Friday, March 27, 2009

Join the Party

Wow. Thanks everyone. THAT was amazing. I talked to several of Leslie's family and friends, and we have been extremely blessed and encouraged with the outpouring of love and compassion this week. Many tears, many laughs... Shared with SO many people. Thanks for the stories, old friends, and thanks for your compassion, new friends and "strangers". I am truly humbled... I had not expected that kind of response. Thank you all.

Several of those great stories were shared by a group of ladies that had a special place in Leslie's heart. A group of friends from her high school days-- the ones talking about her convertible (DA BUCH) and all other kinds of craziness that might just be news to Leslie's parents... (the convertible ending up in a cornfield one night comes to mind... I believe when Leslie told me that story, she specifically noted that Dad never knew about it.) Anyway, this group of girls came up to me 8 months ago at one of Leslie's memorial services and made a commitment-- they would get together every year to remember "the good ol' days"... to remember Leslie, to love on each other, to share laughter and tears. And they determined that the annual event which would be the venue for this get-together would be the Washington, IL Relay for Life. (American Cancer Society)

Now, while I'm all about charitable giving, I'm admittedly not one who gets into "fund-raising". I can't remember EVER pushing a cause before... Well... This might be the only cause I'll ever pitch, and fittingly so.

DeLene, Julie, Elisa, Sarah, and the gang (if I didn't mention your name, girls, that's my shout out to JOIN THE TEAM or DONATE!! And yes, I KNOW who you are!)-- along with Leslie's family and a couple of our friends-- have started a Relay for Life team in Leslie's honor. You can support our cause by clicking on the following link and clicking on the DONATE button:

One of the really cool things about ACS and Relay for Life (in my mind... I tend to pay close attention to this kind of thing) is the fact that 75% of donations go directly to fund cancer treatment and research programs. Only the remaining 25% goes to the infrastructure and adminsitrative costs to support ACS (so they can continue pushing 75% of everything they get into their actual cause). That's a great ratio for such a large organization. (One to which our government and churches should espouse, if you ask me.)

Anyway, if your heart feels so led, consider joining the Walking Warriors and donate, will you? In honor of Leslie. In honor of your loved one who has battled. It's just another great way to join this little party we started last week. (In case you're wondering, over 1500 unique visitors have partied with us in the past week, viewed the blog, left comments, etc... Representing 44 states and 21 countries worldwide.)

Thanks again for joining us in celebrating Leslie. And for considering donating-- a "birthday gift" of sorts.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Birthday eCard

A little less than 24 hours until what would have been Leslie's 33rd birthday. I would have given her a hard time about being TWO YEARS older than me, as I always did on that day, and that nonsense would continue for the next couple of weeks or so until I could no loner claim such a thing. It's been on my mind, to be sure. But every "first" that passes becomes more manageable, as God continues to heal and unveil the blessings of the new life he's set before us. Peace abounds rather than emotional burden. Happy memories and smiles fill the quiet spaces of the day rather than tears and questions. (More on the smiles and memories in a minute...) But to be sure, this "birthday week" has been on our minds.

Not sure how or why, exactly-- I don't think anyone said anything to him-- but TJ asked me tonight, "Dad, when is my mom's next birthday going to be?" I stopped in my tracks. We were just putting away the drumset to clear the floor for our baseball game, and it was just spontaneous and rather matter-of-fact. I asked him if Mimi had mentioned something to him about Mommy's birthday. (My mom has been in town helping out since mid-last week, with Miss Liz on Spring Break, TJ being sick-- ear infection now that he's kicked the puke virus, and things pretty crazy for me at work.) He assured me that no one had told him about his Mom's birthday, and just seemed rather surprised and curious at my response. It just seemed to him like a normal question to ask me, after all.

I sat down on the basement stairs and had him sit on my lap. I told him that Mommy's birthday was in 2 days-- on Wednesday. "Oh, I think they're going to have a GREAT BIG party for her in HEAVEN!" He said. I agreed, and told him it would be an extra special one because it was her first birthday in Heaven. He got all excited and asked rhetorically if we could go to the party. I said, "TJ, you know that we can't go to Heaven until Jesus is ready to come get us, and it might be a very long time. We probably won't go this week. But when we do go, we'll have LOTS of birthday parties for Mommy to get caught up on all the ones we missed while she was there without us." He smiled and did an excited little dance, quite pleased with this explanation. