of two kids headed into their senior year of high school it altered countless lives over the course of a couple decades. She was open to have discussions, but she referred me to two missionaries to answer some of my more in-depth questions, so that our relationship did not become one of religious contention, again back to me being an angsty teenager. She left me on my own to explore the spiritual side and we would go to church, where I would say up was down, and left is right just to be a jerk.
But back to remembering holy places. One of those places actually takes place in my childhood home.
I woke up one December morning and went off to school with two simple sentences that continually pounded through my mind that day one of which was the Revelation that Jesus Christ was indeed the son of God. Try as I might I could not get this thought out of my head and it pounded away on me for approximately 12 hours, I can still vaguely recall walking those halls and sitting in those classes that day, but the repetition of these sentences was such that I could not make sense of anything else going on around me. Upon returning home I went down into my room, which was in the basement of our home, and falling to my knees I apologized for how stubborn I had been, how mean I had been to those who had shown me kindness, for lying about the things that I knew were true. And it was in that moment that I felt an overwhelming peace, the sentences had stopped pounding and I felt a power that I had only felt once before in my life, the powerful feeling that I had had in The Park after giving God an earful. My mind traced back over the previous 2 years and I realized how arrogant I had been in that time, I saw how little breadcrumbs had been placed in my path, people, chance meetings. After that I had to call my girlfriend with the unexpected news that I had been denying my testimony for some time and that I intended to be baptized. Luckily, we both decided that we were committed to each other and to living as Disciples of Christ and it was not long after that we became engaged and were married at the ripe old age of 19 for me and 18 for her. Our marriage survived 20 years and again if you haven't been keeping up with this Blog then I suggest you go read Michelle's marriage post and see that it wasn’t a happily ever after fairytale but it was one heck of a ride that made us both stronger.
so many places to remember
I’ve had many experiences over the years, but this is a post about the places that have changed me, and how truly mundane they have been. Let’s go to the intersection at 620 and I-35. It’s a stop light as you are attempting to head into downtown Round Rock, TX.
It’s a route I had taken who knows how many times in the first few years that we’d lived here, and I don’t know how many times I’ve driven under this light in the probably 10 years since this experience occurred. I was the first person stopped at this light on a perfectly clear day. The I-35 frontage road in front of me was being lightly traveled by cars that had just come off the 75 MPH highway. The light for the oncoming traffic turned red, then I got the green light to go. But in the back of my head I heard the word “wait”. Why wait? The coast was clear, there were not even cars in the left-hand turning lane that could be obstructing my view of any danger. So, I started taking my foot off the brake, “wait”, and I put my foot back down. Why was I waiting? The light was green and the people behind me were bound to start honking. Nope I was going. “Wait”. It was never a shout, it was soft and patient, and I hesitated just a moment more. Just then a big old work truck came barreling through the intersection going easily 65, I assume he’d come off the highway and wasn’t paying attention to the light that had long been red at this point, did I mention that I was in a little white Saturn, not exactly a match for 2 tons of metal going 65 MPH. Had I gone when the light turned green I may have been lucky and he would have taken out my back end, but any time after that initial pause it was most definitely going to be major side impact and if I survived it I would have been pretty messed up.
This simple intersection is now a holy place for me, it’s the place where I listened and, in all likelihood, my life was saved. There are other places around town where I have had other similar experiences on the road, another intersection with a similar situation, albeit a more survivable minivan. The accident just down the road that occurred just moments before I got there, where had the kids not delayed us we would have not been the first people on the scene to kick out the back window of a rolled over minivan and gotten a family safely out. How many times have I cursed the delays, the lack of revelations, not realizing that perhaps the sign was the delay and the delay put me right where I needed to be or kept me safely out of harm’s way?
We have experiences all the time, but have we stopped to remember them and to realize the amazing effect that they have had in our lives?
So that's part one, part two will hopefully be much more interesting, but unfortunately a whole lot longer, so go get a snack.
The following was originally posted to Facebook back on March 27th of 2019, but I am sharing it here to update followers of this blog about how life goes on and how we don't forget our loved ones, rather we move forward with them held securely in our hearts and in our memories.
So due to this day and age of social media where information travels about in the blink of an eye, and one post can get the people buzzing it seems the need arises from time to time to update the masses on what is going on in one’s life and to answer some questions before they get asked. Now I tend to be a private person, but thanks to my late wife and her courageous battle with cancer I find myself inheriting not just a village but probably 3 or 4. Couple that with our lives being on public display for the past two and a half years, not to mention all the associations I have established as I have emerged from my introverted shell into a more extroverted person, and now I find myself here announcing to the world what I have been up to in the last 6 months.
So here you go. I had planned to take my time recovering from my wife’s passing and processing my grief, believing that I needed to spend some time in a safe haven of grief and contemplation. While my wife told me before she passed that I needed to get out there and to not take too much time I figured I had 4-5 months before I really needed to be social. Evidently when she said she planned to get right to work she was not kidding. Not long after her passing people started coming into my life and forcing me to reevaluate where I was at, and to interact in ways that I thought would take me months to work up to. The long and short of it was that my wife left me in a completely different state then I expected to be, I assumed I would be empty and full of holes, she had already patched me up and helped in setting me down gently on my own two feet to start a new journey. I thought I needed months to grieve not realizing that with each update to her diagnosis and each shortening of her expected timeline I had already been grieving the loss of things as they became less and less of a possibility, and on top of that I had gotten to grieve them with her by my side. By the time she passed there was not much left to grieve and there was nothing left to deny or be angry about, we had 22 wonderful years and that is more than most people can say.
Since her passing I have interacted with dozens of people, and each one has taught me something about what I want in life, how I can be better, what I wish to avoid and how I intend to honor and remember the woman that gave me 22 years of her life and left me stronger for it. My apologies go out to those that I may have hurt as I went about learning these lessons, it was not intentional but know I learned something from each and every one of you. But every time I tried to put the brakes on things, I received a push forward or sign to move forward.
So, what’s the point of all this? I did what she wanted me to do. I did not sit idle instead I embraced the fact that she planned to get to work on my behalf and that of my children to build a new life in which she will continue to play a central role. I took all of her insight into what the children and I would need and am happy to report that through what can only be described as divine intervention, the alignment of so many things being set in motion in just the right way, that I have been lead to someone that exemplifies everything I wanted in my life, everything Michelle wanted me to find, and who understands the unique partnership that exists within this family’s new dynamic.
