Batman and BBQ

July 18th, 2008

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Today was the day we had decided to celebrate Alec’s 18th B day and Bailey’s 11th. We went to see the dark knight movie and ate barbecue till we were stuffed at famous dave’s. It was a fun time for all the kids and our extended family of adults as well. Things like this are still hard for me, I miss my wife and sometimes being around the whole crew that has been there through the last few months of Andreas life makes me a little uncomfortable. I feel like I’m still stuck in cancerland. My wife really made it all tolerable. Starting over is really hard. I think I’ll feel a lot better when I go back to work a little more in a few weeks. I did get to watch clay eat his first rib and that made my night. He intently gnawed on it till there was no meat and his face was covered with sauce.I really need to thank everyone who has helped out over the last year in any way. Those of you that helped out financially really allowed me to be there for Andrea over the last couple months and now with the kids full time for another couple weeks. I’m not sure you can understand how huge that is unless you’ve been there but let me tell you it is appreciated.

Stay Classy Blog Readers
Kelly

Love letter from the other side.

July 14th, 2008

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Andrea’s memorial and a private party at Tattooed Moms happened today. I will write more about this later, but for now I wanted to post the eulogy that I paraphrased today at her memorial.

Hello friends. Welcome. I need to take a moment speak for Andrea and thank you. This is her farewell, as she planned it and I don’t doubt that she is here smiling upon all of you.

Ephesians 2:8-10
8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

I don’t crack a bible nearly as often as I should, and when I read this I wept. These words spoke to me because I cannot think of a verse that more accurately embodies Andrea’s story. I believe that god spoke though her to many in an organic relational way that allowed them to see the beauty within her soul. Her spirit was so much larger than life that even in dying she gave strength to those around her.

Those of you that know me will tell you that as far as the women go I have a type. That said they will probably also agree with me when I say when I saw her outside the bean on south street, I didn’t stand a chance. After a 5 minute conversation about nothing much, I thought about her non stop for days. Fortunately God (or was it Fran) handed me her number and I soon found out that she had been equally rocked. We talked on into the night (7 hours to be exact) and I fell deeper and deeper in awe of this woman. Over the years She has become, my lover, my partner, my best friend and most worthy adversary, my student and my teacher, and the mother of my son. Though I wanted so badly to grow old together and enjoy what John waters refers to as our Autumn years together, I will try not to be greedy, for God has spoken volumes to me through Andrea and my cup will remain full with her love and memory for years to come. The last thing Andrea taught me was the true essence of love between a man and a woman. Cancer is not pretty, It consumed the things I was originally attracted to, Pain meds are not kind, they provide relief but take away clarity, in the end looking into her eyes was my only solace, and that was enough. I know love and I am blessed.

It is impossible to think about Andrea without thinking about motherhood. It seems that almost everyone from the Philly punk scene days has a nick name and she was frequently spoken of as Andrea with all the kids. These days she is known to thousands as the punk rock mommy. Andrea was always on when it came to being a mommy. I remember her seeing a crying child sitting alone in pendot. She walks over to the child and says where’s your mommy? The child keeps crying. She says do you want me to pick you up? The little boy nods yes. The mother soon returns holding a newborn and grateful to Andrea for calming her child. I remember thinking that if I did that I’d probably get arrested. Andrea honed here unique style of outside the box parenting over the years and loves to talk shop with other parents. She liked to say she was raising productive members of the revolution. I probably shouldn’t speak for Tony, but I will, in saying that being a mother is work and being a great mother to some of the most amazing kids that most folks will ever meet is a full time job and I think we are both proud to have been a part of that. Financing a small army isn’t always easy. Parenting beside Andrea for the last four years have been the best times of my life. They have been years filled will laughter and amazement. She taught me how to do this and it is my honor to carry the torch for her and continue raising them as she would. Keeping promises I made to her and respecting her wishes for them. Alec Jesse Asa Tucker Bailey and Clayton, You may not know this but I fell in love with you guys at first sight too.

