Journal

Journal entry by Kerry Zeka

They’re out there...brick walls. And they can be a bugger to deal with when stumbled upon. I’ve known this personal brick wall of mine has existed for a long time, but I chose to turn and walk away from it.  Honestly, I flat out blatantly ignored it as it perched high upon a shelf in the garage. This obstacle presented itself in the form of a non-threatening card board box. On two sides is written in black sharpie the contents of this box. It’s the paper contents that have caused me great anxiety. To some, the simple solution would be to just chuck it, lock, stock and barrel unopened into the garbage, but I know myself well enough to know that that would be detrimental for me. There would be a severe level of guilt overshadowing me if I chose that route. I needed to confront my dread and try my best to get past it. This brick wall, this emotional obstacle for me was innocently marked, “Sicily Sympathy Cards.” 
     On Wednesday I dug through old photos looking for some Halloween mementos to share. There was a pang of sadness as I did this, but more than anything I felt a sense of happiness for all the wonderful memories we had created. I shed a tear or two, but all the while grinning and chuckling. It was a good thing and I relished the feelings and emotions that were created as a result.
     On Thursday I got the uncharacteristic urge to go through some rarely opened kitchen cabinets and start the process of reorganizing and purging for a future relocation. Yep, I said relocation...we will be vacating this house and moving out of Broken Arrow by the summer of 2020. That’s still in the distant future, but I’ve committed myself to not procrastinate with my procrastination, hence the sudden urge to start going through things around the house. As I began pulling those once-a-year used crystal glasses from above the cabinet over the fridge, I came face to face with another forgotten piece of Sicily’s narrative. There before me was a yellow plastic drinking receptacle with eyes bugging out and a protruding pink tongue on the verge of reaching out and licking my face...one of Sicily’s favorite cups featuring non other than Sponge Bob Squarepants. This simple cup would mean nothing to others, but to me it is an object with extreme emotional attachment. This inconspicuous child’s cup sat on the nightstand by our bed night after night during the month of March back in 2010. One night, after getting Sicily settled in and situated for the long night, Patrick turned off the bedside lamp. She then shortly expressed the desire for a drink of water. Patrick turned the lamp back on and handed me her yellow cup as I gently propped her up.  She took charge of her cup and drank several sips of water...for the very last time. That cup somehow slipped into the shadows for the past eight years. Seeing it again crippled and strengthened me at the same time. I was so surprised to see it and felt like I had been socked in the gut, yet I also felt a sense of relief that we still had it and was thankful for its incredible representation. It gave our little girl her very last taste of water...the very sustenance of life, both physically and spiritually. 
     After these two events, I began to feel like I could conquer more obstacles, which brings me to my big brick wall. That box had recently made its way from the dusty garage shelf into the house where it sat unassuming on the living room floor. I stared it down and spent many a moment convincing myself it had no power over me. I finally decided to load it into the back of my vehicle and take it to my happy place where I could hopefully release its hold on me. Patrick confessed his inability to assist in the endeavor...he knows his limits. Going through and re-reading sympathy cards sent after your daughter’s death was more than he could handle. I get it. Again, there was an easier solution, but I know my limits, too. So Saturday evening I sat down with a beautiful lake view calming my nerves and I opened the box. No bats flew out and no surprises confronted me, just neatly aligned  envelopes lined up in two adjacent rows. I had already solved the nagging question of what to do with all these endearing sentiments of condolence. I decided to cut small fragments and scraps out of each card and make a mosaic piece of artwork to frame and display. This idea peeked my desire to proceed. So I did. But I didn’t expect the blindfolded rollercoaster ride before me. Written words in a diverse assortment of penmanship expressed over and over their sorrow and their own grief for the loss of such a young soul. I read through them as if for the first time. In hindsight I’m sure my first reading was clouded by the freshness of the tragedy. But now the words and sentiments sunk deeply into my heart and soul. It was overwhelming. I had imagined myself hitting that brick wall, crashing through it and just continuing on my way. That was my plan. Instead I hit it at full force and  crumpled up like a crash test dummy. Now my head is throbbing. My nose won’t stop running. My heart aches so deeply.  But I did it. I conquered my wall. I am emotionally drained but I feel a sense of accomplishment. I am excited for the day I sit down and create my masterpiece to represent all the love and support we received during the most trying time in our lives. What an amazing blessing!
    All I can say now is, “Take that wall...you’ve been successfully conquered!re
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Journal entry by Kerry Zeka

   It’s been exactly three thousand six hundred and fifty days...ten years...a whole decade since our lives changed beyond what we could’ve ever thought or fathomed. A heartbreaking nightmare transformed into our new reality in the blink of an eye. One day we are nonchalantly going about our uncomplicated lives and the next day we are faced with unbearable news and oppressive decision making. August 22, 2008 became what we refer to as our family’s personal d-day...diagnosis day. It’s when we heard our daughter’s name paired in the same sentence as that hideous word “cancer.” We were blown away, horribly stunned, and completely overwhelmed. I recall feeling my mouth move that day, but I don’t recollect anything I said. I remember my legs alternating steps one after another, but I don’t know where they carried me or how they held me up. I had never felt so full of fear and anguish in my life! How was I going to emotionally and mentally survive this? What will become of our lives?
     In spite of my immensely stubborn skepticism, the passing of time truly did have a beautiful way of softening the rough edges of all those arduous memories. They will forever be a part of my life’s patchwork quilt...I honestly don’t want them to fade away, ever! Instead of letting them overpower me with despondency, I consciously allow them to inundate me and remind me of how truly blessed my life really is. I’m not only surviving a heartbreak I thought was inconceivable, I am joyously unrestrained in my life! I love life! I love the gifts and blessings that continue to be bestowed upon me. I am grateful that my eyes are wide open and my heart continues to love limitlessly and unconditionally. There is a preeminent purpose to every single thing we experience in life. We are shaped and molded by these occurrences...the good, the bad, and everything else that falls in between. Do I wish August 22, 2008 was just another ordinary day that I was able to cross off with my lime green marker on my calendar? It would be much easier to answer that inquiry with a simple “yes,” but I can honestly respond with a much sincerer and truthful statement: I am a stronger, kinder, more empathetic, more understanding, more patient, more insightful (feel free to insert any other phenomenal attributes here ☺️) me today because of the journey that began back on August 22, 2008!  No thank you time machine, I’m gonna stay right here. God’s Will be done!
     And Sicily...”I love you all the way to heaven!!!” 😘

Journal entry by Kerry Zeka


 
My precious Sicily...
it's been eight years since your sweet and feisty soul slipped away, bound for it's eternal home beyond the pearly gates. Yet, many a day I still feel your presence impacting so many aspects of my life. Sometimes, when I am scared or in fear of the unknowns, your incredible bravery washes over me and I  feel an unexplained and "unKerry-like" calmness. That must be you...that stout soldier disguised in the frail body of a little girl battling cancer. The little girl, who after enduring so much, could still mutter, in a whisper, the words, "I'm brave...I'm brave!"
I carry your strength with me everyday! Some days I think I over use it and end up running short because fear still manages to creep in...but you are always there in my heart reminding me that I can do it. I can make it through anything. Not only can I survive, but I can flourish...and become a better human being because of you! Thank you, God, for letting me have Sicily in my life...then and now.

Journal entry by Kerry Zeka

It truly is hard to believe that Sicily has been gone now longer than she was physically alive!  Today we celebrate her five year "Angelversary."  I use the term "celebrate" with heartfelt honesty, because everything about her life is worth celebrating...even her death, crazy as that may sound!  She was just a few weeks shy of her fifth birthday when she passed away, so in my mind and in my heart I always felt this particular day would be one of significant symbolism. It's really not. It's just another day of life. A life filled with possible adventures and joys...experiences and potential trials...and incredible blessings, both known and unknown.  Indeed it is another day without the ones we love who have passed onwards and upwards...but isn't it another day closer to them, as well?  
"Happy Day, Everyone!" God Bless!