Mindy has proven to be a compassionate, understanding and insightful companion whom I have gotten to know and trust these past months. Our shared faith, dreams for the future, beliefs in how we wish to live life, raise children and view marriage have allowed us to grow together, and as a result I have not only come to love her, but my love and reverence for Michelle has increased as well. I feel blessed to have found someone that I know I can share the remainder of my life with and who will be the mother figure my children need as I hope to be a worthy example to her children.
I have come to liken these two women to beautiful candles each unique in their appearance and qualities. They each have a light that shines bright in the lives of all who come in contact with them, and I am blessed to be able to see them as unique individuals who are to be celebrated as such. Neither steals light from the other, rather their joint light works together to make brighter the lives of those who are blessed to be a part of them.
So with that I announce that I have asked Mindy to be my wife and to build with me a life centered in Christ, to join me as an equal partner in this life and the life yet to come and to enter into an eternal covenant between us and God. I’m happy to say that she has accepted.
I know that for some people this might be a bit of a shock as many of you did not get the time with Michelle that you would have liked and are still grieving. But know that I have observed and been very mindful of Mindy’s reaction to Michelle. If there is anyone who will make sure that Michelle’s children are encouraged to talk about and remember her, it is Mindy. The pictures will remain on the walls as new ones are added, her name will still be spoken freely, her spirit will still reside within our home as I know she will continue to give insight into the needs of her children and all those that live within the home that she helped build. Some have expressed their feeling that they are still supposed to be on Team Michelle, know that being on that team means keeping her memory alive, and we do that by holding our heads high and finding joy in the journey as she taught us. You don’t have to choose between two people you can support both women in the beautiful and distinct roles that they now occupy. Know that love is infinite and has no limit but the limits that we put upon it. Thank you all for your support, insight and the love that you have shown all of us, the journey does not cease but it continues in ways we never expected.
Often times we as humans try to avoid hard things, especially when we start going into very personal areas that we would just as soon forget, or hope we never have to face. As is evident by some of Michelle's posts, she was not one to hold back, and she was willing to talk about the trials of her life, because she believed that facing the past and learning from it was better than sweeping it under the rug. So when it came time to face mortality, she didn't hold back from facing the questions of "what now" and "what next."
There are things, in my opinion, every couple needs to talk about. You need to talk about your dreams, what you want for your future, and how you hope to accomplish it together with the one you love. You need to openly communicate how your significant other could better support you, find out how to support them in their endeavors, or how to help them overcome their challenges. You need to talk about what to do when it all goes terribly, terribly wrong, when all your hopes and dreams are obliterated before your eyes. I am grateful that while Michelle and I talked about some things prior to her diagnosis, we had the time to discuss it all before she passed. Some of you will not have that time. For some it will be in the blink of an eye and your spouse, your significant other, your partner, the person you planned to build a life with, will be left alone picking up the pieces of what is left from your passing. Perhaps something will occur that leaves you sick. Even if you believe you will recover, do not deny them the knowledge of what to do if you don't. Do not leave them without a safety net; do not leave them with questions for which they are unable to find answers. Do not pile on more then they will already be faced with, and don’t leave them shackled and unable to move forward.
Michelle and I got to talk about all of it, our hopes and fears for the future. The hope that she would live a long and happy life free of cancer, that her treatments would work, that miracles would take place, that she could hold on till scientific breakthroughs could be made. But we also talked about what to do if it all went wrong, how she wanted us to handle things if the cancer spread and started shutting down organs, and if she suffered seizures and was left in a deteriorated state. If she was on life support, how hard were we willing to fight, and at what point would the loss of quality of life make it so that the agony of treatments was not worth it? At what point does she stay at home, and when does she go into a care facility? If it all ended tomorrow, what did she see for me and the kids? Do we stay here or should we go somewhere else? What does she want the kids to know, and how should I move forward?
You have to start having these conversations, because you don't know when your end will come. But it doesn't mean that it is written in stone; you can change your mind about anything at any time. Just be honest about how you feel at that moment so that the one that loves you knows. What you will also find is that by keeping it all in and not sharing it, you have refused to lay it on the table where it can be thought about, discussed, and analyzed. We selfishly hold onto our fears, thinking that we are sparing each other difficult discussions, but what we are doing is denying the ones that love us the chance to more intimately know us, for our fears are hidden in the deepest recesses of who we are. You might find that as you reflect openly upon what you want that perhaps it is not what your spouse will need, and you will grow to put their needs ahead of yours, you will become selfless in your desire to give them the insight and freedom they will need to make decisions without you.
Michelle was adamant about not wanting a funeral. I had to convince her to let me hold one for the people that loved her so that they could grieve and share their condolences; she changed her mind and allowed me to do what I felt was best.
She said she didn't want to pass at home, but in the end she changed her mind and was able to be with us until the end.
She wanted me to stay right where I am, at least until our youngest daughter graduates high school so that she can be on the drill team like her older sister, so she can continue to dance at her studio, and so that the kids can stay close to the friends and church members that can help them remember their mother. I am holding to that desire and have no plans to leave the home we built together.
But one of the most important decisions she made, and one that went through a huge evolution, requires a bit of a lesson to explain. We'll call this LDS Marriage 101.
LDS MArriage 101
So Michelle and I are both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Our beliefs were a driving force in our marriage. It was our shared faith in Jesus Christ and in His restored gospel that helped us to weather countless storms, including her cancer battle, if you aren’t aware of the many other battles go read our joint blog entry about Mawage. Now an LDS marriage has some unique traits. You see when Michelle was a young woman she went to the open house at the San Diego Temple, and it was at that moment that she knew that someday she would get sealed in that temple.
An LDS marriage or sealing is different from other marriages in that it is not "till death do us part," but rather it is for "time and all eternity." This is why we refer to ourselves as eternal companions. You see we make a covenant between ourselves and God that if we are worthy we can be together eternally. Now on July 6, 1999, Michelle and I entered this magnificent house of the Lord and together entered into that covenant. It is for this reason that though she has left this mortal life, I still feel a deep connection to her and continue to communicate with her and ask for her guidance, and why I have felt her presence guiding me forward.