Andrea was diagnosed with cancer the day after she finished up her BA at Temple. She was diagnosed with stage three inflammatory breast cancer (which is a rare and aggressive form of hormone driven cancer). After the first round of scans her prognosis was changed to stage four or terminal. Andrea accepted this with little self pity and went about the work of fighting her cancer if only to have a little longer with the kids and I. It took me a little while longer to come to peace with the thought of losing my wife. Andrea spent the next three months on a toxic cocktail that made her ill most of the time. I spent that time withdrawn and terrified of getting my heart broken. It was beautiful watching the loving and smart way she broke the news to the kids, always the mother always the teacher she launched into the perfect unrehearsed lesson plan kind of like mommies dying of cancer 101. It was amazing to watch, who does that? Andrea approached her disease with a level of acceptance and measure of grace which I can only view as gods light shining through. She started a blog with spiritual overtones that touched and inspired thousands. She pulled herself out of her nauseous comatose state to go to fund raisers and other cancer related events taking the time to thank and embrace her friends. Bands broken up for years even reformed in her honor (if only for one night). She received quite a bit of press both in news papers across the nation, and radio and television interviews. I frequently teased her that she had celebrity cancer. She walked into chemo with her spirits bright and her head held high while it seemed that some of those around her felt dead already. I began to look forward to chemo day as well because it became like a date for us. Andrea played what we began to call the C card hard fast and often when it came to her children. She made the right connections to get her children into amazing schools and made sure they would be well taken care of. I could go on and on but my point is that Andrea turned this tragedy into a gift and gave it to all of us. Her spirit was so strong that sometimes it was hard to believe she was sick at all. Cancer may have killed her, but still did not defeat her as she lived and laughed and loved till the day she died.

A Day To Remember

July 8th, 2008

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The memorial is Monday July 14th at:
New Life Philadelphia Presbyterian Church
425 East Roosevelt Blvd (At D Street and Bingham Street, next to the park…looks like a synagogue)
Philadelphia, PA 19120
Phone: 215-324-4566

The memorial is scheduled to start at 9:30am

There will be light refreshments afterwards.

July 5th, 2008

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My lovely wife passed away at 10:30 this morning. She had a long slow decline from breathing complications that started at around 4 in the afternoon on the 4th. Perfectly fitting as she always loved fireworks so much in fact that she tried to talk me in to having our wedding on the fourth of July. Take a moment to think of her when you see the sky light up. Last night was by far the hardest night of my life (which says a lot), but the peace that remained and the knowledge that the pain is gone was truly awe inspiring. Orion and Naomi will go down in my list of saints forever as they stood by me through all. The children got to hold their mommy and whisper sweet nothings into her ear one last time as I called them home from the forth of July festivities when I became sure that she would cross over soon. She was well medicated but responded to them in a way that was painfully beautiful to watch. I have been up since 6 am yesterday and am grieving the loss of my best friend, but know that I am lucky to have shared the kind of love we had with her. If you want to know how you can help, you can… Pray for us, give us some room to grieve, hug your children like never before, and if you want to share $ I will be dividing the paypal donations between a trust for the kids, summer fun for the kids and clays child care.

I am so sorry to bring you sadness

Kelly

July 5th, 2008

Rest

In

Peace

My last blog

July 5th, 2008

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If you are reading this, it means I have passed. I decided to put some final thoughts together in the hope that it will be of comfort to my friends and family. But also to those of you I never met but who felt a connection to me through this blog.

Blog. I hate that word. It is so silly and trivial. I thought of this as an online journal. One designed to keep my loved ones aware of what was happening to me. I wrote as honestly as I was able. I have looked at many older entries and realized that my feelings about death, dying, and cancer changed as I grew more sick. While I never feared death I often feared treatment.

Cancer treatment is hard. Really hard. The chemo, scans, medications…it is physically daunting. I was willing to subject myself to it all to have even a little more time with my husband,children,and loved ones. It was worth it. I would say that I packed a lot of living into that year while I was dying. I was still me. I was still engaged with my friends. I still was able to love and be here for all of them when they needed me. I still changed diapers and played games. Kelly and I fought like a married couple and loved like one too.

I learned a lot over the year that I battled this dreaded disease. I learned that it is not in our best interest to hold out expectations to God. He is not Santa Clause. He does what is right and good. This was my path. My journey in this world was difficult and painful but important in my spiritual growth. I learned that we have to be happy despite our circumstances. We can’t say I will be happy when…. No sweeties be happy now because today is all you have.

