Monday, August 4, 2008

My 3-year-old pace car

So I kind of expected to be basically paralyzed with grief for... I don't know... the next 7 years or so. It took me 7 years to learn to love her the way I do, so I figured it'd take that long to learn to live without her. Somehow it seemed the earth would stop turning, and the world would stop needing anything from me. You know... like a bereavement leave, or something.

But on Sunday, July 27, I woke up and got out of bed. That's what people do. I took a shower. Shaved (I was long overdue... started a new shadow of stubble that had never known her face, and never would.) And I went to pick up TJ from Aunt Dana's house, where he had spent the previous week in innocent and gleeful oblivion. Poor kid has no idea what a big week that was for him.

We went to the Zoo. It was as if nothing had changed-- at least to him, and in regards to our interaction. He was all into the animals and sights and sounds, as he always is. I was fighting tears of emotion-- not sadness-- as around every corner lay waiting another beautiful memory. The Brookfield Zoo has been a favorite place of ours since we moved up here. It was a perfect day at the zoo-- 80 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Leslie just loved that kind of day, with a quiet glow about her. The memories as they flashed through my mind were so precious-- and there wasn't a single one where Leslie was being pushed in a wheelchair or needing her oxygen tank. She was young, strong, beautiful, and laughing. (And getting out the Purell after leaving the ape exhibit.)

TJ didn't even ask. I don't know why he would have, in retrospect. Mommy not coming along with us on our little outings was nothing out of the ordinary over the past several months. To be sure, in his little not-yet-3-year-old world, nothing really changed for him, day-to-day. It had been quite some time since she was really able to do the "mommy" things that mommies are supposed to do. TJ (I hate to say it, because it just seems so unfair to Leslie) had already adjusted to life without his mommy. The only thing that changes for him is that now he can't go upstairs and kiss her goodnight before I put him to bed. But to be honest... to him, Mommy being in Heaven isn't really much different from Mommy being in the upstairs bedroom hooked up to IV's and an oxygen tank. (I don't need to say it... but for his Daddy, it's not as simple-- ah... another time, another blog...) Anyway, this whole "adjustment" of TJ's has been an ironic answer to prayer, really... God has already built that beautiful hedge of protection around his little heart.

Anyway, I felt compelled to ease the news onto him over lunch at one of the outdoor Zoo restaurants over his "shark-dog" and juice box.

"Hey TJ, I need to tell you something." He looked up at me-- ketchup on his face, big brown eyes. I almost broke down crying right then and there. But I held it together. "Last night was a very special night. Last night, Mommy went to Heaven and she's with God now!"

"And JESUS?!" He asked. We'd prepared for this moment.

"Yup!" I laughed, still fighting tears. "And do you know what she's doing?"

"Is she getting my drum ready?" he asked, in reference to the stories Leslie and I used to tell him about heaven, as she grew sicker.

"YES! And someday we will all play BAND and worship God together! You, me, and Mommy!"

"Is she getting a cymbal too?" He was starting to get very excited.

"A GREAT BIG cymbal. LOTS of them!"

His response was a glowing, dimply gasp of surprise/ excitement. He held his smile and looked at me for a while, and then re-focused on his shark-dog and juice box. And that was that.

From time to time, he asks when Mommy will come back. (He knows the answer, but it's an exercise that he needs to go through, I'm learning.) And at night we pray and thank God for Mommy, and tell Him to give her big hugs and kisses from us. There are times when he is quite "needy", asking simply for his paci and to cuddle with me. I know it is in those times that he is deeply missing her. But he doesn't say anything about her. Perhaps he doesn't even recognize it's the mommy-shaped void in his heart that is making him feel like that. Whatever the case... not only have I been shocked and thankful for how that little guy has been getting along this past week-plus-- he is actually the glue that's holding the pieces together for his daddy so far, as well. Not only has God answered Leslie's and my most gut-wrenching prayer of the last several weeks (to be with TJ, protect him, keep him "happy", and so-on), but God is indeed using TJ to be an ongoing answer to prayer in my own life, and in the lives of our families. (Something about " like a child..." comes to mind.)

Karen the homecare nurse came over Tuesday to pick up some infusion pumps and equipment that were no longer needed at 432 Butterfly Rd. I grabbed Jack (the Lab who is way too excited to hear the doorbell ring) and was pushing him into the basement when TJ answered the door.