So what does this have to do with talking out everything? Well you may not like it, but depending on your age there is a good chance that if you leave your spouse behind, they will at some point desire to have someone in their life and to not be lonely. Michelle knew this and at the beginning of her battle, was very open with me. Initially she said that she didn't necessarily like the idea of me remarrying, but that she knew I would need a companion and that the children would need a mother figure. She wanted them to have someone that would show them love, and with whom I could give them a daily example of how to care for someone, so that they would know what a healthy relationship looked like as they went out to find their own. She discussed with me her fear for the younger ones that their memories of seeing Mommy and Daddy interacting would not be as fresh in their minds as she wanted them to be. But she also did not want to be forgotten, and so we talked about the fact that anyone that came after her would have to be strong enough to have her pictures on the walls and to allow open talks about Michelle. One thing she did not want was me getting sealed to another woman—you see we are able to expand that partnership to include someone else, but she didn't like the idea. Fair enough, she gave me twenty-two amazing years, so honoring these wishes was the least I could do.
Six months later we discussed it again, and this time she said she no longer had reservations about me remarrying as long as she was remembered by her children. She still voiced her desire that I not get sealed, which implied that if the time came I should look for a widow who had her own eternal companion, but she did open up the door that if I couldn't find a widow after much searching, a sealing could be an option, even though she didn't like the idea. After that I didn't think too much about it. She supported me moving forward and had some restrictions; again it seemed a fair compromise.
But six months before she passed, out of the blue, she looked me in the eyes, pointed her finger at me and said, "If you find someone that isn't sealed, you get sealed to her. She'll need it, you'll need it, and Heavenly Father will explain it all to me and take care of any reservations that I have."
Unless you share our faith, you have no idea what that means. My wife opened up the door for there to be another person in our partnership. She opened the door to have someone that would be on equal footing to her. She knew what a blessing it was to be sealed, how that could strengthen a marriage, and she gave me the option to extend that blessing to someone else. This is why I added “Be Selfless” to this entry’s title. You have every right to share with the person you love the desires that you have for them and the fears of the things that you would rather they avoid. But once you start talking, you might discover that what you want may place restrictions upon how they are able to live their lives. It is worse to have no answers, then to have answers with some strings attached. They will be accepting of some restrictions, but to be selfless in your hopes and dreams for them will bring you closer together in the time that you have—be it a day or fifty years.
I debated sharing this deep and intimate point, but I feel it exemplifies the level of selflessness that Michelle achieved, that we can all achieve, when we put the ones we love ahead of ourselves. I don’t know what will be hardest for you to discuss. I don’t know what keeps you up at night worrying about how the ones you love will move forward, or how they will remember you. I just know that in that moment, I knew she loved me so deeply that she was willing to exercise faith that her Father would take away her fears and her concerns.
After this talk it became easy for her to discuss what kind of person she wanted for her successor. We even got duped into watching a Netflix movie where the lead female character has cancer, and prior to her passing, takes out a wanted ad and starts interviewing for her replacement. At the end of that movie, and after a ridiculous amount of tears, I had to turn to her and tell her, "Don't you dare." To which she promised not to let her type A personality drive her to do such a thing now, but that she planned to get to work on it ASAP when the time came. She started to share with me what she knew I was going to need in a wife, which was much different from her. She knows me better than anyone and she made it a priority to think about my future as I worried about her present. Some of our talks bordered on what most people would probably call morbid, but we knew that in the end, we would have no regrets. We would know each other completely.
I don’t know what you need to talk about, and in the end, maybe your spouse won’t heed every word you say. I still have the couch she made me promise to get rid of; it seemed like a funny last request that I get rid of a piece of furniture, but she made sure to leave that one hanging over my head. Thanks, Shelly, now I can’t go into my family room without remembering that promise, and I’ll have to make plans to replace the stupid thing at some point. But whatever you have to discuss, discuss it.
Understand you’ve had an impact in their lives; you will live on in them. They are not going to move on without you, they will carry you with them. But you can enable them to move forward, one step at a time. If you give them this gift, their love for you will remain, and believe it or not, it might even grow. At this point it has been almost six months since Michelle returned home, and I can honestly say without any reservation that I love her more deeply today. I thought standing beside her till the end that I had hit my limit, that the degree to which I loved her in that moment was the highest level I would reach. I was so wrong. The depth to which love can go is infinite. So open all the doors. Put it all out on the table. Deny the one you love nothing. If you get fifty more years, then you will have fifty years with no walls between you. If it ends tomorrow, all doors will be opened to a love that burns eternal.
So what's your dance break at the end of this post, well I had to consult Michelle's phone because I was at a bit of a loss. This one suddenly appeared at the top of a list and you know what it seems fitting while being fun, I'll take that as a sign.
Grief is a personal thing, and sometimes finding ways to deal with it can be hard. I was blessed to have been informed about a group, related to my church, for widows and widowers that I joined shortly after Michelle passed. There I have been able to talk with people who share the experience of losing the person that we all thought we were going to spend the entirety of this mortal life with. None of us planned on being alone at this stage of our lives. For some it was a sudden occurrence for others like myself it was a slower process which gave us some warning. Regardless we all share a bond and being a part of that group has propelled me far further along my path of reconciling my grief then I expected to be at this time. I attended my first widow and widowers conference in Idaho only 5 weeks after Michelle passed, I honestly questioned if I was ready for such an event, but it turned out to be exactly what I needed. While there I got a lot of direction, not just from people who have been walking this road well before me, but also from Michelle and from my Heavenly Father.
One of the great lessons I have learned is that crying is not a bad thing. Trying to hold back emotions can work against you and leave you stuck. The release of those emotions can generate energy that can then be channeled to work for your benefit. And tears are not a weakness, having a full on breakdown might be exactly what you need to take you where you need to be, perhaps to your knees asking for assistance. My continued tears are a gift to my wife, a sign that I remember and celebrate her, that she still means the world to me and that her absence is felt.
In January I was blessed with the opportunity to actually give a short presentation on how I was using music to facilitate my grief at another conference I attended. So I thought I might share it here. This is a cut down version since the usually process can span upwards of an hour and a half listening to complete songs not just snippets. It was an experience doing this before a small audience live as I went from cracking open the doors, to letting out the flood, to riding the wave to standing again on solid ground in about fifteen minutes, complete with lip syncing to the songs (perhaps some day I'll do this again live and record it). In the meantime grab a tissue and enjoy.
