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Monday, December 31, 2012

A New Year, Another Year Closer to Going Home...


I have not been compelled to do much lately, except to survive and try to move forward, albeit in very small steps.  I haven't journaled since the middle of October and I think it's largely due to the fact that I am tired and it takes too much energy to process my emotions on paper.  I know by journaling the past 15 years, it really does help process emotions and thoughts, but I just haven't had enough strength to do much.  I will try to capture what has been going in my life the past few months and give some insight on how I am doing, but I ask for your forgiveness in advance if I didn't put a cogent thought on paper and just babbled. I really am drained and depressed at the moment.  I am fighting the urge to stop and do something else, it would be a lot easier, but I know writing my thoughts will help me get through this day and continue to help me heal without my "champ".

The last time I journaled in October, I was jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, skydiving with my friend John.  I really did enjoy the experience; it was a much-needed distraction to what was going on.  I continued with school and finished for the semester recently and I am glad I chose to go through this semester although it was a major struggle at times with all my excessive grief.  I am still unemployed and trying to find work in the educational field, preferably in the elementary school setting.  It would have been a lot easier if I applied in May/June of this year, but I was a bit busy.  I am hoping to find any type of work to just get into a routine.  I really do want to find something to keep me busy.  If I can't find any work immediately, I may consider volunteering somewhere.  For those that know me well, I like working with people, especially kids, being a kid at heart, so I hope God can lead me to a job or situation I can work with others in a very meaningful capacity.  I even thought about volunteering at a Children's Hospital where Andrew was a patient and help bless oncology patients and their families, but I am not quite sure I am ready to go back on a regular basis to the place where Andrew passed away.  

Speaking of Children's, several weeks back I went back for the first time since Andrew passed away, to visit a patient named Emma and her mother Christl, whom I met at our time at Children's.  We had met only a handful of times but the first and last time I saw Christl, before Andrew passed, was at the old Children's hospital chapel and the new Lurie's Children's Hospital chapel.  Christl was so kind in coming to Andrew's celebration service.  Emma has been fighting leukemia and is in the fight of her life.  For more info and how to specifically pray for her, please click click here!  I never thought I would go back to Children's so soon, but a rapid succession of events lead to this visit.  It all started a day before when I was cleaning out my voicemail box on my cell phone and I came across a voicemail from Dr. Chauhdry, Andrew's stem cell doctor, who had called a month after Andrew's death saying his autopsy report was in.  I ignored it, Andrew was gone and there was no reason in my mind's eye to put salt on the wound of my grief and talk about a moot point, he was gone!  So I decided to call Dr. Chauhdry and ask her for the autopsy report to be mailed to us, but instead, Jennifer and I decided to get it over with it and had a conference call and discussed the cause of his death.  It was rather emotional to say the least and I will not get into the details, but say he was a very sick young man, whose suffering was graciously ended so he could go to his Lord and Savior.  With getting the autopsy out of the way, I heard on the same day how Emma was in the ICU like Andrew and on life support.  I felt like I was ready to go down, besides it was to support Emma and Christl and I also had Andrew's Xbox and Wii which we know Andrew would have wanted us to give to Children's, to give a modicum of happiness to the kids on the oncology ward.  Prior to this, I hadn’t and didn’t want to go anywhere near downtown.
I really started to get anxious as I parked in the garage and wouldn't you know it, I immediately ran into an emergency room doctor Andrew had many times and was so good to Andrew.  He was affectionately known to be the Potato Chip Doctor, as he graciously bought Andrew a bag of potato chips while we waited in the e.r. one visit.  He asked how Andrew was and I told him he had passed away.  He was genuinely sorry and gave me a huge bear hug.  I planned to go to the clinic first to drop of the donations before I went to the icu and that's where I saw many of the health staff that cared for Andrew the past three years.  I lost it many times!  Seeing the health care providers brought back so many memories.  I was able to meet Dr. Chauhdry and Jim the chaplain in a private conference room to talk and just and be.  It gave me a chance to process my thoughts and emotions and to be blessed by what Dr. Chauhdry and Jim had to say.  For those that don't know Dr. Chauhdry, outwardly she is a very blunt and tells it like it is type of physician, void of much emotion.  She was the one that did not sugar coat the fact Andrew had a very slim chance of survival.  There were times where I wished she was a bit more syrupy but she was doing her job.  But what I observed in that room that day surprised me and blessed me.  While I speaking of Andrew, I noticed her tearing up and getting emotional which was a complete surprise.  She said as a physician, she really should not comment about other patients and families, but she spoke of our family and how she and others in the hospital were so blessed to see the way Andrew passed away surrounded in love and peace.  She spoke about Andrew’s final moment in the room and the prayer and love so richly on display.  Final acts of love to the one who gave so much joy and happiness in our lives.  She spoke of how different it is many cases where patients are on their deathbeds and eventually die.  But in our case she was so touched to see our extended family surround Andrew’s bed, sing, pray and bless him in his final moments.  She explained how she and others were so touched.   She also affirmed and explained how courageous of us to let Andrew go and stop the suffering, further explaining how families hang on much longer then they should.  They also explained how courageous it was for me to come to the hospital and how many parents never come back after the death of their children.  I am glad I went to the clinic to talk to others before I went to the ICU, if I didn’t, I think I would have been a mess, which was not appropriate considering I was there to comfort Emma and Christl. 
God Bless Jim, who was so supportive while I was at Children’s, as he volunteered to usher me around the hospital.  I did see Emma and Christl and I was grateful she was not in the same wing of the icu where Andrew died.  I met with Emma and Christl and visited and prayed prayed for them.  Emma was sedated and intubated like Andrew.  I was surprised, but I held it together. I realized I had a unique angle that most people don’t have who visit the Gomez’, I had a son in the exact same situation.  I think Christl realized this and she was so grateful I came.  I was grateful I came too. The visit ended with me going up to the 17 floor where inpatient is located.  There were many nurses I came to know, love and appreciate, but the three in particular I really appreciated were there!  Jenny, Courtney and Megan.  They all had a special connection to Andrew and knew Andrew so well;-)  I broke down when I saw them and tried to convey how much I appreciated the love and care they gave to not only Andrew but our whole family.  They will never be forgotten!  They were the angels at the hospital.  
Christmas 2011: Our treasured last one together.