I learned that all the small stuff is very small and not worth your time and attention. Gossip and resentments,worrying about things that never happen, fearing the unknown. Let it go my lovelies, breath and just be good to each other. I realized not long after my diagnosis that life is too short to spend it hurting people and holding onto the anger we have for those around us. I am no doormat, but I just let go of all that hard core resentment. God forgives us through the blood of His Son. He forgives those who hurt us as well.

I am sure that some of you are profoundly saddened by my passing. Death is far more about the living than the dead. But I believe in my whole heart that this is what was meant to be for us all. My friends rallied around us and supported us in every way imaginable. What an incredible gift. That was a lesson in selflessness for them. And in acceptance for my family. My children have many wonderful people to rely on. Their father, step father, grandparents, and friends. I have no doubt that they will be devastated. But in time these wounds will heal and reveal themselves to be battle scars that serve as a testimony to their inner fortitude. My children will move mountains.

Kelly wants to keep the journey going. He intends to chronicle about their lives without me. About the loss and the recovery from tragedy. Maybe you will all be as uplifted and comforted by his words as well. My children will write too, sharing their experience. Thank you all for participating in my life. For providing sweet words of encouragement and prayer. I pray that none of you will ever get cancer, it sucks. But if you do or someone you love does I pray some of my words are a comfort to you all. Have a wonderful life. I will have a wonderful afterlife.

Andrea Collins Smith

I proudly offer you…

July 4th, 2008

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Our son Jesse, 16, amazing, responsible, and trained in cpr to boot is looking for a few new baby sitting clients this summer. He is really amazing with toddlers and younger children and will give your child his undivided attention in a way that most teens will not. I am very confident in his abilities. I am proud of him and recommend him highly. you can call me @ 215 806 9540 or call him if you know him already.

Ps Jesse is such an awesome big brother to clay that I have probably about a hundred picture to choose from on this post but I chose this one because Jesse rocks!

Thanks
Kelly

A torch to carry

July 2nd, 2008

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Some times I feel like I’m waiting for Christmas. Only darker. My wife becomes more and more ready to take flight of this world every day. I want her pain to stop. I want everything she believes as a Christian to be true. I don’t want god to be Santa Clause as she likes to say, Just a divine being who keeps his promises. She has taught me much about living, loving and parenting. Many of you make make very uplifting comments when I write. Sometimes flattering, but I’m just a guy trying to do the right thing in the moment. Lord knows that was not always my story. I need to spend a moment to thank all of you for your support both in building my strength through your words and allowing me to take some time out with my family in this trying time. Many of you have never met my wife and love her because of the way she has invited you in to this current journey, some of you know her in real time and love her because of the beautiful energy that she radiates and her unique way of parenting. I have begun to write some Andrea stories that I intend to post after she passes so that all of you might know her a little better outside of this chapter of life. I hope to let you all see her through my eyes. I think I was in love when I saw her staring at me through that coffee shop window, have been ever since. I’ll post more when the time is right but for now we can keep learning from Andrea.

Once again thank you
Kelly

House Visits

July 1st, 2008

My schedule is all messed up. I sleep a lot of the day. I sleep most of the night. I can’t sleep for a few hours in the middle of the night. And I wake up early but want to go back to sleep soon after. Yesterday Ed showed up to give me acupuncture. I think it was 8:15 am. I was showered and dressed but had fallen back to sleep. My headache and nausea improved. As well as my hip pain. We all rounded up and headed over to Megan and David’s house to look at the new house. There were 15 of us!!! Poor Megan thought she was going to have a chance to clean up. Oh well. We can look past the debris from work and see the lovely home. As we wandered through going this would be good blah blah blah it struck me that I will never live there. And even though I was still happy for my family, I was a little less excited about the huge beautiful master bedroom that will be my husband’s. Dying is very inconvenient.

We also attempted to get Alec a new cell phone as his is broke. I got what few things done that I could. Clay napped and went to the Please Touch museum with his grandparents. Kelly tried to get a prescription filled for me. We had pizza for lunch and a friend brought dinner. I slept all day. And I would wake and then sleep some more. Bone hurting, body hurting sleep. Eyes heavy and walking like I am intoxicated. I am actually using the commode in my bedroom because the stairs are so daunting. We have a wheel chair which I am considering using tomorrow. We have an appointment for a tour of Penn Charter and I do not think I have the stamina for that. I will also need a ride to acupuncture afterwards. Right now it is making a big difference in how I feel. Today’s big outing is to get another colonic. I am still struggling to go to the bathroom. No matter what I eat. Which is very little since I lack a desire to eat. Last night Kelly bought some crab and lobster to give me some of my favorite food. I was too sick to eat. My husband said the lobster was awful. The crab was good and he trying to talk me into eating it with eggs for breakfast.We’ll see.