Grief through Music
Guiding Grief With Music
Cameron Kaley – January 2019
I’m going to take you for a little ride through how music has propelled me forward in handling the loss of my wife 4 months ago. Music has helped me to hold onto memories, it has helped me unlock the sadness and let the tears flow when I feel stuck. I can use it to facilitate a full-on breakdown that lasts 30 minutes and then slowly pull myself out of it to continue on with my day, rather than just lying in a funk for hours on end. I have a list of song snippets to share with you, to give you a glimpse into my mind. So please listen closely as you join me in letting music guide my grief.
There are dozens of songs that I have compiled into a playlist that I started after my wife passed. It started as an attempt to not forget those songs that meant so much to us while she was here. But then there are songs like that one that came after her passing and remind me that so long as I hold onto my memories of her, she will remain close to me.
Other songs have been a part of my life for the past 22 years back to where we met when I was 17 and she was still 16 in the summer of 1996.
I will always see that snarky 16-year-old girl making faces at me as she sang that song and many others. She knew how to tease me like no one else. It seems weird that that was our song, but she introduced me to the gospel and then left me in the hands of the missionaries to find my own way. Still that summer we had many a discussion about God.
Fast forward 2 years and we were married, and this was the first song we danced to as husband and wife.
Now in our 20 years of marriage we had our fair share of differences, she was a classical ballerina who liked top 40 and I was a heavy metal, rock and roller. I found many a song that might not have been her taste, but I associated those songs with her none the less
I have songs from the 80s, the 90s and today that remind me of her and how much she meant to me. Some that remind me of my short comings as a husband and things that I don’t want to repeat in the future, some that remind me of the trials that we overcame together.
One of those trials took place in March of 2016 as I faced being laid off and out of work for 2 months. And now looking back on that time a song that she always loved has taken on new meaning to me in retrospect.
You see I lost my job but ended up getting a new one that allowed me to work from home, which seemed cool at the time, but months later in September of 2016 that trial of losing my job ended up being one of the greatest blessing of my life as my wife received her cancer diagnosis and we began a 2 year battle, where I was able to be by her side every day, now that I worked from home
That right there is the start, where when my emotions seem like they are stuck behind a damn I can trigger them, I can have the controlled grief session when I need to get it all out, before I start to put myself back together.
For 2 years she battled. But in May of 2018 the doctors announced the cancer had spread to her brain and that there were now 13 large tumors, 2 of which were hemorrhaging severely. She immediately started 15 rounds of full brain radiation and lost all freedom to go where she pleased as she was a major seizure risk. But in June, at the dance recital for the girls that she taught, and unbeknownst to me, this strong woman that had just lost all her hair due to radiation took the stage and danced a final solo to this song
She danced, and she left it all out on that stage, proving that through the trials she faced that fighting spirit could not be dimmed. Weeks later she would suffer her first and only seizure, but it would be the catalyst to leave her weakened and facing the final days of her mortality. As she lay there one night this song came up randomly on her phone
That song has helped me find peace as I opened myself to the guiding light of our Savior who helped me find peace while I tried to understand the path that I would have to tread without her physically by my side.
It was a slow decline over 2 months, but again I was by her side through it all. And on the evening of September 11th I resolved to let her know that she could return home. Early in the morning of September 12th she returned to her Father, as she passed peacefully from this world. I was given the strength to give her eulogy and together her friends, and the community upon which she had had such an impact sang together this song.
I was again reminded how great the gospel of Jesus Christ is that I will see her again, for she was a faithful servant that fulfilled her mandate in this life. And with this knowledge and these songs behind me I can prepare myself to emerge from my grief to not move on but move forward. To hold my head up high as she did when she took the stage that one last time. She was an inspiration to me while she was alive, and I look forward to that day when I will again see her in the flesh.
I will not forget her, I will regularly shed a tear for her, both in sadness for the things that will not be, as well as for the joy that she brought into my life, that I never could have imagined at 17 years old. And I will continue to find new songs that remind me of the past and give me hope for the future. And nothing is off the table because sometimes I need to cry, and sometimes I need a good 2 tone ska beat to get me up and moving as I simultaneously remember her and dance my way forward as I know she would want me to
Her life was a celebration of how to go out with dignity and joy. And I am grateful that through music I can remember the past, grieve for what was lost, and find joy in the journey.
The music plays on
So did you make it through? That's a taste of the music I use, I have an ever expanding playlist dedicated to Michelle. Some songs that make me laugh, some make me cry, some fill me with the resolve to hold my head high and seize the day. That list will continue to expand as the years go on and I will continue to use it to remember the good times and in doing so I will picture Michelle with a smile on her face dancing her way through life and through the eternities.
So you've already gotten a good deal of music on this post but what the heck, here is the last song I added to the playlist. How did I not know about this band sooner? I have no idea but man I know we would have loved them together, guess we still get to.
One of the great things about living in this day and age is the way in which things get captured. What a blessing it is to have pictures, video and audio so easily recorded for us to then reflect on later. I have realized that Michelle was most often the one taking the pictures, so there aren't nearly as many pictures of her as there are of the rest of us, but gratefully there are a good deal of them.
But while a picture may be worth a thousand words, sometimes what you really want is to hear your loved one again. You want to hear the way they sounded, to hear them relay a story in their own words rather then trying to rely on your memory. It's also fun to hear how they interpreted an experience differently from you. Luckily Michelle, having the magnetic personality that she had, attracted the attention of people and as a result there just happens to be recordings of her sharing her insights and life stories. So while the last post was her in motion, this is her in her own words.
First she did a podcast related to being a Young Women's leader for our church. At the time she didn't share this one too widely because it touched on some fairly sensitive material, and she really didn't know how it might affect some people. She also didn't want people coming up to her with the "I had no idea you went through all that." or the simple "I'm so sorry". She didn't want sympathy for something she had gone through, what she wanted was for people to learn from her experiences and so it was enough to leave it somewhere where those people would find it. That being said I feel ok now sharing it with a wider audience. Be aware she touches on some heavy things, but thus pretty well confirms that she was tough and fearless before cancer came knocking.
Below is the audio and here is the original link
Now for the slightly lighter side. Michelle did this one unexpectedly while we were on vacation in Utah. Here we get to hear about her passion for dance and how she has held her head high in the face of being sick. Honestly I'd forgotten about this one until the podcasters husband shared it on her cancer support page. I will be eternally grateful for getting to hear her voice again, and to have a little reminder of an inside joke we shared.