Christmas 2011: Last time we all spent time together at our favorite tradition.
Who would ever thought it would be our last.
2011 Lunch under the Great Tree
in the Walnut Room.  Our last together


Opening gifts Christmas 2011, right before Andrew's relapse.
The next day Jennifer, myself and the kids went downtown to continue our Christmas tradition of having lunch under the “Great Tree” in the Walnut Room, which is over 100 years old and started with Marshall Field who was sold to Macy’s over 7 years ago.  In all honestly, I didn’t want to go this year, but I looked for some guidance about grief and continuing traditions in the midst of the loss of loved ones.  One article suggested to ask the surviving kids what they wanted to do and that’s what I did, with both Emily and Bryanna agreeing to go.  Emily said it was okay with her, but thought it was more of an issue with me.  How right she was.  We ended up going and having lunch and looking at the Christmas window decorations and for the most part I had a good time.  But something was obviously missing.  And I am sure for any parent who has lost a child, there is degree of guilt to move on, like I felt.  Jennifer knew looking into my eyes when I was sad and I tried my best to keep it from the kids.  But in retrospect, I am thankful I was able to go downtown the day before and go visit the hospital, for I fear I would have been an emotional mess if I hadn’t.  The next day seemed to be the most emotional day, the day we put up the tree without our beloved Andrew.  It took a lot to hold my tears back from the kids.  We made it through decorating the tree and putting up the stockings, but when we gathered around to say our traditional prayer after putting up the tree, that’s when things got emotional.  As fate would have it, when we gathered to pray, there was a gap in the circle between Emily and me, the place Andrew would have been.  Instead of closing the gap, I just reached out to Emily and we held hands.  As I prayed, everyone started to cry, we all missed our son and big brother.  Emily who usually doesn’t show her emotions cried and let it out.  The tradition of putting up the tree really magnified Andrew was gone and he would never join us again on earth for this special tradition.  We decided to start a new tradition and keep Andrew's stocking up and to write a note or letter to him every year and stuff it into the stocking.  So the end of one chapter brings a new.
Christmas 2012
Christmas 2012