"Why hello, TJ! How are YOU?" Karen always loved Leslie and TJ so well when she came over.

"NURSE KAREN!!" TJ answered, dancing a giddy gig. "Mommy's ALL BETTER!" He threw his hands up in the air and his face was lit up with the most amazing smile I've ever seen in my life. Karen just looked at me, not knowing whether to laugh or cry.

"Yes she is, TJ. Yes she is." Was all she could answer.

Like I said. A daily answer to prayer.

I took him to a "Tubbies" (Cubbies) game, compliments of "Mimi's Friend Ginny" for an early birthday celebration. The game was actually at "Wrigley North" (Miller Park in Milwaukee-- a little baseball humor there). The Tubbies were playing the Bwoowers. We got there so early the gates had not opened yet, but the TGIFridays on the Left Field Terrace was opened, so we went there to watch batting practice and get some snacks for a bit. TJ was just in awe of the hugeness of the place. He's been to Wrigley already, (already in love with the place), but Miller Park is just so different. He was enthralled with the big yellow slide in left field that Bernie Brewer goes down when the Brewers hit a home-run. And he'd never been that close to the field grass and "baseball dirt" (warning track) before. (His favorite part about baseball is the dirt.) His eyes were just like saucers for the whole hour. Just before we got up to leave, I saw a ball jump off a Brewers bat from the batting cage at home plate, up into the hazy glare of the late-july Milwaukee sky. It looked like it might be coming our way...

*THUD* ... clank-clank.

It hit the wall of the restaurant, directly behind where we were sitting. There was a mad scramble among the lookers-on-- half out of fear, trying to get out of the way, and half looking to find the ball, to be the lucky fan to take home a souvenir. I joined the fray. Just before I got up from the dining table where we were sitting, I looked down. The ball had settled right there between my feet. Right under my table. I hadn't even felt it land. I grabbed it and handed it to TJ. He was just amazed.

"TJ! A REAL BASEBALL! Just like the Cubbies play with!"

"Is it MINE?" he asked in wonder.


"I can take it HOME with me?" He might as well have asked me to pinch him to see if he was dreaming.

"Yes! It's YOURS!"

"It's HARD!" He said. He's used to playing with kid-safe spongy baseballs in the basement.

After the exitement settled a little, the "why-game" started up. "Why did that Bwoower man hit the hard ball to me?" he asked.

"Well, I think that God made it land there... " I mused.

"Why?" he kept up his part of the game.

"Maybe it was kind of like a special gift from Mommy," I continued. "I think that Mommy wanted to be here with us, so she just asked God to make that ball land right between my feet, so you could take it home. She knew that would make you happy." I truly believed that was the right answer, not just a fairy tale to sell to a 2-year-old.

He thought about it and then answered, "Or maybe that Bwoower man just saw me and hit it up to me."

I laughed so hard. "Maybe it's a little bit of both of those things, buddy."

We had a great time. The Cubbies won. We ate peanuts and ice cream and I even shared my Mountain Dew with him. (I know, I know... so sue me!) On the way home late that night, his tummy started hurting. I told him that it was probably from the pop that we drank.

"Pop can be very yummy, but you drank quite a bit of it, TJ. Too much pop can give you a tummy ache. That's why we don't have it very often. We only have it on very special days like Cubbies games."

"Maybe next time I will only have one or two or three sips," he said, after thinking about it a bit. Smart kid, that one is. A little later, his tummy was still hurting, and I was trying to distract him, reaching back and holding his hand and trying to soothe him as I drove.

"Maybe we won't tell mommy that I had pop," he concluded. I could just feel her glare coming down through the night into the sunroof of my TrailBlazer. "What were you THINKING?" I could hear her say...

We made it home. He felt better in the morning. And we headed to Ohio to be with Mimi and Papa (my mom and dad) for a few days. We'd been trying to make it over there for the past few months. But hospitals, doctor visits, and overall health kept us from getting there. We even missed the family vacation at the parents' place in Florida this year. That was crushing for all three of us. We'd been looking for a small window of opportunity to make the road trip down (flying was impossible, due to the state of Leslie's skull and sinuses after all her surgeries). That opportunity never materialized...