So now here is my part. I'd hoped to write up my eulogy to Michelle, but the truth is I ad libbed the majority of it and only had sparse notes. I'm grateful to Michelle and I's friend Candida who unbeknownst to me recorded the eulogy and then shared it with me. Y'all can now hear me speak about the woman that shaped me over the course of 22 years. I wondered how I was going to go on without my other half, but the truth is she hasn't left me. I came to her 22 years ago full of holes and she didn't just temporarily fill in the gaps, she fundamentally transformed me (which I might get to in a future post). But in the meantime here you go my eulogy to the woman that gave me a life that was more than I ever imagined, complete with pictures.
My music to remember her by
So if you just listened to the eulogy you now know, if you didn't before, that we were opposites in many ways. One of those ways was our taste in music. Sometime we crossed over to the others side, there were a fair number of Metallica songs I could get her to listen to, and every once in a while I was able to embrace some of hers. Just wait for the next post on music, be forewarned I'm gonna get you crying. But even though we may not have crossed paths often on our musical tastes I still have an entire collection of songs that I associate with her for various reasons. So I apologize, I'm not sure how well you can dance to this one, but it holds some special meaning. Back on August 3rd Michelle was at home under hospice care, I'd boughten tickets months before for Coheed and Cambria, a band me and the older children enjoy. She was encouraging that I go and it ended up being a much needed chance to blow off steam with everything we had going on. There are a number of Coheed songs I associate with Michelle, but this one hits especially hard, again wait for next post. If you've read some of the other entries, especially our marriage one, you know we faced our challenges, and I was far from the perfect husband at times, but I learned a lot of lessons on 22 years, and I like to think that by the end we were each two halves of something phenomenal. I recorded this one live, so if you listen carefully you might even get to hear that horrible off key voice I talked about above. For those that aren't acquainted with the song, don't worry I'll post the lyrics below, but suffice it to say I was shedding some tears by end of the portion I've marked in bold.
Here to mars
Been a long while since I've loved you or anything
How the times have changed
Distorted, a figure set in trend, emotionless
And the words lose all their means
(Goodbye, lost and long forgotten)
Discouraged might be the term you choose when you look
Looking for an excuse
My company has gone mute
Since listening isn't my strongest suit
I'm leaving you with this here, okay?
Over and out there
Honey, it's in the stars
And you're my everything from here to Mars
And every word I say I truly mean
Dear darling, I hope I'm being clear
'Cause there's no one like you on earth
That can be my universe
Understood, give me a second chance
I know I could be your better half
It's in the stars
And you're my everything from here to Mars
And every word I say I truly mean
Dear darling, I hope I'm being clear
'Cause there's no one like you on earth
That can be my universe
Pardon me, I think I'm going
Out of my head and into the worst
A world without your verse
A world without you hurts
Please, I'm sorry
I will never let you go
I will never let you go
I will never let you go
It's in the stars
And you're my everything from here to Mars
And every word I say I truly mean
Dear darling, I hope I'm being clear
'Cause there's no one like you on earth
That can be my burning star
And you're my everything from here to Mars
And every word I, every word I mean
Dear darling, I hope I'm being clean
'Cause there's no one like you on Earth
That can be my universe
Songwriters: Claudio Sanchez
This is Cameron, Michelle's husband. The reason I'm writing this is because after a number of months I am now prepared to pick up where my beloved wife left off. Unfortunately the reason nothing has been posted here in some time is because on September 12, 2018 Michelle Kaley returned to be with her Heavenly Father. I am eternally grateful for the time that I was given with this choice daughter of God, and for the man that she helped mold me into. I plan to remember her and share with the world that even in death she lives on and continues to play a hand in the affairs of those she loved.
It seems fitting that this page should continue as a means to memorialize her life as well as to inspire people to see that life goes on. With that in mind it seems that I should first get everyone caught up on where life stands before I can share my own story of not moving on, but rather moving forward, knowing that my wife continues to walk with me.
So where have we been? Michelle last shared what she was grateful for, and the outpouring of support that we received. It was about a month later that she suffered her first and only seizure. To make a long story short she recovered somewhat from that but was mostly confined to the home for the last 2 months while she was able to visit with friends and family. Her pain was well managed and on September 11th 2018 I was able to have a final discussion with her to let her know that it was ok for her to go. At that point she had not eaten in a number of days and had not communicated with us either. But as I talked with her, her eyes opened ever so slightly letting me know that she was there and listening. She passed that night and I know of assurity that she went peacefully.
I have always likened our journey to the way I feel about air travel, when the turbulence comes I do not freak out, I find calm because there is absolutely nothing I can do other then try to calm those around me. I await the results of the trouble to see if we crash in the water, on land, or if the pilot regains control and the ride smoothes out. I prepared myself for a crash, another seizure, something tragic, in the end the Lord took back control and landed us safely, although not at the destination that we had envisioned when we started our journey initially.
But I know God looked after his daughter, because while I already started as man of faith in this whole journey, I experienced too many things to the point that the effort to write them off as coincidence became far greater then to recognize them as the tender mercies of a Heavenly Father. When 3-5 times a day, everyday for weeks you are receiving calls, visits, texts that answer questions or problems that had come to your mind only an hour before, and which you had not yet verbalized, you know that angles are being dispatched to carry your needs and questions to those that are open to receive those calls and respond as God's hands on this Earth.
There are things that Michelle left behind and I look forward to sharing those messages beginning with her final performances. She was able to share one, but I would like to share it again with the professional video. In this she decided to surprise me as I sat innocently in the audience on June 4th, I was not prepared for her to perform this piece and as a result the tears flowed freely.
Two days later she did it to me again, as I prepared to watch my eldest daughter's pointe dance, Michelle came out, not on her feet, but on her toes and performed her farewell dance. Again my tears flowed at yet another unexpected performance. She proved that there is no limit to how high you can hold your head up as you face the storms of life.
But you know what she wasn't the only one that could pull off a surprise. While I may not be a dancer, I spent over two decades being influenced by one to the point that when I hear music I can't help but see movement. We celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary on June 13th and just before that we attended a performance by a local dance group, The Dance Project. I am grateful for their time and commitment as they were able to bring to life a dance to a song of my choosing and with some of my meager choreographic input, and this became my final gift to my wife.