Journal entry by Kerry Zeka

“To find a rainbow,

You must weather a storm.”

 

      Oh how I’ve missed sitting down and expelling every little thought, emotion and perception that fills my mind, heart and soul!  I miss this so much!  Being able to unload and share all the struggles, heartbreaks, joys and accomplishments our family experienced was such an important and meaningful part of an incredible period in my life.  I’ve been suppressing an insatiable desire for so long to sit down and spill the endless ramble that has continued to build up inside of me.  It’s hard to know where to even begin, so I will just dive in…emotions first!

     Life is wonderful.  Life is hard. Life is what it is…it’s as beautiful as you decide to make it and let it be!

     I feel like my current emotions are best described as a person walking a tight rope. I carefully place one foot in front of the other as I make my way across a narrow strand of wire high up in the sky. I’m shaky at times…my balance is not the greatest!  When the wind is still and my confidence is unshakeable,  I’m fantastic…footloose and fancy free! But it seems like anytime I experience a shift in life’s daily activities, whether it’s positive or negative in nature, I became more wobbly and unstable.  The security I crave of maintaining an emotional balance always seems to be just out of my reach. 

     The speed of life has been one of which I can barely keep up with, but it’s a ride I find thrilling and exciting and I’m blessed to be on it!  

     It is hard to believe it’s been over six years now since Sicily’s cancer diagnosis. I can close my eyes and almost regurgitate the feelings that were produced that day…feelings of panic, desperation, confusion, dread and the overwhelming fear of the unknown.  Our little girl had cancer.  What do we do…how do we handle this?  And the worst fear of all, what if she can’t beat this and we lose her? How does life go on?

     I truly believe that in these past four years since Sicily’s passing, I have accepted and understood her purpose in my life and the lives of those who allowed her to touch them.  I consciously make the decision on a daily basis to accept God’s will.  I make an effort to carry peace in my heart and hold tightly to the grace God so generously shares with me, whenever I ask Him for it…and even when I forget to!  Have I perfected this ability?  Absolutely not!  Despite all this conscious effort, something always seemed to be missing…there was a void I couldn’t quite define or explain. It wasn’t just the natural vacancy of Sicily’s physical presence, but something I couldn’t put my finger on…until last Easter.

     The week before this past Easter was naturally a time of reflection and tender emotions.  Sicily would’ve celebrated her ninth birthday on April 15th.  Her funeral was right before Holy week in 2010.  I photographed our other three children for the first time without their little sister on that Easter Sunday.  They held a pair of white feathery angel wings to represent her heavenly presence despite her physical absence. That time of year is always going to be an understood difficult time for us. There is no getting around it, and that’s okay.  

     The movie, “Heaven Is For Real” had just been released in theaters days before Sicily’s birthday.  I had anxiously read the book as soon as it was published late in 2010.  Many, like myself, who have lost a loved one, are constantly looking for and seeking reassurance in the existence of the afterlife…the promise of eternity in paradise…the proof that Heaven is really real!  We desperately want confirmation that our loved one is where we hope and pray for them to be…that they are above the heavenly stars watching over us…that though we can’t tangibly see them, they are with us and always will be. How can we achieve this belief without some kind of proof?  Proof is all around us.  It’s everywhere.  The key to the proof is having eyes that see.  Not the same eyes that see the words you are reading in this message, but the eyes of the soul that see beyond what is blatant.  It’s in the way the clouds form into the shape of wings in the sky…the incredible scheme of colors a rainbow boasts after a storm…the way the sun sparkles and twinkles as it dances across the rippling waters of a lake. That is enough proof for me that heaven must exist! If this beauty prevails on earth, what must heaven be like?  Proof is sometimes sent through the vessel of innocent children, as it was told in the story of one little boy.  I already felt like I had my own proof when Miss Judi Ann shared her story with me (see August 4, 2011 entry) about Sicily’s angelic visit.

     This past Easter Sunday I decided we needed to go see the movie, “Heaven Is For Real” as a family.  Again, I had already read the book and knew what to expect, but just wanted to see it played out by actors on a big screen.  I like the idea that others believe in the reality of heaven as I do. I did cry, of course, but mainly because at one point in the movie it shows a little bald girl sitting in a hospital bed.  Flashbacks overwhelmed my mind and all I could do was sit there and think of Sicily.  Much like when Patrick and I recently watched the movie “Patch Adams” for the first time. There, again, was a little girl with a beautiful bald head shown laying in a hospital bed… images that are not foreign to us because we have far too many of our own that are awakened and replayed from time to time.

      The movie, itself, on Easter Sunday, was not what made such an impact on me and was so life altering, but it was the days after when I felt myself slipping into the familiar pit of sadness, likely triggered by the avalanche of emotions from the previous week.  I just felt overwhelmed with anguish.  So I did what has become part of my daily life…I talked to God.  My daily prayers are usually full of requests for others, as they should be, but my conversations with God are, well, what can I say…they’re self centered! That day, the Tuesday following Easter, in my conversation with God, I cried to Him about how much I missed my little girl.  I shed tears as I told him how I would do anything if only I could have her back, even if for a brief moment, just to hug her again and tell her over and over how much I love her…to the point where she tells me I’m “annoying her!”  To my surprise, in the greatest fantasy of my mind, God said, “I will give precious Sicily back to you, but there is one condition… only one.”  In my dream of dreams my heart races and I excitedly agree to God that I will do anything, absolutely anything He asks of me, just to have one brief encounter with my beloved daughter.  God’s condition, simple as it may sound, was that I have to give up the person I’ve become as a result of Sicily’s cancer battle and her death, and I have to go back to being the person I was before this tragedy.  “What’s to give up,” I thought.  My heart and my mind are overjoyed. “That’s it?  That’s all we have to do?”  They are ecstatic about the thought of being reunited with Sicily!  Who could blame them?  But my soul, the very center of my spirituality, calmly and graciously turns God down.  “No, I’m very sorry, but we cannot accept that condition.  You see, because of Sicily’s death, Kerry has discovered what life is genuinely about.  She appreciates now how God employs all of life’s experiences for the good of those who follow Him...especially the heart-rendering and unexplainable trials and tragedies that tend to leave us without any kind of understanding. She has learned to let peace and unconditional love reside in her heart. True unconditional love…love with no conditions what so ever!  She practices unequivocal acceptance of God’s Will in her mind…and her soul has discovered and embraced His amazing infinite Grace. Without Sicily’s death, Kerry might not have had the opportunity to discover these priceless treasures!  Sicily’s life and death were the spiritual catalyst Kerry so desperately needed!”

     I was temporarily struck by a mother’s guilt for the answer that so quickly resonated in my soul…turning down the opportunity to see Sicily again.  But I understood the bigger picture here!  I finally had my spiritual epiphany…something I have long desired and searched for!  That elusive void in my mind seemed to finally dissipate.  That annoying and baffling feeling of deficiency in my heart was no longer a heavy burden.  The personal spiritual strength I have found and am now experiencing is so hard to translate into mere words, but it’s all because of what God has provided through Sicily’s life and death!  Not that I ever asked the question of God, “Why,” which is totally okay and a natural human reaction…but for some reason, I’ve always felt the answer was, “Because…I Am God!  Be patient and watch what I can do with this!” 