Until now. TJ and I flew down together yesterday (thanks for the tickets and the free rent, Mimi and Papa!). The trip was very tiring, but now we're having a blast. It's so good just to be alone with him. He has been so sweet, so encouraging to me, and full of love and laughter.

Like I said... an answer to prayer. Every day a blessing.

He's sleeping now-- one of his afternoon nap-a-thons-- which gives me some time to think. To breathe. To settle in and dig into this next chapter. I'm learning that God didn't intend for me to tackle all this at once. A man can only feel so much pain in a single sitting. There are only so many tears that can be shed before dehydration starts setting in. And He's given me this wonderful little pace car, (TJ), to keep me from burning out before I reach the finish line.


Verna said...

thank you for sharing Leslie's journey with us, our prayers continue for you and TJ as you open another chapter.

feel free to check out the Friesen's we are not without struggles either.

Erin said...

Tyson, Your strength and faith never cease to amaze me. I continue to pray for you & TJ. And I pray for myself to walk just an ounce of the walk that you do.
~Erin (Krugh) Bank

Marci said...

Tyson - We are so sorry for your loss and truly admire your willingness to share. You are an amazing man and we are so thankful TJ has you. We are from Bluffton and we have been following your blog. God has big plans for you and TJ, continue to look to Him and He will carry you through. You will always have our prayers,
Shawn & Marci Reinhard
( cousin of Trina Bucher )

Brad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ryan and Kristin Zeeb said...

Tyson-this is perfect. we're looking forward to following this next chapter in your lives. you guys are still on our minds DAILY in thoughts and prayers. have a wonderful time with your little buddy in Florida!

Holli said...

praying, laughing, and crying through this first entry in your new chapter.
thank you for sharing your family and your heart.

Anonymous said...

Tyson, Thanks, it was a beautiful post. Jenny Gutwein

Nicole said...

wow, children can teach us some important life lessons! Continuing to pray for strength, peace, and joy for you two. Thank you for continuing to share your story.
(Oh, and I knew the Brewers must have had a good reason for losing that series!)

JandT9702 said...

Tyson, I have been thinking about you and Leslie for a week now. I told my husband at dinner last night that I am so blown away at how touched I am by your story. I have been grieving for Leslie since last week and I've never even met you guys!! I am thrilled that she is in heaven worshipping our awesome God and waiting patiently to greet you at the gates! I used to have a fear of death, but now I'm not so scared to die. When I get to heaven, Leslie will be there and I am excited to meet her and that helps me feel calm. I am so excited to read about the next chapter in your life and am looking forward to many more stories and triumphs! I will continue to pray for you!!

Terri from NJ

Sabrina said...

Tyson, How true that we experience small waves of grief at times, so as to stay afloat. My Mom, Shirley Raker went home on the 22nd, and now my daughter, Chelsey and my Mom are experiencing totally healed bodies together. Just like Leslie. When I think about what they have, over what I don't; I can FEEL peace. There is a reason we are here, living. Everyday we can find a purpose to continue, and soon we too will know their JOY. Strength to you, Tyson.
Sabrina Grisier

Anonymous said...


I am a good friend of Jen Rice's and she has shared much of your recent journey with me. I am so sorry for your loss. From everything I have heard, and now read, you sound like an amazing man, an incredible husband, and a phenomenal father. My family and I keep you and TJ in our thoughts and prayers.

Lindsay Falvey

kristi_temple said...

We will continue to pray for you and your family as you walk in this new season of life. I was so blessed to hear that TJ is doing well.

Kristi and Mike Temple (and family)

Tylertopia said...

Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful and amazing journey, your faith, strength and your heart. We will continue to pray for you and TJ in this next chapter of your lives. So happy to read about your special times together at the game and the zoo. You have such a precious little guy there!

The Tyler Family

Renee Robison said...

Your story is so beautiful and touching an encouragement to us all. Thank you for sharing it. What a wonderful example of our SAVIOR. May God richly bless your life and TJ's. Praying and thinking of your family.

Jami @ livelaughlove5 said...

Thank you for sharing. We've been praying for you guys during this struggle. You are a wonderful daddy to your sweet little TJ!

We'll keep praying.

Clint and Jami

Brittany Gerber said...