Later after her passing The Dance Project had another performance and there memorialized Michelle by recreating her final solo. I am grateful for the chance to have attended. I know that while I myself have two left feet, dance will continue to be a part of my life forever as a way to remember my eternal companion whom I have no doubt is dancing her way about her new job of watching over her family from the other side of the veil.
Life has been far from dull these last 5 months, and there is much more to come. Michelle said she was going to get to work on some things and I can tell you will assurity that she did.
I suppose this now means that I am in charge of your 30 second dance break, haha, I'll try to go easy on y'all. Did I mention we were opposites? You might find my musical taste a little different, I guess we'll see. I mentioned using this one to her, so at least I know it isn't too far from something she might have chosen herself
When Alexia and Devan where little guys I remember one morning in particular... we were headed out the door and it was taking forever! For those of you with kids you know what I mean, no one can find their shoes, someone pooped their pants right as we were walking out the door.....As I laid them down to change them real quick I remember feeling so frustrated about this comedy of errors. I was a pro at changing diapers so it didn't take long and we were on our way. As we pulled out of the neighborhood and headed up the street we came upon a very serious accident that had clearly just happened. The thought came to me loud and clear..."Do you see why I had to slow you down today! I had to protect you and your babies! I had to keep you safe!"
That moment humbled me so much, it also taught me that when it seems like something so bad and frustrating is going on it just might be moving you in a different direction.
So now on to the brain scan.....
Let me explain a few things first. I only finished Brain radiation 3 weeks ago. Radiation continues to work on the body for 4-6 weeks post your last treatment. Meaning the side effects continue and in some cases get worse. But this is also why they don't do scans until 6 weeks after in-order to get more accurate results. So why did I get one at 3 weeks? Because I have great Doctors that know how badly I wanted to go on my daughters Senior trip that we had been planning and paying for for over a year. The deal was if there was no swelling or hemorrhaging I would be clear to fly over seas to Paris and Barcelona! At their advice we set up for my amazing best friend to come on the trip with me for added support. We just had to wait for the green light.
First thing this morning I went in for my Brain MRI. Then by 10:30 I was headed in to see the Amazing Dr. Herman! He came in and explained that all 13 tumors were still there and unchanged, there were some that appeared bigger but that could be due to inflammation. Not too discouraging because I was only 3 weeks out. Now the good news... no signs of any new brain tumors! And the not so great news there is a lot of swelling in my left front temporal lobe and hemorrhaging. There it was, no Europe. While I continued to talk with the Dr. I realized that Cameron was behind me crying. (He knew this had always been a dream of mine and he was so sad to see this happen) When I turned to console him the Dr. said to me, "You knew didn't you?" Yes I did. This whole time I have fought, I did all the treatments, I bought a new suitcase and clothes for Europe! But since Saturday I have not been doing good. I tried to chalk it up to just finishing Radiation on my lungs. But soon it was clear that some of this was definitely my brain. My legs and arms seem to weigh 500lbs. I constantly feel like someone is pushing me to the right. Head aches, extreme pressure in my brain. The list goes on. But the thing is about 3 days ago that same voice that said "Do you see why I had to slow you down" came back with "I'm so sorry but your not going to Europe, it's not safe for you" Yet again I was being both prepared and protected.
I was immediately put back on the steroids for the next 6 weeks and then re-scan for the MRI to see if the radiation did anything to the tumors. Keytruda has been put on hold again so long as my brain is swollen.
Although I am sad, I know this is for the best. I called Alexia during her lay over in Florida to let her know the news. She was very understanding. This is a school trip that she will have friends and chaperones on so she will still be able to go.
Thank you all for your prayers! Don't think for one second they are not being answered! Remember it is always His will be done, not ours. We have no way of knowing how we are being protected, and what amazing things are being prepared for us!
Since I am currently spending so much time in bed I thought it would be fun to do some ask Michelle Blogs. You can ask me anything! If you want to be Anonymous you can directly comment to this blog post as anonymous. Or you can reply on the Instagram or Facebook posts with your questions. I'm looking forward to hearing from you!
PS. I have to give some shout outs to some Incredible People that made my anniversary Super Magical....I'm sure there might be more but here is who I know about: Dream team member Becky Forse, Landon's Swim team Mom Janis Page, The Archer Hotel here in Austin, Lush, Paul Martins, and Mad Mikes Cakes here in Austin (What that man can do with cake is unreal!) Do me a favor and if you can go support those businesses! The generosity from them has been amazing!
And Now for your Dance Party! Enjoy!
Mawage. mawage is wot bwings us togeder today. mawage that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dream. and wuv, twue wuv, will fowow you foweva. So treasure your wuv. ~ The Princess Bride
Michelle mentioned that she wanted to write our wedding anniversary blog together, after all this marriage has involved both of us. In full disclosure she wanted to make it clear that there was nothing she would say without my knowledge and support, we tell each other everything. FYI that means if you have ever told her a secret it means I know it too. The blue is me and the black is Michelle. It's not that I don't have a lot to say it's just that she thought of things first and anything I thought to add ended up being redundant.
On this day 20 years ago I married the Love of my Life. Notice I call him the Love of life, not the perfect man. Because the truth is he wasn't, which was a really good thing because I was far from being a perfect woman! It meant we could learn and grow together through and because of the Love that we had for each other. So all my friends out there looking for the perfect person to marry STOP! You are doing it wrong, instead you need to be looking for the person who inspires you to be a better version of you, who will go through life with you, willing to grow, improve who they are, and above all else someone who will cherish and protect the Love that you have for one another at all times.
Seemed way too easy in some respects. In a sense it felt like we were playing house and it was ridiculously fun! We had a blast those first few years. Were there challenges, of course! When those challenges arrived we developed a habit of saying "Are you sure about this, Eternity is a really long time" Which was our way of saying does this "issue" really matter with the eternal perspective. We did however face some really big trials in those first few years to. Ones that would instantly cause us to question "are we going to make it?"
These years were hard! Not gonna lie! Having babies back to back, moving to a new city away from family, postpartum depression, kids with LOTS of medical needs, multiple miscarriages, including a midterm loss, I will never forget our trip to Disneyland after the baby died. Yes, two grown adults went to Disneyland without kids! Because sometime you need a little break from the real world and why not the happiest place on earth!?! It delivered for sure, along with sticking my feet in my beloved Pacific ocean in Huntington Beach.