     I still miss my little girl with every sunrise and sunset…every breath I inhale and exhale…and every beat of my thriving heart! Tears will always find a way to fill my eyes; I hope they never completely evaporate!  I continue to have days when I look up at the sky towards the heavens and wonder how I can explain to others how I am able to live life without Sicily.  The answer is simple…and complicated.  Simple, because God’s Grace is with me at all times.  Complicated only because I am human and sometimes that which is not seen is hard to grasp and comprehend.  I feel that I am a better human being because of her brief existence!  God became clearly visible to me, through her!  His Amazing Grace can do anything!!! 

May His Grace and Peace be with you all…no matter what!

 

“I believe that tears can heal…

That memories can comfort…

That love lives on forever.”

Journal entry by Kerry Zeka

Plain and simple...Sicily is still missed with every breath God still allows me to inhale! I can still envision her sweet magnetic smile, her love for life laughter, and her strong hugs created by skinny little arms. When I close my eyes and let my heart and mind tune out the world around me, I can still imagine how it felt to hold her in my arms. God has blessed my life with an abundance of happiness these past eight months that have sped by since I last updated this site. So many times I've wanted to sit and pour out my soul as I did for so long since that fateful day in August 2008 when we learned of Sicily's cancer! It is still hard to grasp that it was two years ago this very day that our precious little pocketful of sunshine peacefully passed away in my arms! It still has not gotten easier, as I always confessed that I knew it never would, but there truly is so much comfort and peace that comes from understanding the purpose of her brief but spectacular life. The gifts that God bestowed upon me because of Sicily will sustain me for the rest of my life. I am so very thankful. Today I cry, because I can...because I miss my little girl. It's okay! It feels good! I am still smiling through the tears! Laughing at the memories! Thank you for remembering her! "HAPPY 2nd ANGEL-VERSARY SICILY!" We love you all the way to heaven! Kerry

Journal entry by Kerry Zeka

Hello again everyone,

I have sat in this same chair at this same computer so many times in the last few years tapping away at this same keyboard...sometimes at such speed that my hands fail to keep up with what my mind and heart want to convey. So many times that I couldn't even give an accurate account. I have shared facts, statistics, medical jargon, opinions and more than anything, real life personal emotions. I have carried in my heart many stories and experiences that I've truly wanted to share, but for one reason or another, the timing didn't present itself or my heart was not ready to set them free. Timing plays a key role in just about everything I do, even though half the time I, myself, don't really understand the how's, why's and when's. I just pass the buck, or more like the credit, and say, “God's time, not mine!”

This leads me to the experience...one that was actually shared with me, that has truly affected my life like nothing ever has, or probably ever will, concerning Sicily and her death. I have sat on the edge of my chair many many times with an anxiety packed heart and mind wanting to share this story, but the timing was never right. God spread a wave of patience over me so as not to rush it. There were times I thought that maybe I should never share it...maybe this was meant for only a few to know, feel and truly believe. My heart believes! It believes it like I believe that rain is wet...that the sky is always blue beyond the clouds...and that God is always with me! I, like my precious friend who gifted me this story, worried...over worried, that others might not believe. Father Joe's wise advice, when we sat together with him and shared our conerns was, and I paraphrase, “Others disbelief cannot overshadow your belief.”

I had the opportunity to share this story with a multitude of people last week as the timing became blatantly obvious. I don't know if I can or ever will tell it with the profound justice it deserves. All I ask is that you open your minds, open your hearts, and see this as one of the miracles God delivered through the tragedy of our daughter's death.

I sat last Tuesday, as I always do, at this very same computer with a task at hand. God had a job for me, the likes of one I've never felt so strongly about. I needed to calm my fears and worries that others might not believe this event and just do the best I could, for Him. Here is a portion of what I wrote in preparation of verbally sharing it...which totally pushes me out of my comfort zone:

Before I share this story that will forever be a part of my soul and the fuel that keeps my heart beating through its brokenness, I have to share a little background as to how my dear friend, Judi Ann, the Director of St. Benedict's Preschool, became a vital part of me.

My husband and I, along with our four children, moved from a small Kansas town to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma in early June of 2008. While house hunting, we passed by The Church of St. Benedict. It became our first and last stop as we looked for our new spiritual home. I walked in the doors and one of the first sites my eyes fell upon was a door that read, “Preschool Director, Judi Roberts.” I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. A catholic church, 2 ½ miles from our new home...with a preschool. I peered in the door and was greeted by the happiest, most cheerful person I think I've ever encountered in my life. I had my youngest daughter, Sicily, who was three at the time, wrapped around my leg as I inquired about the preschool. Judi Ann was the very first person I met in Broken Arrow...period...and she had me at “Hello!” Over time we quickly discovered our similarities and decided we were long lost sisters. Judi Ann and I are twenty years apart in age, but soul sisterhood was our calling, though she still enveloped me in maternal love.

I excitedly, as everything around Judi Ann was done excitedly, signed Sicily up for preschool. A few short weeks later, as required, I took Sicily in for a preschool physical. A mysterious lump was discovered in her abdomen. It was six weeks before we found out the devastating and life changing news. Sicily had cancer. She ended up with the worst possible case scenario for her diagnosis, diffused anaplastic bilateral Wilm's Tumor. Judi Ann, being one of only a handful of people I knew at St. Benedict's, and Broken Arrow, for that fact, was one of the first people I called with the news. Through the phone, I could hear in her voice the tears forming in her eyes. This is when Judi Ann became more than the church preschool director and my new cheerful friend, she became a valuable pillar in our support system during our daughter's nineteen month battle with pediatric cancer.

I could go on and on about all the things that Judi Ann did for us and how much her love sustained us at the worst time in our lives. But all of them pale in comparison to the gift God gave to Judi Ann and she later “re-gifted” to me. It took her awhile to share this with me as it plagued her with a dash of questionable guilt as she kept asking, “Why me?”

February 25th, while inpatient at The Children's Hospital at St. Francis in Tulsa, we received the heartbreaking news that Sicily's cancer was terminal. Who appeared at our side immediately that afternoon, along with Sicily's aunt Bett and aunt Val, where none other than Father Joe, Sicily's preschool teacher Miss Sylvia (my Broken Arrow mom) and my soul sister, Judi Ann.

We didn't know how much longer Sicily would be with us so we took her home and loved her like there was no tomorrow. On Sunday, March 21st, 2010, Judi Ann told me she went to bed around 9:30. She had no idea that a little over an hour later, at 10:45pm, I would be cradling Sicily in my arms, with her daddy by our side, as she breathed in and exhaled her final breath on earth...just three weeks shy of her fifth birthday.

That night, the gates of heaven opened and allowed Sicily to visit Judi Ann in her dreams, not once, but multiple times. Sicily came to her and excitedly said, “Miss Judi Ann, it's me, Sicily...I'm an angel now. I'm an angel now, and it's fun! We're all here with you!” Judi Ann said at one point, she felt a wave of air pass across her, like what it must feel like to be brushed by an angel's wing. She even reported sitting up in bed early the next morning and telling her husband, Jim, that Sicily came to her in her dreams and told her she was an angel. Judi Ann admitted to not being a big computer person, but she got up and went to the Caring Bridge site I wrote to keep everyone informed of Sicily's journey, and it was then she learned of her passing late the night before when she read, “Heaven is a happier place... Angel Sicily Evelyn Zeka has arrived.”