Christmas 2012 Walnut Room.  The girls with their big bro there in spirit.  
The holidays have been very difficult for me.  I knew going into the holidays, it would be hard, but I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be!  There have been sadder days than others, but I have been exponentially sadder and depressed these days.  I realize the many firsts without Andrew are going to be excruciating.  I do not look forward to these days.  But I know I must go through it.  The crying can be triggered by anything and everything.  The other week I just started balling because I was watching Jennifer wrap gifts for the girls and I thought to myself we will never ever wrap a gift for our son again.  I am constantly reminded of Andrew.  I am Facebook friends with some of Andrew’s high school friends and when I see pictures of them doing normal teenaged things, I cry wishing Andrew was here and doing normal teenage things.  2013 would have been the year Andrew graduated along with Anna Daley, the brave young women who also lost her battle with cancer after a failed stem cell transplant a month before Andrew.  Andrew had his whole life to look forward to.  Lots of no mores!  No more birthdays, hugs, kisses, I love yous, camping, laughs, family time….NO MORE.  

The holidays were not made any easier as I heard and saw the horror of what happened in the tragic senseless shootings of 26 innocent souls, 20 of them being little children, in Newtown, Conn.  I sat there in horror and immediately prayed for the parents of those children taken so early.  I was so sad those parents were not able to say good bye.  I at least had 17 years with Andrew and was able to say goodbye as we let him go.  Losing my child to cancer was one thing, but to lose a child in such a horrific way is just tragic!  I realize after seeing so much sickness and death at Children's and seeing constant senseless acts like the one in Newtown, this is world is inherently sinful and evil.  There needs to be hope and I have found that hope in Jesus Christ.  Shortly after the shootings, someone messaged me to say Andrew became a big brother to 20 souls in heaven.  I know Andrew is showing them a great time in heaven.

As many of you know I am a Christian and I believe in the life everlasting.  I believe without a shadow of a doubt Andrew confessed he was a sinner and he believed God incarnate who came to this earth and became a little infant named Jesus, ultimately dying on the cross to die for our sins so we can gain eternal life.  I am not sure if I shared this with you all before, but before Andrew had his stem cell transplant, Andrew’s pastor, Pastor Michael who loved and cared for Andrew since a little boy, asked Andrew if he believed in Jesus and where he would eventually go when he died.  Andrew said he accepted Jesus into his heart years before and he knew where he was going.  I know there is hope for those who believe but there is such an interesting dichotomy of thoughts as a parent who lost a child and is a Christian.  On one hand, I know Andrew is pain free and is in eternal bliss, but I remain here on this earth suffering from what seems like never ending grief.  I am in one piece today, because of one thing: HOPE.  Hope that one day every tear will be wiped away, hope that will unite me with my son, a hope that is freely given to those who believe.  I have taken a bag of Andrew’s ashes with me on trips I have taken and the other day, I pulled out his ashes and just looked at it and just thanked God that life is not about being born, living and then just death.  How bleak life would be!  No hope.  None at all!  I can’t explain the unbelievably hard time I have had since Andrew’s death.  No can understand, except perhaps families like the Daley’s who lost a child.  It just stinks!  It sucks!  It is beyond words!  But faith, hope and love remains and that's what keeps me and the Daley's going.

My goal in blogging has been a selfish one, to help me go through this terrible ordeal.  My goal has never been to legislate my faith, rather to explain to you all how I can maintain a sliver of peace in midst of what seems like an on going storm.  With the New Year fast approaching, I am sure many of us take an account of what has happened in the past whether positive or negative.  We take spiritual, mental and physical inventories of what has worked and what has not.  I pray this New year, you will experience the love of Jesus Christ, which I have found is the only thing you can count on.  THE ONLY THING!  Excuse my language, I think this is the best word to use, but life can be “shitty” (God’s big enough to take that one;-)) God never said it would be fair, but he never said we would be alone.  I came across this song seven years ago when I was going through my traumatic divorce and it spoke to me in a most powerful way.  I hope you take a few minutes and listen to the lyrics.




It was this time last year, when we found out Andrew had relapsed and thus started a very difficult journey, ending in Andrew’s death a short six months later.  But I am making it and surviving.  I have made it thus far because a rather simple recipe:

-The faith and hope I have in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

-The unconditional love and support from my family and friends.

