Fight Like A Girl: Rest In Peace, Frehley

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Even though I knew this news was coming, when I read the update from Frehley’s family on Sunday evening I paused and wept. Tears for the pain of the finality of their loss. Tears for the dreams for their daughter that will go unfulfilled. But, also, tears for the peace that their precious daughter now feels in Heaven, in a new body that is cancer-free.

It is with a broken heart that we make this post, Frehley has received her wings as she left us this evening and went to Heaven. She has been such a strong spirit to us and everyone who she met. She faced her opposition and fought it tooth and nail, and truly “Stayed Strong” until the very end! Though we are very sad right now, we take comfort knowing that she is at peace and her fight is over. We thank every one of you who have prayed for, loved, and supported Frehley.

There really are no words to express the emotions most of us parents feel when reading about the death of a child, especially when you know the people involved. Please, keep Frehley’s family in your thoughts and prayers, now and in the weeks and months to come. Their need for love, support and encouragement has not ended. Indeed, a hug or kind word or note is going to be just as important for them as they go through their grieving process. To leave an encouraging word for the Gilmore family you can go to the Stay Strong Frehley Facebook page.

 

In case you are new to my blog and didn’t read the previous posts about Frehley here are the links.

1. Fight Like A Girl: A Matter of Perspective

2. Fight Like A Girl: Update on Frehley

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Fight Like A Girl: Update on Frehley

As many of you will recall, near the end of May I shared the story of Frehley Gilmore, the daughter of my friend AJ. She has been fighting brain cancer for the last three years and her parents had just received the devastating news that the cancer was spreading and that there was nothing more that could be done for her medically. At that point they decided to make a “bucket list” with Frehley to help make as many memories in whatever time they had left with her. I’m happy to report that many items were crossed off her list. A week long trip to California in June included a visit to the San Diego Zoo, Legoland and Disneyland. She also got to meet Hank the Milwaukee Brewers dog, go to Chicago for a few days, see a show at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, and attend Summerfest in Milwaukee. Her family even hosted a birthday bash for her on her golden birthday, July 12, that ended with a spectacular fireworks display (I wasn’t there but I saw video and photographic evidence). 

Frehley at Summerfest

Frehley at Summerfest

Unfortunately, as expected, the medical news is not so good. With AJ’s permission, I wanted to give you all an update on Frehley. He wrote this in a message to me a few days ago.

Her tumors have grown and the cancer is progressing. Though her spirit continues to fight, her body is wearing out, and her battle is nearing its end. Please pass on to your readers that we would like to thank all of the people who have been thinking kind thoughts and saying prayers for Frehley. She rests comfortably.

And here’s the latest post on the “Stay Strong Frehley Facebook Page“, composed by her mom, Lisa.

I am in awe at all the love and support we are receiving, I want you all to know how much we love each and every one of you and only wish the best for all the amazing people supporting my little girl! Hugs from Frehley and her family. Frehley continues to rest peacefully and is continuing to hold on. My husband said something that makes some sense the other day. She continues to fight because that is what she has been doing for 3 years battling and fighting and we think she just doesn’t know how to stop fighting. I just want her to be at peace and know that it is ok to stop fighting and continue to bring her spunk and wittiness to heaven and always show us that we know she will be ok with spreading her wings and bringing us rays of sunshine!
 
Take a moment to reread what her mom and dad wrote. About their twelve year old daughter. But, look deeper. Look at the courage they’re showing in how they’re dealing with this. To the very end both of them are focusing on the peace and well being of their daughter while looking at how she’s going to spread her wings in heaven. Please, if you’re of the praying persuasion, please keep this family in your prayers. Now and in the weeks and months to come. Frehley, you are loved by many who will never meet you. God bless you, sweet girl, as you prepare to make your final journey…to heaven. You will be missed but not forgotten. 
Frozen Lake at Mt. Rainier National Park

Frozen Lake at Mt. Rainier National Park

PS-I made this sign and took it with me on a hike at Mt. Rainier with my son on Saturday. The mountain is a sacred and spiritual place for me. I could think of no better way to honor the inspiration that I’ve drawn from Frehley’s courageous fight than to bring her message to the mountain. Stay Strong, Frehley.

Good Bye, Dad. See you in Heaven.

Holding Dad's Hand

My dad passed away seven years ago today. It’s hard to put into words how much I miss him or how often I think of him. Like all of us, he was not a perfect person. He was flawed. Yet, I knew without a doubt that he loved me and was proud of me. How did I know that? Because he got pancreatic cancer that ultimately took his life. But, in the six weeks between his cancer diagnosis and his passing I was able to spend a lot of time with him. At that time I lived two hours away, so I was able to make frequent day trips with my two year old son (pictured) to visit him. y dad was about 10 days from his death, and his body was being ravaged by the effects of the cancer. His skin was turning orange. He lost so much weight that he looked like a concentration camp survivor. And his once-sharp mind was failing, leaving only fleeting moments of lucidity. It was so hard to watch this man I loved all my life suffer while there was nothing I could do to help him. It was during one of those visits at the Hospice facility that my dad had a brief but oh-so-meaningful conversation with me.

He awoke from his sleep and smiled upon seeing me at his bedside, not remembering that I had been there for several hours already that day. I didn’t know if he was going to talk or go back to sleep, but he spoke, asking about how my family was doing. After my reply he proceeded to tell me that he was very proud the man I had become; of my choice to become a Stay At Home Dad six years before. He continued to tell me that he thought I was a good husband and father and that he was pleased with me. This was new to me, as he had not been very verbally supportive of either my college major (Elementary Education) or my career change (teacher to SAHD). He finished by looking me in the eyes, pulling me in for an embrace, and whispering faintly into my ear, “I love you, Carl.” It was the last meaningful conversation I would have with my dad.

Nine days later, on the evening of May 12, my mom called to tell me that the Hospice staff had called her to let her know that they didn’t think my dad would live much longer. Since the next day was Mother’s Day, I was already planning on driving up to see my mom (and dad). But, after her phone call, I left a bit sooner, arriving at the Hospice center around 11 pm. I entered my dad’s room to find my mom and younger brother (and his wife and young son) already there by his bed. We exchanged hugs and kisses and chatted for a few minutes. After a couple of minutes of silence, we decided to sing a few hymns that were among my dad’s favorites, as music had always been a big part of his life. Once the songs were sung, my brother left to take his family back to my parents’ house so they could sleep (my brother would return). My mom and I sat quietly on either side of my dad’s bed, each of us holding one of his hands as he lay in an unresponsive slumber, the silence only broken by each of his labored breaths. We knew that his time was near. As it was already well past midnight by this time, I quietly noted “Happy Mother’s Day” to my mom.

A little after t 1 am that night I noticed that my dad’s breathing had slowed considerably. I held my mom’s hand while we both held my dad’s hands and said a quick prayer, asking God to take my dad home soon so that he wouldn’t suffer any longer. Minutes later, while we were singing a solemn “Amazing Grace” between tears and deep breaths, my dad breathed his last breaths and entered his new home. It was the most sacred and solemn moment of my entire life, to be with a loved one, praying him into the Kingdom. I take great comfort in my faith, believing that I will see my dad again, only this time it will be in Heaven and he won’t be suffering. Later that day, while talking with my kids on the phone about what had happened during the early morning hours of Mother’s Day, one of my kids said something that changed my perspective about the sadness of him dying on Mother’s Day. “It’s okay, Daddy. Now Papa gets to spend Mother’s Day with his mommy in Heaven.”

Good bye, Dad. See you in Heaven.