Judi Ann shared her experience, her blessing from God, with Cheryl, the preschool assistant director, Sylvia and Father Joe. She was so afraid to tell many others in fear they would not believe her. She later explained to me that she wanted to find just the right time to share with me her gift and proof that Sicily indeed was now an angel in heaven. For several weeks she would, once again very excitedly, tell me as we saw each other numerous times in passing, that she wanted to sit down and talk with me. As life often keeps us running in circles, that perfect moment she was waiting for never presented itself in a timely manner, so she called me at home and apologized for having to do this over the phone, but she couldn't wait any longer. She was so afraid of how I would perceive it or whether I would even believe that this had really happened to her. Not only did I believe her one thousand percent, but I had answers to her own personal questions of, “Why me?” I immediately understood why Sicily, and God, had chosen Judi Ann. Something about it just seemed so perfectly right. But my own proof came when I realized why Sicily said, “We are all here with you.” Judi Ann had explained to me at one point that she had lost nephews in a house fire not too long ago. Sicily was her messenger to tell her that she was now with them...that they, too, were in heaven and they would always be with her. And now Judi Ann was chosen to be Sicily's messenger...to share with others the proof of her angelic status. And what a messenger Judi Ann was. She gave to me a gift worth more than all the riches of the world. I've clung tightly to our friendship as I will live the rest of my life needing to be around others who knew and loved my little girl as much as I did.”

I wrote two more paragraphs, but before I share them I have to explain why God's timing of the need to share became perfectly evident. Sunday morning, July 24th we attended 9:15 mass at our church. It was the first time we had been able to attend that mass time all summer due to vacations and other traveling. We had been attending five o'clock Sunday evenings, mostly. The choir does not sing during this mass. It is no secret that the choir makes me cry. I believe tears are healing, so the fact that I can sit in church sometimes and let go of some of my emotions brought about by beautiful music is not a bad thing in my book. Sunday morning I began to struggle from the very beginning. Fifteen minutes into the service, I felt the need to bawl. It was more than just the normal slow flow of a few tears one at a time like I usually do...it was a deep internal feeling that I had no control over no matter how hard I tried to keep it held in. If I had known I was going to be that much of a wuss during church that morning, I would've definitely chose us a seat in the back of the church, but we were seated closer to the front. I tried to mentally psyche myself up to stop the tears. I started to even get mad at myself because I was not able to control this and I didn't know why. Patrick sat on my right and he comforted me by rubbing my back as we kneeled in prayer. Isabella was on my left and I could tell this was concerning her. I just didn't know why this was happening. After church, I ran into Sicily's teacher, Sylvia and her husband, JD. I couldn't explain away the red puffy eyes so I just laughed it off and blamed the choir once again. Driving home, I told Patrick that I just didn't know what had gotten into me. The day before I had just journaled that I was beginning to feel better again. So what was up with this uncontrollable emotional breakdown? Maybe I was just getting rid of the left over tears I had inside since I was going to try to live life without relying on them so much. We hadn't been home from church for very long when the phone rang. It was JD and he asked if he could talk to Patrick. I was beginning to feel better after my morning soul cleansing at church until I saw Patrick's face as he stood listening to JD on the phone. I began to get a sinking feeling in my heart...something was not right. He politely thanked JD for calling and he quietly hung up the phone. The words out of his mouth crumbled every last bit of strength I had left in my body when he said, “Miss Judi Ann suddenly passed away this morning.” I felt the ground underneath me give way. All I could say was, “No, No, No!” I felt like I was a bad actor in a horror movie...the one who won't shut up when something tragic happens. I felt almost hysterical. Judi Ann was my connection...my living proof that my little girl was indeed an angel. And now she was gone. She was gone.

Tuesday evening at her wake, with her open casket before me, I shared her gift with an overflowing (both physically and emotionally) room of mourners. I continued to read what I had written on her behalf...hoping I was doing her justice:

The news of Judi Ann's passing Sunday morning brought me to emotional hysterics. What was I going to do now without her? How was I going to make it without seeing her and being on the receiving end of a tight hug...the red lipstick smile that adorned her face like a piece of sparkling ruby jewelry...the twinkle in her eye that always reminded me of the spiritual gift God gave us to share. But I understand death now. It is a very painful part of life, and though God's ways are indeed mysterious, I have peace with His will. She was indeed a gift to me and I will share love with others, in her honor and memory, the way she so unconditionally shared it with me and everyone else around her.

I will close with the vision I have in my mind, and my heart honestly believes it to be true. I know Judi Ann had a huge gathering waiting as her arrival was announced in heaven on Sunday morning, July 24th. Those she loved and who returned her love in life, who had passed before her, where there to surround her as she approached the pearly gates. Her little friend, our Sicily, excitedly runs to her, as so many children did here on earth, and with an ear to ear grin, excitedly exclaims, “You're an angel now, Miss Judi Ann...and it's going to be fun!”

God's timing, not mine! God's ways, not mine! Sunday afternoon I quickly understood my mornings distraught optic humidity...my mind did not know yet that Judi Ann was no longer physically on earth, but somehow my heart and soul felt it. A gift of the connection God gave us...because of Sicily!

Unfortunately, the loss of Judi Ann widened and deepened the existing hole in my heart. With this, I was brought to a new revelation...maybe it's time I seek help outside my own stubborn resolve to deal with the pain. For the last sixteen months, I have tried to handle the grief the way I thought was best for me. It worked sometimes and maybe for awhile I had convinced myself that I was being successful, but I still felt like I was dancing a country dance...one step forward and two steps back. Dancing that way makes it really hard to get ahead! I started to think that maybe it was time I join a support group. Maybe it's time to seek help instead of insisting to myself that I am capable of helping myself! The old familiar quote, “Misery loves company,” began to ring in my head. The more I thought about it and the more my mind began to attempt to apply it to my own needs, it ended up causing an internal rift within myself. Yes, my mind argues with me! My mind said, “wait a minute...misery does not love company! How is that possible? Misery loves the blues and depression and being left alone. Misery wallows in self pity and disparity. Misery likes to be, well let's face it...miserable.” I realized misery does not love company...but instead, misery NEEDS company. Hence, the birth of the support group. I've always thought support groups were wonderful and useful...for other people. I just didn't think being a part of one would be the avenue I would take, especially now that I feel God's presence so strongly in my heart...despite the gaping hole. I thought because of Him, I would be able to muster along on my own. To be frankly honest, deep down inside I thought my need to be in a support group would be a visible confession that maybe I was giving up on my belief that God, alone, still had the ability to help me. It's actually the exact opposite! I am now realizing that He needs me to be with others dealing with loss and grief. If not just for my own healing and benefit, but for theirs, as well. I was being very selfish. It's not all about me. The way I've handled my grief at times could benefit another, AND visa verse! What growth have I been missing out on these past sixteen months? Tonight, I am planning to attend my first grief support meeting at my church. In addition to opening myself up to a support group, I also visited with my doctor about medical avenues, as well. This is truly me helping me...by letting others help me! ; )  God helps those who help themselves!