Without this simple recipe, I honestly would have committed suicide.  Sorry to be so blunt, but without the key components just mentioned, I would not be here.  I am grateful for the blanket of prayer and support from near and far.  I know many of you have kept up with Andrew on facebook and this blog and never have commented, but nonetheless I know you are out there and loving us in so many ways.  For those who know me, I feel loved when people affirm me and boy have I felt the affirmation from many of you who constantly love me and support me through your comments and prayers.  It means a great deal to me.   I simply have one favor to ask of you all, I ask you to continue to do so.  I have my faith and I will always have it, but I will continually need your love and friendship.  I am a touchy feely guy as most of you know and oh how I wish I can give you all big hugs right now.  Thank you for loving my family and I.  I have experienced first hand the loving hand of God and how he strategically places people in my life when I need them the most.  Financially I may be struggling, but that’s not what matters.  What matters is you all, the love and the knowledge I am loved.  I am rich in love!

I have a favor to ask, can you all leave a comment or two in the comment sections.  Speak from your heart.  I would really appreciate it. 

Wishing all of you a Happy New Year and joy.  Yes it’s a New Year and I am not in a celebratory mood, but the new year does mean one year closer to going home and being reunited with my precious son and my heavenly father. 

I leave you with a daily email I get on dealing with grief from Griefshare.com.  For those that are widowed or bereaved, please take a look.  Regardless, the message still applies to all those who are burdened.  Please continue to pray for the bereaved!  Pray for us, the Daley's, the parents of those 20 little souls who lost there lives.  

Love Always,
Joe

A Season of Grief
365 daily emails to help you through the grieving process



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He Will Carry You
Day 5

The Lord will carry you if you ask Him. When you are feeling so weak you cannot take another step, ask Him to lift you high into His loving arms. Then rest in Him with an open and listening heart. This does not mean your problems will disappear, but it does mean you will have Someone to share them with.

"If you are someone who does not know Jesus Christ as your Savior and you have just been widowed or bereaved, you have a tremendous burden," says Elisabeth Elliot. "You are tired, and it is too big a burden to carry. The Lord says, 'Come to me, you who are tired and overburdened, and I will give you rest.'"

To receive peace and rest in Christ, the instructions are clear. Jesus says, "Come to me." You must first approach Him and then talk to Him and quietly listen.

"Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe" (Psalm 61:1-3).
Lord, I come to You. My heart is worn out, and I need You. Take my heavy burden today. Amen.



Saturday, October 13, 2012

Letting Go....With the Help of My Friends...

Andrew smiling and saying, "Dad, have a great time!
I am right there with  you as you let go!"
Anxious, but I "let go" and took the leap of faith!
The anxiety immediately gave way to joy and peace!
I landed on solid ground! 
This afternoon, my friend John and I took the plunge literally and went skydiving for the first time.  John and I were scheduled to jump a couple of years ago, but right as we finished orientation, it started raining and we tabled the skydiving until today.  I must tell you, I was quite emotional this morning and I really was trying to grasp the essence of my emotions.  On one hand I was excited, but on the other hand I was a bit melancholy.  I think it had a lot to do with Andrew.  I decided the day before, I would carry some of Andrew's ashes with me and perhaps that is why I felt the way I did.  I know the ashes represent Andrew's earthly body, but I could not help but feel a sense of sadness he wasn't here with me.  But juxtaposed with that feeling, I was happy he could be with me.  His ashes were in a chest pocket on my sweatshirt, covering my heart!  How appropriate!  Right before I jumped, I got this picture in my mind of Andrew smiling his famous grin and encouraging me and by saying, "Dad, have fun!" 

I think the jump represented a point of release or just letting go figuratively and literally.   Since Andrew's death, my life has been a whirlwind of grieving and my life seemed so upside down at points.  I was paralyzed to an extent in my fear about what was the next step in my life.  Fear to the point I didn't want to start my life again in many ways.  Not only was I dealing with the death of Andrew, but I was anxious about my next step as far as an occupation.  I have gone back to school, but I am looking for a job in the teaching field as an assistant and jobs are not easy to find.  I owned and operated a business for 20 years, before I sold it last fall  and that's all I have known since being out of university.  My life since, has been taking care of Andrew full time until his passing.  Skydiving today was a symbolic of how I am trying to let go and let God.  My grieving and anxiety is getting better and the skydiving couldn't have come at a better time.  If you look at the picture of me first jumping out, you notice a very pensive smile.  In fact there is a bar on the top of the door the jump masters use to position themselves called the "Oh Shit" bar, called so aptly for jumpers who may try to back out and hold the bar they are not suppose to hold.  I was tempted to put my hands on the famous bar, but as soon as I was in position with my hands on the harness and feeling pretty helpless, I let go with the help of my instructor and I immediatelyI felt a rush of adrenaline and joy.  I let go!   My "leap of faith" was rewarded.  It reminded me of a verse I whispered in Andrew's ear daily as he lay in the ICU for a month.:

"I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
Philippians 4:13

As I mentioned, I exited the plane by the assistance of my instructor, actually it was him pushing me out.  It reminded me how blessed I am to have those type of people who have been pushing me to take a leap of faith as far as my future and just simply spurring me on.  I am grateful for friends like Dan Sung, who has been there to grieve with me, affirm me and even admonish me in love, especially during this incredibly difficult season in my life.  He has pushed me to take the leap of faith and trust in God that He has my back.  Dan has been a total godsend.  We sharpen one another as we go beyond the surface.  We get deep into one another's soul and spur one another on, he has walked side by side with me.  I know all the Christian rhetoric and what it preaches, but I need to be reminded consistently by others of how God has great plans for me in the midst of my trepidations:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jerimiah 29:11

I hope you all have friends like I do who can nudge me and even push me at times to let go.  I am grateful for John Irwin as he took the initiative to call me and reschedule the jump.  Without him, I would have never have gone.  He nudged me to go and I am grateful for people like Mr. Irwin and Dan.  Do you have a Dan or John in your life.  If you don't, I know God has these type of outstanding people ready to walk side by side with you, you just have to take the initiative sometimes.  Ultimately, I hope you can seek God first.   Matthew 7:7 speaks of this truth:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

________________________________________________________________


It's with heavy hearts we walk without Andrew, but we walk in memory of  him.
We love you Drew and we will never forget your legacy of kindness and courage!
We miss you immensely Champ!
As most of you know, Andrew and our friends and family have walked in the Leukemia Lymphoma Society's Light the Night Walk to raise money for this great organization which has helped Andrew and our family as Andrew courageously battled to fight cancer. This year we will walk in memory of my wonderful son.  Because of my grief, I have not had the energy to fund raise until recently and boy have I been blessed to have such generous persons help in achieving team Andrew's Army goal!  In less than a week, Andrew's Army has raised more than $6000!  We are close to our goal and I am asking you to consider giving whatever you can in Andrew's honor.  We thank you and so does Andrew.  Here is a link to my fundraising page: PRESS HERE!
For those who want to walk with Andrew's Army, the walk will be held at Berens Park in Elmhurst on October 20, Saturday.  We will start gathering at Berens Park starting at 4:30pm, meeting at a tent set up for us (being one of the top fundraisers in the western suburbs) with Andrew's Army on it and the walk will begin at 6pm.  Here is a link for the park: PRESS HERE.

Please email me if you are going to attend:  josephp101@yahoo.com

I ask you to share the fundraising link to others as some of you have and if you have found any encouragement or benefit from this blog, please share this as well.  

God Bless You All!  Thank you for continually lifting the Park Family in prayer!

Love,
Joe






Monday, October 1, 2012

Up and Down...But Not Out!

Emily's date.  No worries, just friends;-)
But I reminded him what can happen if t
here is any monkey business;-)

Emily's First Homecoming!  I thought I would grow a beard to intimidate any future suitors.
They don't know I have a 357 Magnum hidden in what seems like a middle aged belly.

