This blog is made up of thoughts for my children as I battle cancer. It is not meant to be all knowing or holier than thou. It is simply a place for those that have asked, to read about the lessons that I would like to share with my children, whether I am able to stay with them, or not.



As I contemplate what I have left in this life, my thoughts often turn to “What have I done with this gift so far?” The answer to that question is exactly as deep and complex as the question. I can choose to look at it from a very high level and say that I have made mistakes, but overall, feel pretty good about my efforts. That is fine for maintenance purposes, but as I begin this Introduction from a hospital bed afflicted with Stage IV Prostate Cancer at 40 years old, it is not sufficient. The prognosis for my disease lies somewhere between 6 months and 2 years.

The odd thing about life is its ever changing definitions and standards. When I was younger, I would characterize life as freedom to make my own decisions and choices, beholden to no one. When I married, my life felt like it was intangible, yet to be defined, like a ghost. It was something that I was working towards, a goal. My wife and I were building a life together. It was like watching our first home being built. I saw the foundation, then the structure come into focus. Eventually, we began to see the frame taking shape to resemble our dreams and expectations. After we had children, my life completely became our life. Our life developed into defined roles. Some, my wife assumed, while others became mine. Instead of a mist that was formed by the particles of a concept, life became tangible and required research, planning, and action. I didn’t think of me anymore. Me became us. Not all the time. I’m not so full of myself to disregard times of selfishness, but my family of four, was ONE. I felt that one of my main roles and responsibilities was to provide for my family. To provide is a concept that isn’t only financial, but also to make sure that essential necessities of life were available to my family. Sometimes it was paid for, sometimes it was a shoulder, and sometimes, it was just time.

Not too long ago, our life changed. At 39, what was thought to be Prostatitis was diagnosed as Advanced and Metastatic Prostate Cancer. The cancer had left the prostate and spread to the lymph nodes, bladder, hips, pelvis, ribs, sternum, shoulder blades, and spine. My vision of life turned into a fight to live. My children, ages 9 and 11 became the focus of that fight.

As I pondered that high level question of whether I have done enough with my life, it inevitably became a much deeper question with much deeper answers. The more I thought about the question, the more I realized that the answer was much more involved than, “basically, I did fine.” The fact that I have 2 young children that I may not see progress into adulthood told me all that I needed to know. No matter what I had ever done, unless I left a road map for them, it could never be enough.

So what did I want for them? Easy enough. Everything. The best. All they could dream and all that they desired. As I prepared to make sure that they had all of these things, I realized that wanting these things at a high level, but not defining or measuring what that meant or telling them how to achieve it was the equivalent of calling them to my death bed, shaking their hands, and telling them, “Good Luck!” If that is all I give them, I have not done nearly enough.

These writings then, are exactly that. I don’t know how long I will have before I am called from this place, but I want my wife and children to know what I mean when I say, “I want the best for you.” I want them to feel my spirit with them, even if my body cannot. Mostly, I want my immeasurable love for them to be felt eternally as they progress through this life. I love them with every particle of my being and it overwhelms me. I want them to always know that without question. I want to define what “The Best” means to me and the values that make the type of person who lives that kind of life. This is for them, in the hopes that it will give them a map to use, whether I am there to guide them in this life, or the next.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Secrets of Our Marriage

These can’t be called the Secrets of Marriage because it would be volumes, not paragraphs. The other big reason is that I do not know all the secrets of other marriages. They are each like different people. Each has its own needs and fulfillments. Each has its own roles and dynamics. I do know that finding it in your own marriage, with your spouse, is possibly one of the greatest gifts that can ever be received.

Secret #1 in your marriage is that we never speak badly about each other, in public or private. Not ever in front of them or behind their back. Even joking comments that are meant to be harmless usually are not. Derogatory comments will develop into derogatory thoughts. These thoughts will become destructive words or actions. Mean spirited comments about anyone, especially your spouse can’t be pulled back. It does not matter how sincerely you apologize, once your words are out, you can’t bring them back in. You own them and the consequences of them. It is far easier to cultivate the respect that you have for your spouse and let that guide your comments than to continually test your marriage with disrespect.

Secret # 2 is similar in regards to #1. You will have differences in opinion with your spouse. Some things are minor enough to back off of those and fight the battles that you feel strongly about. Those will happen from time to time also. The important part is determining if you are arguing for the betterment of your family and to enrich the direction that they will need to take, or are you arguing for the sake of pride, just to win. If one spouse feels very strongly about the direction the family needs to take, and it is not a subject that you feel strongly about, it is time to let the partnership in marriage determine that you should back down and listen to the counsel of your partner. If you both feel strongly about different sides of an argument and it does end up in heated discussion, here is the important part, always discuss the issue, the whole issue, and nothing but the issue with respect for the other. The arguments that lead to items listed in Secret #1 are due to pride interfering in a discussion that you feel you are losing. Never, ever, let personal issues invade heated discussions. Always deal with the issue at hand, look for common ground to build on slowly and deliberately, and never draw personal and hurtful comments into an argument or discussion.
Secret #3 is that I have no close female friends and your mother has no close male friends. We have acquaintances of the opposite sex, but not close friends. It may seem old-fashioned and overly cautious, but through 14 years of marriage, it has worked well for us. Not only does it take away any temptations of impropriety, but it takes away the jealous thoughts I may have incorrectly formed about a close male friend of your Mom’s. If I have real worries, even if they are not true, about a close male friend that your Mom has, it can lead to hurt feelings and destructive action on my part, all because of something that has not even happened! It is not just a matter of trust. As close male/female friends go through tough times in their own marriages or single life, you may be asked to console them or they may share intimate details of their situation that can cause conflicting thoughts about your own marriage. You may find things in common with them that make you question if your own marriage is satisfactory to you. That is why it is important to choose the correct mate for you. (A subject for a separate writing). Even the doubt of whether you have married correctly is highly dangerous and damaging. The actions that follow these thoughts can create problems and hurt feelings difficult to overcome. Can a true alcoholic take just one drink? Maybe. Is the wreckage of finding out that he can’t worth it? Likely not. When you look for the companionship of the opposite sex solely in your own spouse and the mysteries and joy of building that friendship and relationship that spans the eternities you will know one of the truly greatest gifts from God.
I know I have listed only 3 Secrets to Our Marriage here and I know that there are many more. If you diligently find the right spouse for you and follow these 3 steps, the other ones will be a great joy to find with your own spouse. A family is like a small business sometimes. You need to discuss and trust with your spouse and find patterns of things that make you both happy and give your marriage fulfillment. Then incorporate them into your lives and keep looking. As you implement them, your relationship will grow beyond the temptations and you will find what your Mom and Dad have found in each other. The only thing greater is to bring children into this world born out of that love. Don’t misunderstand that it is not right to conflict in opinion with your spouse. It will happen many times, and it should. Your opinions and feelings are a valid and equal part of the relationship you will form. But always question the motivation of the discussion. Is it to help your family grow or is it to justify something you have already done or that your pride wants you to do. We all grow frustrated and angry and need to express it. Do it constructively, and it will strengthen your marriage, not weaken it.
I always love you and pray that you will find in your spouse what I have found in your Mother.