One last thing I wanted to expand on from a previous paragraph...for some reason, I feel the need to elaborate. I mentioned Sicily's beloved teacher, Miss Sylvia, and her husband, JD, who I lovingly refer to as my “Broken Arrow parents.” I have wonderful parents who I love with all my heart, and they know that. They, along with the rest of Patrick's and my family, live hours away from us. Having begun Sicily's journey shortly after moving to a brand new city and not having enough of an opportunity to meet many new faces, God delivered people to us through Sicily. In trying to figure out, myself, why I carry so much love in my heart for so many, I realized that God apparently over-dosed me. I have an overwhelming need to allow my heart to love a substantial amount of people. And, in many instances, the love is so deep, I can't help but refer to others as family. My precious friend, Kelli (aka “Walgreen's Kelli,” even though she hasn't worked there in years and is now a sonographer at St. Francis Hospital), is the little sister I always begged my parents for but never got. Good thing she came along later in life or she may have never claimed me...I would've been too ornery to her! I still am, but only out of love! Her presence in my life just makes sense!  She taught me the importance of "craughing" (crying and laughing together) in life...she is a bonafide expert in the field! ; ) God delivered Judi Ann as my soul sister. He gave her friendship to me to impact my life beyond my heavenly dreams (but not beyond hers)! I will always have her love in my heart! I have Aunt Glenda, in Colorado, who I can claim to be related to if we stretch the truth. She is the aunt of a nieces' husband. In the real world that may not count as family, but in ours, it does! She is the one and only “GAG”...Great Aunt Glenda! She was responsible for creating Sicily's wardrobe of chemo hats...especially the ones that became her signature look...built in (yarn) hair! She and her husband, Bob, drove through snow in March of 2010 to visit us and were able to stand by Sicily and inhale and exhale the same air she did...one day before her death. God gave me Caterina and Reynold in Maryland. Caterina is Sicily's “Sicilian” Grandma. We were matched up through the C.O.L.E.'s Foundation when it was first launched. The fact that Caterina's family directly descends from Sicily, Italy was what we considered a message from God. She and Reynold flew to Oklahoma in July of 2009 to visit us, then once again came in March 2010 to stand with us in grief and support us during Sicily's funeral. Sylvia and JD, whether they realize it or not, are my spiritual mentors. Their love of our family has been parental...and grand-parental, if that can be considered a word. Last, but not least, there is Father Joe, who showered us with support through prayers and brotherly love!  Love runs deep! There have been countless, countless others...I could probably assemble a phone book full of names! Because of Sicily, these people became family to me. Because of Sicily, I love them. Because of them, I will heal and continue to love life. I never miss a chance to tell others I love them. I know at times it may make some uncomfortable, but tough...that's just the way it's gonna be! ; )

I'm going to exhale now. I've wanted for so long to scream at the top of my lungs that I know, for sure...absolutely, positively...that our precious Sicily is indeed an angel! It feels good!

1 Corinthians 13:13 ~ "And now these three remain...Faith, Hope and Love. But the greatest of these is Love."  Couldn't have said it better myself! ; )

Love you all!!!

Kerry

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Journal entry by Kerry Zeka

Hello everyone,

     I have found myself struggling these past couple of months. For some reason, this summer seems to be hitting me harder than last...and I can't quite figure out why. The blues can sometimes wrap themselves so tightly around a heart and soul...as tight as a spider spins her web around the prey she plans to consume. Sadness is consuming. There is a feeling of helplessness...not so much of hopelessness, as I know I will come out of this sometime. But there is a realization that depression has invaded a space where it is not welcome. Somehow, it managed to slip through the door that was previously slammed in its face or kept tightly under lock and key. I worked hard at trying to keep it out. It's taken up residency and tried to evict and kick out the joy and happiness that is used to living there. I've asked God for help. And once again, He has listened and He is slowly showing me why He has put me on this road. At the same slow pace, I am beginning to understand again and keep my eyes, and my heart, open to His plans. As always, in His time and in His way...not my own.

     Lately, I seem to be riding waves of emotions. These are monstrous waves a surfer would envy if found out in the ocean, but in my hypothetical world, these waves are not exciting or worth catching on a thrill seeking excursion. They make me feel unstable and unpredictable as to when and where they are going to come crashing down and splash my face with salty drops of tears. My body has yet to slow down its production of salt water. You'd think by now a drought might occur, but it hasn't. Thoughts and memories of Sicily bring me to tears almost daily. Like I said, more than the previous year. Why?

     I am only asking “why” now as I am on my way out of the dark. I am forcing my way out. Before, as I walked down this road that God put me on, even if I hit a patch of darkness, I always griped tightly in my hand a bright flashlight to help guide me through the tunnels, caves and holes that appeared sporadically. This time, something happened and my flashlight quite working. I don't know if the batteries died, the bulb burned out or if God allowed it to quit shining as He needed me to dwell in the darkness for awhile. There truly is a reason for everything in life...this is truly His purposeful doing. This may have been what He needed to do so that I would allow myself to fully rely on Him to get me through this. He has not left me...not even once... and I have not for a split second questioned His presence in my life! But still I found myself surrounded in a space where I could not see one millimeter in front of my face. I don't mean to sound overly dramatic. I have a wonderful life...a life I admit to be very enviable. I know this. Sometimes guilt plagues me for how good we really have it. But money, houses, vacations and financial security don't change how the heart and soul feels when a piece greater than all of those things combined is lost. When the very arms that cradled my four precious children in as babies is forced to cradle one of them as she dies from cancer, it creates a huge sink hole in the soul. From time to time I've laid a tarp over this hole, like band aides, to hide and cover it up so I could deal with the rest of life. From time to time I've walked around its fragile edges praying they would not crumble and swallow me up into its eternal space. From time to time I've avoided it all together and tried to pretend it's not there or that maybe it miraculously vanished. God brought me to it and forced me into it...to acknowledge it is there and will always be there. Once again, He did this so I would be forced to realize and understand that He and He alone would rescue me and help me survive it! He is slowly showing me how to deal with it as it will never go away. He is teaching me to walk across this virtual hole like a high wire stretched between two sky scrappers...stepping slowly and balancing one foot in front of the other. He is teaching me how to walk around it by keeping a safe distance from those perilous crumbling edges. I have to acknowledge that it is there and that it does exist...it's never going to vanish completely. And last but not least, when I begin to allow the blues and depression to seep in, He may have to push me back into the darkness again for my own good just so I will force myself to seek His light. He will keep me safe...no matter what!

     It's sometimes silly how God finds ways to get through to me. I'm not saying God's ways are silly, though I don't think He would mind. He knows I think He's silly sometimes. Just as I know He thinks I'm stubborn and hard headed at times. It's just the fact that maybe I am some sort of a strange collection of cells that it takes the use of such “creative” measures for Him to get my attention! My great love of music is no secret. Words put to beautiful melodies have an amazing way of making me feel God's presence. There have been several songs of late that God used as sources of rescue to reach me. I have always loved Martina McBride. She has a beautiful way of vocally packing emotional TNT into her songs, which many have carried special meaning to me at various times throughout my journey with Sicily...for instance, “In My Daughter's Eyes.” Lately, her song, “Anyway” has carried a special message to my aching heart and soul. In the chorus she belts out, “God is great, but sometimes life ain't good. When I pray, it doesn't always turn out like I think it should. But I do it anyway. I do it anyway!” Precisely!

     Yesterday, Elias and Isabella had a marathon movie morning (and afternoon) watching old Disney and cartoon type movies. I watched at a distance as I did other things around the house. At one point they neither one chose to pick the next viewing, so I did. I grabbed “Joseph, King of Dreams.” I love this movie. It's by Dreamworks and I think it is lesser known, but just as profound, as it's prequel,“Prince of Egypt,” which is another movie I absolutely love to watch when I need a good dose of spiritual uplift'n. The movie, “Joseph,” carries a lot of strong messages...what faith is, what perseverance is, and what forgiveness is. I get a lot from this animated tale depicting a great story from the Bible! There are two songs from “Joseph” that really grabbed my attention. I stopped in my tracks yesterday when I heard and truly listened to the words of the chorus of the first one. It's titled, “Whatever Road's At Your Feet.”

 “You've got to take whatever road's at your feet. You've got to make whatever progress you can. Although the map you hold is far from complete, You've got to take whatever road's at your feet!”