This weekend was Emily's first homecoming and I was a mix bag of feelings.  On one hand I was so happy for my daughter and the anticipation she had for the dinner, dance and hanging out, but on the other hand, I thought about Andrew and what could have been.  You see, Andrew had never gone to a high school dance for one reason or another.  And I remember him telling me when he was going through chemo this year, how he wanted to go to prom his senior year. Sorry, but I simply wish Andrew was here to so he could have gone to a dance and be a normal teenager.  But it wasn't meant to be.  However I know he is having a dance of the most joyous way in heaven, but even that knowledge doesn't console me.  I know Anna's parents, Sean and Lisa, have felt similar thoughts.  As grieving parents, we can't help but to feel these thought.  We miss our Andrew and Anna, but we are grateful for what he did through the lives of these wonderful children of ours.  Lisa wrote a journal entry the other day as it was Anna's 18th birthday:

So on this beautiful crisp morning, we give thanks to God for our beautiful Anna. We remind ourselves of her thankful, giving heart as she proclaimed God's goodness to all even in the midst of suffering. We will celebrate her life reminded so of her deep laughter and her love of life, friends, and family. We were all blessed because Anna lived. God's purpose was fulfilled in her brief seventeen years. His purpose will continue to be fulfilled in our lives and others. 

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

I couldn't have said it any better.  My heart is thankful Anna and Andrew are having an eternal dance that will last forever!  We miss you both dearly!
Overall, I have been doing better.  I still cry for Andrew everyday, but it's less intense than before.  I shake my head at times, thinking is he really gone?  It seems like he has been on a long vacation or away at school.  The stages of grieving are not linear and go back in forth.  I really haven't been angry, but anger is a part of normal grieving and I have tried to give myself grace in doing so, as I have felt anger these days.  What does my anger look like?  I ask God why Andrew had to be taken at such a young age?  I have raised a fist or two at the heavens as I try to get it all out.  I know my God is big enough God to handle anything.  Again, everything seems to remind me of him.  At times, I have a hard time looking at his pictures, because of the pain they elicit.  The good news is I have been able to think of great memories of Andrew and not as many painful memories of his fight with cancer and his death.  Since my cousin Robin has been living with us, we have had many laughs (Yep, he is the one who spoke at the Celebration Service) all due to his funny nature.  At those times, we think how Andrew would always be cracking up with a huge boyish smile and laugh.  He loved being around family.  Andrew was the first nephew to be born and he grew up loving his aunts and uncles, having the penchant to laugh at all their stories.  I miss him cracking up where his smile blended into his round cheeks!  I really miss that!  

Jennifer and my close friends would say my demeanor has changed and I am starting to be my goofy fun loving self.  In my health and wellness class at Trinity, each classmate had to give a final presentation on various topics and one of my classmates, Dawna, presented on laughter and the benefits of laughing.  Proverbs 17:22 says:

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

And I  shared some verses sometime ago, but Ecclesiastes 3:1 and 4 says:

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,

The bible is so right on about laughter and a joyful heart.  These days, I have been able to start laughing at things and it has done wonders for my aching heart.  I am reminded there is a time for everything as Ecclesiastes, a time to mourn and a time to laugh!  I am so grateful to God He can heal a crushed and broken spirit and do it in the most trivial things: things that can make you laugh and heal your heart.  Jennifer often times reminds me Andrew wants me to laugh and enjoy life and that Andrew is rooting me on to do so.  So I will try to.

Please continue to pray for Jennifer, myself, Emily, Bryanna and the family as we grief over the loss of our precious Andrew.  I ask you to pray for me and Jennifer as we will be studying for new vocations.  As most of you know, I am currently going to school to get my teacher's certification and Jennifer has a goal to become a pediatric ICU nurse!  Thank you, we surely appreciate it.

I also have asked you all to consider donating to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society's 
Light the Night event, where Andrew's Army has been walking the past three years to raise money to help cancer patients as they fight this insidious cancer and to help find a cure.  I have set a rather lofty goal and I pray you would consider helping out.  And by all means, please share this with friends and family as we do this in honor of all cancer patients who are still with us and who have gone on.  We do this is memory of Andrew.  Thanks! Press Here!

Just in case:  http://pages.lightthenight.org/il/WSuburbn12/JPark

Blessings,

Joe









Thursday, September 13, 2012

MAKING YOUR LITTLE LIGHT SHINE...

Our last Light the Nigh Walk with Andrew in 2011.  We will continue to walk in honor of my beautiful son!
DEAR ANDREW'S ARMY!

