Dear Friends and Family,
There is no easy way to start a letter that recaps a year where our family faced cancer, death and job loss except to say that we are incredibly, overwhelmingly blessed. This year has been a journey from the highest peaks to the darkest depths and the impossibility of sharing it all with you on this single page stands before me.
On March 28th of this year, Jen’s beloved Nan was freed from the infirmity and dementia that was plaguing her and we know she is far happier today than we can imagine. We miss her. Jen’s dad received the benefits of chemo that gave us the miracle, and gift, of time. We try to cherish today instead of worrying about the uncertainty of tomorrows. Jen’s kidney cancer was discovered and quickly removed and she is healthy and in need of no further treatment. Shel had unexpected time off to spend the summer with our children and care for his wife as she recovered from her surgery and then found a new job just when the time was right. And most importantly and amazingly, we became parents to two of the greatest blessings we could have ever imagined.
It was a time that felt the darkest. Shel had just lost his job, Jen felt overwhelmed with the difficult recovery from her surgery. Papa was sick and Nan was gone. We 6 felt scared and alone. And in the greatest orchestration of circumstances and fate, along came two angels to make us smile again. Miss Curious was 12 months old, her baby sister Miss Tiny, a mere 8 weeks. The world might say that they needed us, but we know we needed them more. God, in His wisdom, had orchestrated the impossible to be possible. Jen was off work, and Shelby too. We had the time and made the room. You cannot sit and cry when a baby laughs her first laugh. There is no room for fear and moping when diapers need changing and cuddles given.
Seeing the world through the eyes of hurting children allowed us to heal as we met their needs for love, security and a family. All of it, every single moment of fear and sickness was made worth it in the smiles of our baby girls. We do not know what the future holds for the girls, but we do know they will hold on to our hearts for eternity and we will be forever grateful for their arrival in our lives and family that blustery spring day.
The boys rose to meet the challenges of this year with grace and strength. Greg is almost 15. Serious about his sports and his school, his life is full of hockey practices, tournaments and studying on the bus. He is a beautiful boy, who looks like a man, both inside and out. His favorite time of day is seeing the smiles of the babies when he gets home from school.
Eric, now 13 and a half, has excelled in Grade 8 this year. His ready smile has made him a hit with the ladies, big and small. “Romeo” , as he is called by teachers, has more fashion sense and skills than the rest of the family combined. On more than one occasion he will send mom back to change the girls with a reminder “you can NOT take them out looking like THAT mom!”. He rocks!
Tanner, tall and lanky, is now 12. He left French, and he now goes to school just down the road and can come for baby hugs and food any lunch hour he chooses. His attitude is always good and never wavered!
Caden, 8, happily gave up his place as the baby of the family, but never his place on his mom’s lap. His constant words of encouragement and hope helped glue the whole family together this year. He quit hockey to swim and is thrilled!
Shel is working in a field he never, ever expected. It’s hard work and long hours, but it’s a job for which we are thankful. Jen is home with the girls and loving every moment of it. Her recovery has been long and emotions raw much of the year, but she continues to write on the blog and finds that a great comfort.
Annie, the dog, is still around to dig in the garbage thanks only to the generosity of Jen’s incredible readers who raised money for a life saving surgery. Trippy, a very, very, very dumb Jack Russell, also joined our family this year. You will recognize him if you come visit because he will be the dog peeing on your leg.
It goes without saying that this year has been hard. And truthfully, it was at times unbearable. You have surrounded us with prayers, meals, chocolates, donations, encouragement, and hugs. We would not have survived it without you. We could not have. Thank you for walking this journey with us. Let’s hope next year’s letter is easier to write, and easier to read.
This Christmas season, we chose to count our blessings. For six children we adore, for health we appreciate, for each day together, for memories good and bad; For an extended family that encompasses so many, for lessons that taught us what is truly valuable, and most importantly for the Reason for this season.
Merry Christmas Love,
Shel, Jen, Greg, Eric, Tanner, Caden, The Girls, Annie and Trippy