It was probably a lot easier on me because I got to go be with adults all day. It could be tiring to come home from a stressful day at the office and have to jump in to help make dinner or clean up a kid created disaster, but at least I had some more variety to my daily routine and was not stuck trying to figure out how to keep two, then three, toddlers occupied. Juggle the countless doctor and therapy appointments.
But at least I had Dance! Even though it was with more kiddos, teaching and dancing got me through some really tough days!
The second middle.....
We almost didn't survive this...almost.
This is when we made the big move to Texas. Which left her alone in Colorado for 2 months caring for 3 children, trying to sell a house, while I primarily just had to go to work and do some house hunting. There were so many good changes moving to Texas for my family especially my son Devan! But it threw our marriage into chaos. Year 7 was rough, all the way through year 12. We each take responsibility for the events that took place during those years. Each are proof that in a marriage there are times when one person is strong and the other is not. Carrying the weight of the marriage on your shoulders can really take a toll. Satan is powerful and will find ways to make you see every negative flaw in your spouse! The two most important lessons I took from these years were 1. Communication is KEY to a successful marriage (Thank you marriage counseling, that was the best thing for us!) In order for us to communicate we had to form our own unified language instead of insisting that the other do it our way. 2. Thinking about your needs, what you want, what makes you happy, is a fast track to a miserable marriage. The last thing you need in your marriage is selfishness. I'm not saying your needs don't matter but what I am saying is when you focus on serving the one you love watch how quickly that comes back to you! Win Win!
The 2nd Honeymoon....
When Landon was born we were in pure bliss! Life was so good! The kids were all doing really well! That's not to say there weren't still challenges, (we were about to have 2 teenagers) but because of all the work Cameron and I had done we were better equipped to handle them. We were making sure that our marriage was the priority. We realized that in the end the kids would leave and it would just be us for eternity. One of the best things we did during this time was make sure to take trips, just the 2 of us. Including a very epic second Honeymoon! I highly suggest that!!
And now here we are 20 years of marriage later! It has been everything a marriage should be.... full of Love, heartache, hard work, laughter, pain, joy, uncertainty,Forgiveness and Faith lots of Faith!
The "Experts" will say...We should have gotten a divorce, multiple times. But which time should we have not forgiven each other, which time should we not have shown compassion, mercy, understanding, which time should we have forgotten the sacred promises we made to each other when we got married for Time and all Eternity?
An Autistic Child
The loss of a Baby
just to name a few
But what we have found is that a Marriage was never meant to be between 2 people. A relationship between two people is called a partnership, it can be very strong and powerful and can last a lifetime! But a Marriage is between 3 people, it involves God and is meant to last an Eternity. Involving God in our marriage is the only way I can answer how we made it through all those trials. If at anytime 1 of the 3 was not willing to put in the effort that still left us with 2 people fighting for the marriage.
People wonder how we are keeping such a positive attitude when faced with our current situation, and all I can say is that an Eternal Perspective makes all the difference. Instead of getting beaten down by the problem that is right in front of you, you can see beyond it, and know that there is a plan and that this is not the end. Believing that while you may not physically be together, your relationship continues to grow and progress, it helps you see the light through the darkness.
L=Looking for the good and
O= Overlooking the bad by
V= Valuing each other's worth and
E= Empathizing, or putting ourselves in each other's situations, "Walking in another's shoes"
We love to have things in our bedroom that reminds us each day what our purpose is. The Love scripture hangs directly in front of our glass shower. So every day as you prepare yourself for the day you can't help but be reminded of what LOVE is!
The Vow art is something I made for Cameron for Valentines one year. It hangs directly above our bed as daily reminder to each other.
Here is a short list of some of our favorite books and movies that have helped us:
The Power of a Praying Wife - Stormie Omartian
Between Husband and Wife - Stephen E. Lamb M.D., Douglas E. Brinley
Solutions for Families - Paula Noble Fellingham
The Divine Connection - Loyed Newell
Dads Who Stay and Fight - Greg Trimble
The Love Dare - Stephen and Alex Kendrick with Laurence Kimbrough
The Movie "Fireproof" goes with the Love Dare
we also loved "War Room"
And repeated watching of The Princess Bride, I mean for the love of Pete they fight their way through the fire swamp and he comes back from being mostly dead. Also "As you wish" seems like a good lesson on the afore mentioned selflessness.
Now for your 30 sec dance party.....
This one is a special one! I did get permission to share this...
In 2006 a very special song was released. My sweet Husband hated this song.... well challenge accepted, I would find a way to make him love it! So was born the "Sexy Back Rule" which is when ever Justin Timberlakes "Sexy Back" is heard no matter the place or time Cameron must do a little sexy dance. After which I thank him for bringing Sexy Back! Many people are aware of this Law, my kids, my friends, many of my dancers (the older ones), even my radiation team! It doesn't matter where I am.....the car, the store, work, if it comes on I must call him and say "Babe, guess what!?!?! To which he rolls his eyes and says "Really right now?" This is when I will pump up the music, Yep your bringing sexy back! I will make him go get the kids so they can vouch that yes Daddy is shaking his booty! Its been 12 years and it's still going strong! Now you know and can carry the tradition on for me!
The Joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives - Russel m. Nelson
NO More Dead Gold Fish!! Now that is something to rejoice about!
Ok, I should explain....during radiation when it hits my sensory nerves it causes my brain to smell an overwhelming smell of dead gold fish in a bowl. Its was awful, I tried essential oils, and gum to block the smell but because it was in my brain there was not much I could do. But we are done, finito, I have been Gold Fish free for one glorious week!
I was given the option to take this week off from treatment and seized the day! My lung radiation treatments will begin on June 4th. It was decided I would do 10 rounds at a lower dose because the tumor is close to my heart and stomach so a more gentle approach will be better.
"Miracles Happen when the children of God "work together" Guided by the Spirit to reach out to others in need." - Reyna Aburto
I want to share some of the Miracles that you all have been responsible for whether directly through your actions or by your prayers. You need to know how powerful you all have been!
First one of my favorites...