Hey Ty,
Sorry we missed you this past weekend, like Kami said I also felt so rich after we left. I pray that God will heal our wounds of this battle, but leave the scar as a reminder of Him and Les. Praying that you have a safe and enjoyable trip with the family, and comfort throughout the days. Love Brittany

Sue Feldmann said...

Tears are streaming down my face after reading your blog...tears from our loss but also tears for Leslie's gain. Thank you for sharing your heart and your faith with us, Tyson. We continue to keep you close in prayer.

Jen's Mom, Sue

kaysette said...

Thanks so much for continuing your blog! I get so many blessings from reading it. Loss is something I know quite a bit about, having lost a son and a mother much too soon. My son left behind 3 precious little children, and hearing about your little TJ just warms my heart. Praying for you both....

svmerchant said...

Thank you so much for continuing to write. I pray for you and T.J all the time. I am in awe of your courage and strength. You have so encouraged me to get out of "my world" and live a deeper and better life for Christ.
It is an honor to have met you, Leslie and T.J. through your blogging.
Sincerely in Christ,
Shellie Merchant

kim p said...

I am SO thankful to hear that God is providing for you and TJ in your time of deepest need. He is faithful, and He is good. We'll be praying that God will keep that hedge of protection around TJ's heart and that He'll bathe your wounded heart in His love day by day.

Thanks for writing another chapter and continuing your testimony of God's faithfulness. May God continue to be glorified in your life. And enjoy your time in Florida with TJ. He sounds like quite a special little boy.

Sue said...

Tyson, pleae know that a lot of people here in Archbold are continuing to pray for you and TJ.You have blessed us so much thru your writings..God has given you a special gift. God bless you.

Tyson Aschliman said...

Thanks so much, everyone. I'm humbled to know of your prayers and continued love and support. Truly humbled. You've been an important part of God's "comforting process" in my liife over these past weeks.

Thank you!


Rashel & A.D. said...

I've been following your story through our church, archbold evan. Thinking and praying for you guys every day. God has given you such a gift of writing and expressing yourself that Leslie's journey continues to reach and move new people each day! Have a great time in FL!

Margo Kragh said...

Tyson, you are such an AMAZING writer. With all that you're going through, I would imagine that being able to communicate so beautifully, let alone being able to think clearly, would be so difficult. What a blessing it is to read your story. I chuckle, then cry, then chuckle, then cry. You and TJ are such troopers!!! My Matthew is almost 3 as well. His b'day is 9/15/05. When is TJ's? We're continuing to pray for you. When the time is right, I really think you ought to put these chapters into a book. I know you'd captivate many, many readers like me. I pray you have clear evening skies for the rest of the time while you're down here. If I can be of any help while you're down here, please let me know.
Blessings Tyson,

Kellie Felmey, Washington, IL said...

Tyson, I have been doing your mom-in-laws hair while Leslie was so ill and have been praying for you guys continually! I love your family and the obvious peace of God that lies within. This will be a true testimony to many! You are an object of God's grace and He is smiling at your trust in Him through all of this! Thank you for your heart! My little cousin was just diagnosed with almost the same thing! He has a tumor the size of baseball in the back of his sinus cavity. His birthday is March 18 and he is around the same
age. He startin 7 weeks of chemo and radiation and I pray that his family can have the peace and trust of God that you experienced. You are a true testimony. I am thankful to know your story and will cherish Leslie in my heart forever! God Bless you and TJ and I can't wait to hear what he has in store for you!

won a young (aka smile) said...

Such beautiful memories you share of your wife. What a blessing to be able to know God's grace in the midst of such a tough time. You are inspiring. I'm grateful to have heard about your family.

shores5 said...

Tyson, I stumbled [or was led]to the incredible story of love you share. As I get to know your family, truly a powerful force overwhelms my entire being. For I know the type of soul bonding that you know, Oh God such a wonderful love. Some never feel its depths, for those I truly feel sorry.I will share Leslie's, and you and TJs story, for true and powerful love abides there. And I pray for you, in your lonliness and longing my heart breaks with yours. Luke

TC from MKE said...

Tyson - Came across this blog by accident and your writings are so beautiful. Your little boy will cherish them someday as he longs to know how his daddy was so strong and loving during this difficult time. All the best to you and TJ and your beautiful wife who is waiting in heaven to be reunited for eternity.