Some days I feel my body rushing towards death. New growths in my neck. New pain. Sleeping all day. I think is this what death feels like? I have no idea. So I wait. Death used to live on my couch maintaining a safe distance. Now he hands me a boarding pass I can not read. And I hope that God really forgives me for all the crappy stuff I have done.I think I will meet him in the not to distant future. And iI no loger pray for more time. I really want to be in Heaven now. ASAP.

Pushing the envelope

June 29th, 2008

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I sleep in now. For the first time in decades. I just can’t jump out of bed and do the mom stuff. Cereal and toast your own bagels will have to do for the older kids. Clay has to be with Naomi overnight or Kelly has to be nudged out of his coma for daddy duty. I am awake in the middle of the night due to pain. And to take pain meds I have to eat some kind of food or I get very nauseous. And then I end up “awake”. So my days do not start until 10 or 11am.This seems indulgent to me. As a mom there is something selfish about sleeping in. I know parents who have done it but I always thought them to be “bad” ones. Surely, an awake child needs an awake engaged mom or dad. Kelly is somewhat engaged…I think. It does not relieve my guilt. But it still doesn’t mean I can get out of bed. I want to hang out with the kids.My time is sensitive. And still I sleep.

I spent several hours yesterday filling out birthday cards for the next two years. For all of them. A different card for each child, each age. Filled out with different color ink. Cards that were chosen specifically for that child. Birthday cards from heaven licked and sealed awaiting a future uncertain for my children. I wasn’t sure if this was even a good idea. Would it make them cry? Would it weird them out? Should my time be better spent engaged with them? I did spend time with Bailey playing games. Tuck and I are spending time together today. Jesse and I hung out but he barely spoke. Always a quiet and sensitive boy talking with him can be like pulling teeth. “Jesse I am too tired to figure out the right questions to unlock Pandora’s box”, I said. “Ok let’s play a game”. His only comment was that I was lucky to leave this world since it such an awful place. “Don’t kill yourself please”, I responded to his truly morose statement. “Oh no I won’t”, he assured me. Whew crisis averted. We played Boggle and I won.

We went for a visit to Don and Sheena’s ,with our youngest two kids, while the older boys went to see Devo(A family favorite) While we were there I went in and out of sleepy sick to my stomach mode. Combined with sweating and headache. Leaving the house is getting harder and harder. I feel like I am just overwhelmed by it all. Car sick, too much activity, etc. I don’t like to eat. I don’t like the heat. I am tired. But I don’t know what that means because I am still pretty feisty. I spent a good 20 minutes yelling at the top of my lungs when the boys failed to come when they were told to. Kelly said at this rate I will live forever. As long as my children need me. It is so hard to let go. I am a mom…I want to make the rules and have them followed from beyond the grave. After a lot of finger pointing and he said she said Jesse was in trouble. As was my ex-husband. Whom I tried to have a civil conversation with regarding curfews and such. He argued for 15 minutes that they were having a good time blah blah blah. I said, “I don’t care if you all were partying with Jesus next time call and find out what time they are supposed to be home.”

So some things never change. Everyone has an opinion and some of them stink. Like the drama the came out in the last batch of comments. Nonsense. I am dying. I can not stand such petty displays. Do you know it costs $1,000 to be cremated? And we do not have it. Nor do we know how we are going to get it. Bailey is in need of braces but is 1 point shy of getting through medical assistance. Her teeth are bad. We will find a way to finance them as well. And then there are shoes. Clothing for school. How dare someone say we are not “in need”. Yes we did fine before I got sick. But now that my husband has to/is working less to be with me and I do not work and we spent a lot of money on childcare because of my illness we are in financial difficulty. Thank you to everyone who has helped. But for the woman who thought we did not need any help shame on you. You have no idea.

But I am far from expecting anything. To the contrary I am very happy with the blessings and rarely worry about any of it. And it is my faith that keeps me from worrying. And keeps me smiling. And I am allowed to mention religion and money all I want on my blog. My story my rules. Don’t like? Go home.