Life has gotten a bit better the past few days.  Although my days and night are upside down, my mood has gotten better.  My sense of time and what has happened the past 9 months is all screwed up.  It has only been two and a half months since Andrew's death.  I MISS HIM DEARLY!  Everything seems to remind me of him.  I find myself talking to him from time to time.  It's as if he has been on a long vacation or away for college.  But unlike students that will be coming home for break, my Andrew will be never come back to us here on earth.  I bank on the eternal perspective and remember life here on earth is a mere blink of an eye.  It's a mere grain of sand on the beach.  Like I said in my last post, it's the eternal perspective keeping me sane, knowing I will see my son again!  
I want to turn your attention to something near and dear to Andrew's Army:  
Leukemia Lymphoma Society's Light the Night walk.  We have raised money and walked to benefit the LLS in helping find a cure and making cancer patients live's a bit more tolerable.  Some of the history of Andrew' condition my be old to you but please read this and think about what was written.  


This year's Light the Night Walk takes a completely different meaning. Instead of walking with Andrew in support of him being a survivor, we will be walking in memory of him. Instead of a white "survivor" balloon, Andrew's Army will be carrying gold balloons in memory of my beloved son.

Andrew's valiant and courageous battle began in March of 2009 when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. After an arduous journey of treatment, surgeries, and other hospitalizations, Andrew was supposed to go into long-term care this past June. But God had other plans. After a Christmas break vacation, Andrew developed pneumonia and a cursory blood test revealed abnormal blood results. After a bone marrow biopsy, the dreaded news of relapse hit Andrew and our family. The relapse necessitated a bone marrow transplant, but first Andrew needed to eradicate the cancer immediately and start chemo right away. Andrew indeed went into remission, had several miracles along the way and found a bone marrow match. Andrew received his donor cells in mid may. Shortly after, Andrew encountered complications from the bone marrow transplant, which lead him to the intensive care unit at the end of May to never regain full consciousness. Our beloved Andrew passed away to go onto his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on June 30, 2012 surrounded by a mass of family and friends who loved him dearly. For more details of his brave and courageous battle, please goto Andrew's blog site, press here.

He left a legacy of love and his infectious smile changed so many lives. He let his "little light" shine. It's amazing the testimonies of how profoundly Andrew's life and legacy has impacted people. Far more reaching than we could ever imagined. In his short 17 years on the earth, he led a "full" life and we are so blessed to have had him in our lives. I am so proud as a father Andrew gave so much to others.

With that being said, I am asking you all to consider donating in Andrew's honor and to join Andrew's Army, whether to donate or walk or both, and give to an organization to help find a cure and kick cancer's ass (sorry, best way to put it). Our Andrew may have died, but I know the contributions you give can make a huge impact in helping other's out who are battling this horrendous disease. I have been around pediatric cancer patients the past three years and I absolutely hate what this disease does. Please help in possibly helping these innocent victims of cancer and others who are battling valiantly. I pray for a world without cancer!

In this journey with my son, I have been so blessed to have met such great people, whether it has been healthcare providers, patients, patient’s families, etc. After Andrew’s death the outpouring of support whether prayer, encouragement, hugs or monetarily was so overwhelming and the behalf of the Park Family, thank you again. I pray you would raise awareness and spread the word about Light the Night, The Leukemia Lymphoma Society and Andrew’s testimony. Spread the word and give whatever you can. I am also inviting you all to walk with Andrew’s Army in the Light the Night Walk, Saturday October 20, 2012 and walk in remembrance of Andrew.

After raising almost $10,000 for last year's walk, I have set a lofty goal of $20,000.  Let's try to make this happen!  The money will make a difference!  Please goto my homepage:
PRESS HERE  (http://pages.lightthenight.org/il/WSuburbn12/JPark)  Again, I am asking to take a few brief moments to share this blog or send the address of my fund raising page to your friends and family.  If you all do that, we can easily meet our goal and then some.   SPREAD THE WORD AND LET'S KEEP ANDREW'S ARMY STRONG AND ALIVE!!!!

Blessings,
Joe

Sunday, September 9, 2012

SAD AND TRYING TIMES, BUT HOPE EVERLASTING....