It is almost impossible to surprise me, I don't know how but I always seem to find out surprises. Well for the first time I was surprised BIG time with one of the BEST Surprises of my life. A little back story:
Almost 4 years ago I was teaching a Ballet class in studio 2. We were at the ballet barre when this magical being walked into the studio, she was so tiny and wearing the fiercest outfit complete with sunglasses. She did not just walk into the studio, she strutted! I actually walked out of my class, I had to meet her! It was instant love! Our souls connected, like we had been waiting for each other! That was just the start, I met her Mother, instant connect, met her little brother, felt as if I had known him, met her Father, same thing! Needless to say I can't express how special this family is to me! Last summer they had to make a move to Atlanta, it was devastating to have them go but I knew in my heart it was the right move for them. They came for a visit in the fall, we have written letters, face-timed, texted etc. It has been hard, but I have still felt them so close. Now fast forward to me attending the last Dance competition of the season in Dallas. We arrived at the Hotel really late, I think around 11:30pm. We pulled up and I could see one of the parents of my Mini dancers (Ages 6-8) And I was mad that the kids might still be up, but turns out she was just there to capture the surprise, all the babies were asleep! Those babies had to compete in the morning and should not be up! We walked in and I saw 2 signs with 2 tiny pairs of feet underneath them. I couldn't read the sign very well but I made out the word ATLANTA!!! I lost it, the ugly cry right then and there!!! My special family had driven all the way from Atlanta to be with us for the weekend! Those days were like Heaven on Earth! BEST Surprise EVER!!!!
If you want to learn more about this amazing family check them out on Trendablekids on Insta and Facebook! Their amazing mother is the designer behind their amazing couture!
My white party.....
For this one of the members of my Dream team, remember the magical Unicorn that is Kate Karren, the one who organized all of my cancer support from the beginning....well she has not stopped / slowed down in the slightest. After she helped me plan out my Life Celebration (FYI I am not having a funeral my life is to be celebrated!) Which you all are invited to, date TBA ;) Kate decided that I needed a preview, so she set to work. Walking into that room filled with Beautiful humans all dressed in white! So many, I am still finding out who was there, it is incredible! The performances were something I will always treasure, the LOVE that was felt was the greatest gift I could have ever received!
Here is a link to the 360 degree video of the event.
The dance community...
I have always known that I was a part of something special being a dancer but this has been unbelievable! My own studio has done soooo much, Dance-a-thons, master classes, Silent Auctions, T-shirt sales, epic bake sales, the list goes on and on how they have raised money for my family and supported us in so many ways!! But studios across the country, they have raised money, sent gifts, flowers, beautiful cards of love and support! I even got an edible arrangement from one of the competitions we attend, it sounds silly but I have always wanted to get one of those, I was ecstatic! Then last night another HUGE Surprise...as many of you know I am a Hope story for Dancers Against Cancer. An incredible organization that helps dancers, teachers, and and their families fight cancer both financially and emotionally. They have been amazing, it has been an absolute honor to be apart of the DAC family! Over this journey the Executive administrator of DAC, Michelle Colon Tijerina have become quite close. Last night she flew into surprise me with a VERY generous financial assistance for my treatments. But the best part was seeing her and getting to hug and love on her!!!! I love my DAC family!
Friends, family, community.....
The outpouring of support and help has been unbelievable! From the bracelets and t-shirts that the dream team did, to the Kendra Scott fundraiser, gift card tree, special gifts from the heart, cards, flowers, the GoFundMe, the amazing meals brought in, the service and labor that went into getting my home ready for the graduation party, all of this was never anything I would ask for but so humbled and full of gratitude for these tremendous blessings!!
The Dream team and Round Rock High School stepped up big time on this one. Alexia's graduation class was HUGE, graduation was 3 hours! But the school went above and beyond to make sure that my family and I were in a very comfortable suite and had everything we needed for me to be able to attend. Shout out to the BEST principal I have ever come across Matt Groff! Then the dream team put on the most INCREDIBLE Wedding, I mean graduation party, I have ever seen!! Every detail was perfection, they managed to make it absolutely perfect for Alexia! The best part was watching her enjoy every minute of it!
Since May 4th it has been a steady stream of re-connections and my heart exploding with joy over being with my favorite Humans! From old high school friends, to my entire family coming for graduation, and currently my childhood through adulthood besties are here, The love and the laughs have been Non-stop!
So about a month ago I decided I wanted to do a dance to a song from Pink that has been very special to me throughout treatments. I wasn't sure when I would perform but I knew it was something I needed to do. As each day went by I got weaker and weaker. There were days I needed assistance to walk. I was so dizzy and disoriented I could not balance. The days slipped by and I was not sure I would regain any strength to dance. But still I was determined. I decided I would do it as a surprise at our end of year show for the dance company. Which also happened to fall on the same day I started the new rounds of Lung radiation. Due to the side effects of treatment I was completely unable to choreograph anything or even really attempt to dance to see if I even could. As I have mentioned before my body is numb, I don't feel my muscles. I feel them shake and I know that they are weak. But I went forward with faith! I walked on that stage having no clue what I was about to do, in dance we call that improv. Improv is raw, exposing, vulnerable, and powerful! The music started and I started moving, somethings worked out, some didn't. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't get my body to leap. I have taught dancers how to leap for 27 years, it is one of my favorite things to do because it feels like flying! As I saw the video for the first time the perfectionist Ballerina in me was horrified, but then I realized this was a representation of my parallel world that I am living in. Heaven - I should not be able to dance at all but my spirit is so strong and was able to take over my body so that I could feel the joy of dancing again. Earth - My body is just a shell at this point, weak and unable to execute the movements, the failed leaps show that right now its going through something really hard, and it is not giving up!
How am I........
For those whose hearts are breaking over this please know mine is not! My journey has been so Epic, this ending has been the most incredible gift from God! Life does not end with death, I do not feel like my journey is ending at all! I have complete peace, and I am NOT, I repeat, I am NOT suffering in the slightest! I urge you that if you are in pain, if you are struggling with anything no matter how small, reach out and reach up! God will hear you, He will send Angels both in heaven and here on earth to attend to you! He loves you, I love you! Remember to find the Joy today, its out there, I promise!
30 Sec. Dance Party Enjoy!
My name is Michelle Kaley but I have many other names.....Daughter, Sister, Wife of 20 years to my High School Sweetheart, Mom to my 4 Beautiful Children, Ms. Michelle to my hundreds of Students, and as of 2016 Cancer Patient was added to the list.