     Ah-ha! I may not like or understand the road I am on, but God put me on it for a reason, so I must trust His plan. I must walk it and do the best I can. I never EVER would've voluntarily chosen to walk down this path. If faced with a fork in the road, I would've peeked around the bend and tried to choose the smoothest, safest one available! The true everyday saints of the world are the ones who take the rough roads...by choice...without complaining! I marvel at those brave souls!

     The second song from “Joseph” that I am currently playing over and over and over again is one I fell in love with the first time I watched this movie years ago. For some reason, yesterday it turned out to be the ladder God put into that sink hole that allowed me to slowly start the ascent back up into His light... “Better Than I,” sung by David Campbell. And, yes, it is available on iTunes.

 “I thought I did what's right, I thought I had the answers, I thought I chose the surest road, But that road brought me here. So I put up a fight, And told You how to help me, Now just when I have given up, The truth is coming clear. You know better than I, You know the way, I've let go the need to know why, For You know better than I!

If this has been a test, I cannot see the reason. But maybe knowing I don't know, is part of getting through. I try to do what's best, And faith has made it easy, To see the best thing I can do, Is put my trust in You. For You know better than I, You know the way, I've let go the need to know why, For You know better than I!

I saw one cloud and thought it was the sky. I saw a bird and thought that I could follow. But it was You who taught that bird to fly. If I let You reach me, Will You teach me? For you know better than I, You know the way, I've let go the need to know why. I'll take what answers You supply, You know better than I!"

     Exhale. Okay, God...You've got my full focus and attention, again. I know the pain of losing Sicily and living the rest of my life without her will never fully go away. I don't know why I allow my mind to think it ever will. I didn't honestly think it would, but I did have optimistic hopes that I would be further along on my path of healing than I am now...sixteen months after her passing! But I have to continue to “let go and let God!” It's hard, I won't lie. I know I'm going to continue to trip and stumble. I know that at any given time, I may find myself in the dark...curled up in a fetal position and crying...drained of my own strength to look for, or even muster up the energy to even want to look for, a way out. I have to force patience upon myself. I get tired of taking baby steps somedays. When I try to hurry healing along, this is what happens...I fall into a dark hole. I pray that I can feel accomplished on the days I barely shuffle my feet along. I will rejoice on the days I feel like dancing down the path, and I have experienced those days a time or two before. I will try not to lose patience with myself on those days my feet won't budge! I will try again. I will keep trying!

     Our summer has been busy. I can't imagine how deep down I would've fallen if we haven't been. Again, trying to describe my bouts with sadness is hard to explain since I've been able to experience some really happy times, as well. It just seemed as soon as the fun was over, I felt really blue again. I couldn't hang onto the euphoria for very long.

     We were beyond blessed to have the opportunity to vacation in Hawaii in June. Since I was a little girl I have had a love affair with Hawaii and dreamed of the day I would set my bare feet on her sweet sands. I memorized every song from Elvis Presley's “Blue Hawaii!” movie. I practiced hula dancing to Don Ho singing, “Tiny Bubbles” while wearing a swimming suit and home made grass skirt my Grandma Kincannon made out of paper grocery sacks. I tried to unsuccessfully sing, “I want to go back to my little grass shack in Kealakekua, Hawaii!” (Okay...that was a recent attempt I made and I haven't quite got it, either! Darn Hawaiian lingo!) ; ) Ah, those were the days of my childhood! The summer of 2009 we spent our vacation in Florida at the Lighthouse. It was there that Sicily discovered that God did allow a little bit of heaven to escape to earth in the form of the ocean and sand. It was the best week of her young life. That same summer, her Aunt Bett brought back pictures from her trip to Hawaii and as she shared them with us, Sicily pointed to one of beautiful Waikiki beach and said, “I want to go there!” It was then that we decided we would make Hawaii our summer vacation destination for 2010. When we began to discuss plans, Sicily insisted that Aunt Bett get to come with us. It just made sense...Bett was, after all, “One of my mom's,” as Sicily referred to her. As it turned out, it was not meant to be that we vacation in Hawaii in 2010. Sicily died before we could get her there. So in her memory, we planned our dream vacation for this summer. And as per Sicily's request, Aunt Bett went with us. Hawaii was as beautiful and aromatic as I dreamed it would be. I was in the middle of paradise, but the pain of missing our little girl did over shadow my happiness at times, though I tried my hardest to hide it. I think we all felt it. She was supposed to be there experiencing God's bountiful beauty with us. We still enjoyed ourselves and had a great vacation. We brought a little bit of Sicily with us to Hawaii. I packed a little zip lock bag with some of her hair I had saved from the first time it fell out after chemo began back in September of 2008. We visited Waikiki and Bett released some of her hair there. We rented an ocean front property in Kailua on the island of Oahu for twelve days. I brought a framed picture of Sicily along with a pair of angel wings so we could feel her with us. Patrick placed some of Sicily's hair in the ocean, right where she would've wanted to be. We buried some of her hair in the sand where we could envision her building sand castles...or more like destroying the ones her brother Elias built. We released the final bit of hair into the Hawaiian air. In a very small but significant way, Sicily made it to Hawaii. I decided to bring a little Hawaii back home to her. I packed a small container of sand from the beach and in July when we visited the cemetery in Wellington, we sprinkled Hawaiian sand over her grave. We also brought her a dried lei that adorned my neck at the luau we attended and a shell necklace Elias won in a game. It felt good to be able to do all of that! She may not have been physically with us, but she was with us in one way or another! Now I know she is “hanging ten” in heaven!

     We chose to visit the island of Oahu for one main reason...Pearl Harbor. Patrick and I have always had a heartfelt interest in anything to do with WWII. We have always been intrigued and astounded by what was endured during that era and have an immense amount of respect for that generation! Having the opportunity to stand on the Arizona Memorial and peer over the top of the wreckage of the ship that once proudly protected our country and now serves as a tomb for hundreds of US servicemen was a profound experience for us all. Something like that can put a lot of things in life into perspective! The person who came away most affected was probably Elias. No surprise there. This kid somehow gets things like this. I stood with him as we looked down at the pieces of rusted metal submerged in shallow water that no longer resembled the massive war ship the USS Arizona once was. We talked about the attack that fateful December day in 1941 that caused this to happen. He made several comments on how he could not believe this happened and he showed noticeable sadness for the men who died there. He walked around with a look of concern and disbelief on his face. The wheels in his compassionate mind had no rest. I just hugged him and tried to explain it the best I could.

     One of the things I came home with after visiting Pearl Harbor was a better understanding of what forgiveness is. Driving through Honolulu we passed a sign with an arrow pointing and the words Pearl Harbor. Underneath the words marked in English, were characters of the Japanese language. I guessed it to read “Pearl Harbor” in Japanese. My first reaction surprised me when I started to feel pangs of anger. The emotion I loathe the most! I am not a prejudice person at all. Never have been, never will be. God created us all. But I started to wonder why was there a need to write Pearl Harbor in Japanese on that sign. I had to sit and think this one through for awhile. Anyone who has visited Hawaii knows that one of the largest groups of tourists is from Japan. It dawned on me that that simple sign was a profound gesture and act of forgiveness. Walking around the grounds of Pearl Harbor, it moved me to see hundreds of Japanese citizens looking around, reading the stories, watching the actual footage of the attack and taking in the aftermath of what their country did to our country at one point in time. I had thoughts of how interesting it would've been to have had the opportunity to talk to one of those tourists...ask what this means to them...what, if any, emotions it stirs in them. I had to walk away without quenching my desire to know, but I came away understanding forgiveness a little more. I felt even prouder to be an American for that reason! Forgiveness has to be one of the hardest acts the human mind can decide to do. In fact, if it were up to the mind, forgiveness might never happen. The mind doesn't forget...the mind holds grudges...the mind states facts and lists reasons why forgiveness should not occur. But the heart has the power to over rule the mind. The heart is where forgiveness blooms and flourishes. The heart is truly were the power of forgiveness is able to live. I like forgiveness. Pearl Harbor will always be the example I will carry in my heart of what forgiveness can mean!