The past few weeks have been very trying times.  To put it simply, they have been very depressing.  I never have been this depressed in my life.  Even my divorce was not as depressing and people who are close to me know my divorce was a very dark and depressing time in itself.  I have had the most difficult time sleeping and when I do get some, it is very unrestful.  I can't remember the last time I woke up and felt rested.  I abhor this feeling!  But I know I must go through this process as much as I don't feel like it at times.  The difference with my divorce and the grief from Andrew's death was that my grieving was mixed with an unhealthy doses of self pity: a very crippling elixir.   Also, I haven't been angry as much either.  Yes, anger has been a part of my grief, which is normal, but I have not questioned why for the most part.  If it were not for my faith in Jesus Christ, my wife, and children, I fear I would have not made it thus far.  I know Jennifer is very worried for me and it pains her to see me this way.  She has been so patient and understanding as she not only deals with my pain, but her's as well.  Honey, our dog, even senses something is wrong, as he is always by side, seemingly watching over me.  Honey was always by Andrew's side through the past three years as he battled so valiantly.

Some may have wondered with Andrew's passing, how I could I still believe in a God that allowed my son to die at such a awfully young age.  Why would a God that is so loving allow this and other countless unfair circumstances?  I am not a theologian nor a Christian with an abundance of Biblical acumen, but rather a believer in Christ, who believes with his little mustard of faith I possess that this world is not mine, Andrew's, nor other believer's final resting place.  I am not one to get into the a long theological explanation of my faith nor do I have any desire to, but rather tell you the very essence of what I believe.   And to do so, I believe the most appropriate way is to state the Apostle's Creed:


I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
   the Creator of heaven and earth,

   and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
   born of the Virgin Mary,
   suffered under Pontius Pilate,
   was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven
   and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
   whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,
   the communion of saints,
   the forgiveness of sins,
   the resurrection of the body,
   and life everlasting.

Amen.

God did not allow this to happen, SIN DID!  In the Bible, Romans 3:23 states:

For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. 

That's why we live in a world of so much death, grief and suffering: SIN!  But I have discovered on my life's journey that their is more to this world and this life on earth is but a temporary place and ultimately not mine nor Andrew's home.  There is hope!  I trust what John 3:16 says:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

I don't know what I would do without having Jesus Christ in my life!  Seriously, I don't!  For those that don't know, we decided to have Andrew cremated and just recently, we divided some of his ashes to give to my mom and dad and my brother. As Jennifer was dividing Andrew's ashes, we discovered the movies are so wrong about ashes.  You and I have seen how ashes look powdery like talc or flour, but that's not so.  Although most of the ashes are powdery, there are small pebble size pieces of bone.  It is near incredibly difficult to get the ashes into a totally powdery state.  I decided to take one of those pieces of bone and look at it.  It was surreal, as I was holding a piece of what was Andrew's earthly body!  Some think this is rather macabre and but it wasn't for me. What if I didn't believe in heaven, what the Apostles Creed states and what John 3:16 and other scripture purport?  What if I believed after death, it would be the end for Andrew, never to see him again.  Nothing more!  Done, finish, end of the line!  Oh how dreadful and miserable, to state it mildly, life would be!  Nothing to hope for!  How appalling would that be.  Nothing to live for!

Although consumed by grief and knowing I will never be able to heal and fill in my wounded heart completely, I have a modicum of peace knowing Andrew and his friend Anna ,who died from complications from a bone marrow transplant several months earlier,  are in heaven in eternal peace and joy and I know I will see them again one day.  That's why I don't hate God.  That's what is getting me through these dark and trying times.  HOPE AND FAITH!  Most of you who have followed my blog and have read one of my favorite verses over and over: Phillipians 4:6-7:

 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.   And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

I know many of you have been in awe and inspired of how I have kept it together the past 8 months with the care of Andrew and his death.  Some have wondered how I can have peace and a modicum of it.  I can't take credit.  Well, it is because of my hope and faith in my creator that this world is not my home, I am standing today.  All GOD!  Yes, it's been hard and there have been times I wish I could have my son back, but the peace that passes all understanding, stated in Philippians,  will get me through this journey on earth until I get to heaven, where there is no death, sickness, sadness, quarrels, grief, but eternal peace and joy.  THAT'S WHAT IS GETING ME THROUGH.  As I have cried my heart out many times these past few months, my closest of family and friends have reminded me of this and this has given me peace.

I know many of you are going through your own struggles and perhaps grief and if not, great!  I pray you will find the peace that passes all understanding as I have.  I hope you can be encouraged, by my testimony and the testimonies of so many, that there is hope.  I never thought I would be quoting
George Michael of Wham fame, but you gotta have FAITH!

Blessings,
Joe