     I guess my need to feverishly unload became overwhelming this morning. Plus it's about the first I've had an almost uninterrupted chunk of time to sit down long enough to attempt to clump my unorganized thoughts into something. My lack of writing these past couple of months should now be pretty obvious so I needed to be honest as to why. I have gone without writing this long before, but not for this reason. I do feel better. I am going to keep working on the happiness that is my choice to have. I am still sad. I will always have that side of me. But I am also happy. I love my family so much. I truly love life! And above all, I love God more than I can ever explain. “How Great Thou Art!!!”

God Bless You All!

“Thy Will Be Done!”

Kerry

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Journal entry by Kerry Zeka


Cookies and nuts!
     No, this is not an advertisement for a bake sale or a fundraiser. I'm not making out my grocery list, either. These are the words that describe the thoughts I had running through my head this morning. I don't know where these thoughts come from other than maybe I “think” too much at times about how to understand other people in my life and this is the direction my thoughts gravitate towards. Of course it has to involve food. Big surprise there! But these are a couple of analogies that somehow describe the personalities of others...and I just seem to have a need to understand others and how they deal with tragedies and difficult circumstances in life. I guess by doing so, I can understand myself better! Feel free to skip this random post. I'm sure once I get started it will ramble like an old locomotive down a track stretching for miles through barren countryside. That's a pretty accurate description of my minds workings these days! I just needed to ponder this for some reason today.
     In a recent conversation with a dear friend, we were discussing...not talking or gossiping about, mind you, but sincerely conversing with open hearts about another dear friend who has recently gone through a lot in her life. My friend and I have both recently experienced some heavy duty situations ourselves. There is an unspoken bond between us...worried mother to worried mother, stressed daughter to stressed daughter, life survivor to life survivor. The topic of conversation was how we were dealing with our own personal journeys and how we perceive those we care about to be doing the same in their lives. Our mutual friend is someone we've both known and have cared about for many years. My first impression of this friend quite some time ago was that she was and remains to be a very mentally strong and emotionally guarded person. That analogy seemed to be a good and accurate first impression that grew through the years and has been proven over and over to be true. She has always amazed me and I've sometimes secretly wished I could be more like her! But I've realized that in the cookie isle of life, there are all kinds and there needs to be a vast variety for society to work. I love cookies...a little off the subject, I know, but let me explain. There are thin ones, skinny ones, fat ones, fluffy ones...chocolate, vanilla, fruit filled, and nutty. The list of different varieties is long and they run the gamete, just like people. We are all different and we can't all be made from the same dough. Please bare with me for my goofiness, but my mind found a way to categorize people into two types based on how they handle and deal with extraordinary events in life. I think we all have the ability to be one or the other and some can even switch between the two depending on the situation. I do believe some people do get stuck into one recipe and don't let themselves try an alternative one. “Tough cookies,” as I call the first group, are people who put on a strong front and they are hard to break. Many times these cookies have been in the oven a long time...their lives have had a lot of heat and they just naturally harden. Some are born this way...they've turned out exactly the way the recipe said they should. Ever eat a pepper nut? Tough cookies usually don't know how to be anything but a “tough cookie!” These cookies don't crumble easily, but when they do, they are often left in tiny scattered pieces.  They are sometimes harder to put back together as the pieces don't always fit  exactly as before. They usually don't want any help...”I'm fine! I got it. I'm a gingersnap so I can handle this. Isn't there a soft fragile chocolate chip you can help find her pecans somewhere?” They favor a strong willed and independent resolve and prefer to handle things on their own, turning down or not accepting well intentioned help. They are envied for this ability, but it's also a difficult persona to maintain and often times leaves those around them who care about them and want to help, feeling helpless! “Why won't they let me help?” “Soft cookies,” on the other hand, are just the opposite. They come apart very easily but usually in big obvious chunks so they aren't so difficult to pick up the pieces and put back together. Their pieces can usually be smooshed and molded back into place, though the cookie may take on a different appearance than before. I'm not saying that because of their softness that it means they are half baked, even though since I admittedly put myself into this category I will admit to possibly being so. ; ) Soft cookies could probably use a little more flour (for firmness) and and a little less egg (which makes baked goods soft) in their recipe so they don't have the tendency to fall apart if handled the wrong way. These cookies aren't as able as their counterparts to keep themselves together under heavy amounts of pressure. When they are smashed with the stresses of life, they become thin and are less able to function as well in this condition. They just aren't the same. It seems that when they fall apart or begin to crumble, in most instances, they will accept a little help from others...”I think I'm losing it a little! Could you hand me that chocolate chip over there, please? Thank you so much! Is that your pecan or mine?” I've come to the realization that I used to see myself as a pliable soft-baked chocolate chip cookie, but due to life experiences, I'm more of a sandwich cookie these days. I think it's a little of both. My exterior has hardened, though not in a negative way. I've just grown stronger...something I did not know I was capable of doing. My inside...my heart, mind and soul, are still softer than iced filling! I think this is how I'm supposed to be. I hope to be able to dunk those “tough cookies” in milk every once in awhile in hopes of softening them a little. They need to learn to let others show that they care! Maybe I can be there to slip a sturdy plate under those “soft cookies” and help support them more in times of need. I can encourage them to find more strength. And maybe through my actions, others will be understanding of each other and attempt to do the same! I had another great analogy on “nuts” but if I went there, I might be considered one so I'll just stick to my cookie theory! This took longer than I thought to explain. I will say this...in the world of nuts, I've decided that I am a pistachio! My shell is already half cracked! And who doesn't love a pistachio!?!? ; )
     I know many of you are probably wondering what the heck all this means and why is Kerry writing about this in such a silly way? Maybe I was craving a chocolate chip cookie as I was thinking about my friend this morning and my wires got crossed. Who knows! I guess in my slight obsession in wanting and needing to understand people, I'm always trying to figure out a way to relate to others. If you are reading these words, you know by now that I am pretty much an open book through my writings. I guess I've taken my ability to be this way for granted and don't think much about sharing the incredible journey our family has been on. I now realize from others that this is something not everyone feels comfortable doing or would even consider doing. I found it important for me to be so open as this has been so healing, therapeutic and comforting. In person, I feel the need to know someone quite a bit more before I can confidently dive into certain conversations. In print, I'm pretty extroverted. In person, I'm more apt to retreat to my shell when stuck in a crowd. It pretty much depends on the circumstances and my surroundings. With words pecked out on a keyboard, I feel a deeper freedom of honesty. In person, I still catch myself telling fibs and little white lies...”I'm doing fine!” I don't feel so bad when I shed tears while forming words on a computer screen. In person, I don't want my pain to be contagious because the visible tears still easily flow. I spent all of last year focusing on how to survive the “firsts of everything” without Sicily. Now I'm having to figure out, “What do I do now? Where does the next road lead?”
     I can't imagine going through life without giving or accepting love and kindness! I've tried to take the tough cookie road at times, myself, and that's when I discovered how hard it was. Deep down I will always be a softy, but I wanted to see if I could do it. And I decided it's not the right fit for me. Being soft and letting others help is not a sign of weakness or failure. I think it speaks more of a persons character to admit when help is needed and that we can't pick up the crumbs all by ourselves. I've been so blessed! I still crumble a lot. But it's okay! I know at any given time I have a long list of brooms and dust pans who will help me sweep up the mess! What I've found helps me the most is when I can help others with their crumbs! I will add a little warning here, though. Some people mask their own need for help by putting themselves out there and attempting to help others so much that they don't take care of what they themselves need. It is a fine line. I am learning what my own limits are...what I can and can't handle right now. I have yet to set foot back into the Children's Hospital since Sicily's birthday last year on April 15, 2010 when I cheerfully visited with cupcakes in hand. I wanted to be there. I still want so much to be there! I can't be there in the capacity we once were, so I have to find the strength to search out a new purpose for my presence there. I've become stuck behind an emotional road block and can't find my way there. I physically know how to get to the hospital, but I emotionally don't know how. I know I could be of use there and have a heart full of compassion to give, but I am still scared to test those waters. I know there are no sharks and I won't be fatally attacked by angry piranhas, but I also fear how I will be perceived. I am living other parents worst nightmare. I am not really what you would consider a sign of hope because Sicily died...our fairytale did not end the way others do. I'm not saying her death dashed my ability to have hope in my life...I love hope, I crave hope, I still have an immense amount of it to carry me through other situations and continue to share with others. But how do I explain to other parents what we endured and survived without scaring them and making them worry more about their own situations? I guess I will never know the answers to these questions until I let my toes get wet, right? Right!
     I want to share some information about a very important upcoming event that has our hearts swollen with pride. Saturday, May 14th the inaugural Sicily Zeka Memorial Scholarship Run will be held in Wellington, Kansas. It will be a 5K run at 8:00am followed by a ½ mile fun run/walk for kids at 9:00. In addition to the chance to exercise there will be a pancake feed from 7:00 – 11:00 (I'm salivating just thinking about it) and a kiddie corner with inflatables from 8:00 – 11:00. All proceeds earned from this venture will benefit the scholarship we set up last year after Sicily's death. This scholarship is awarded to a graduating Wellington High School senior with a desire and interest in persueing a health science degree. Sicily would've, without a doubt in our minds, had a career in the medical field in some way or another. She was very fond of her nurses and playing nurse became her favorite form of role play. She liked doctors, too, but in her wise and perceptive mind, all they did was talk! ; ) Sicily wanted to be “hands on” administering medicines and tending to patients needs! We were able to see and experience first hand so many facets of the medical world. We want to support future generations in their pursuit to make a difference in the lives of others, as the world of medicine does every day. We have high hopes that Sicily's legacy can maybe play a vital role in that future...one student at a time. Through the immense generosity of others and the incredible dedication and hard work of awesome family and friends, this memorial run was organized. This is a very personally symbolic event for us in honor of our little girl. By helping to support the education of future potential doctors, nurses, pharmacists, child life specialists, and the list goes on...Sicily's spirit and love of life will also go on! ; )
     Just in case anyone is interested, donations can be mailed to:
Wilms Warriors - Sicily Zeka Memorial Scholarship
201 N. Washington
Wellington, KS 67152

     Happy Mother's Day to all the mom's, grandma's, aunts, Godmother's and special women in our lives who've loved us, taught us, guided us and gave us wings!

 

Love to you all!

God's will be done!

Kerry

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Journal entry by Kerry Zeka

Hello everyone,
     Just wanted to jump on here quickly to upload a couple of pictures taken at the cemetery of Sicily's beautiful headstone.  We couldn't be more pleased with the results and it provides another piece of healing, at least for me!  Before when we would visit Sicily's spot, I would always leave very sad and down.  This time, I had a smile on my face.  I think Sicily would be pleased.  I think she would think it makes a nice jungle gym to climb on!  The large angel is so very detailed right down to her fingernails.  We decided we should paint them sometime...Hot Pink!  Just as Sicily's were when she left us!
     Sorry this is so short.  Not usually my style, but I will make up for that soon!  I just had enough time to quickly add the photos (just two).

Love to all
Kerry

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Sicily’s Story

Site created on August 24, 2008

Heaven is a happier  place!
^Angel^ Sicily Evelyn Zeka has arrived.
April 15, 2005 - March 21, 2010
www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWdHq5UDXbo&feature=related (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWdHq5UDXbo&feature=related)



     Sicily Evelyn Zeka, our vibrant, precious  4-year-old daughter was diagnosed with bi-lateral Wilm's tumor, cancer of both kidneys, on Aug. 22, 2008, at the age of three.
     This all began when I took Sicily to a new pediatrician for a preschool physical in July 2008, after just moving to Broken Arrow, OK from Wellington, KS. The doctor found a mass on Sicily's right side as she performed a routine abdominal exam. It concerned her enough to send us for an x-ray and blood work, both of which were inconclusive. It was decided to treat Sicily for just being full of "poop." We went back again in two weeks but the doctor thought the mass was shrinking or moving and still assumed it to be a bowel situation. She decided to schedule Sicily for an appointment with a GI doctor, but wanted to do a barium enema first. I asked for an ultrasound, but was told the enema was the next step (the ultrasound would have helped to diagnose the actual situation). The tech who performed the enema flat out said this was nothing to do with Sicily's bowels. After six weeks of our doctor not being very pro-active, we were finally scheduled a CT scan...which delivered the worst and most unbearable news I thought my ears could ever hear. Our daughter has cancer of the kidneys. Not just one kidney, but both. Bi-lateral Wilm's tumor. We decided to seek treatment in Oklahoma City with a doctor who spent fourteen years at St. Jude's in solid tumors. Sicily is also being cared for by a wonderful team of doctors here in the Tulsa area so we can stay close to home whenever possible. *Update March 2009 - Found a new pediatrician.
     Sicily underwent ten weeks of pre-operative chemo to try and shrink the tumors before surgery. She had surgery on November 19, 2008 to remove both tumors.  The surgeons removed 1/2 of the right kidney and 1/3 of the left kidney. Tests performed on the tumors showed her right kidney contained diffuse anaplasia (unfavorable histology) which indicated it should be removed as soon as possible. On November 30th, they removed her entire remaining right kidney as well as removed part of her small bowel due to an interseseption and some of her peritoneum that had covered the pylorus valve in her stomach, which were complications her little body did to itself trying to recover from the first surgery. She spent a total of twenty-two consecutive days in the hospital on the surgery recovery floor and the PICU. The doctors are fairly confident she can function near normal with 2/3 of the left kidney; at least until her teenage years, when her body begins to possibly grow rapidly. Because of the diffuse anaplasia, Sicily underwent 11 radiation treatments and will be on a 6-months protocol of chemotherapy. Every third week of chemo will require a 3-to-5 day hospital stay to receive treatment. She has done remarkably well with her chemo and we hope this will continue!
    Sicily has completed her chemo treatment on Regimen i on June 6th.  First OT (off treatment) scans scheduled for Tuesday, July 7th.  Pray for NED (No Evidence of Disease)! 
First OT scans in July produced a NED!!!
Next scans - Friday, October 9, 2009
Recurrance to right kidney bed on 10/12/09.
     On October 28, 2009, Sicily had her fourth surgery and the new tumor growth was removed.  She is not cancer free as a small amount was left on the vena cava as it was not possible to surgically remove it.  Pathology came back anaplastic Wilm's, again.  We will soon be making plans for her treatment and continue to ask for prayers for her and her family!
     Feb. 25, 2010 Sicily's cancer has metastisized to liver, lungs and intestines.
     March 21, 2010 Sicily passed away in her mommy's arms.

Please help us support pediatric cancer research by making a donation to the Pablove Foundation www.pablove.org (http://www.pablove.org)  Under special notes write, "In Honor of Sicily Zeka."  Thank you!

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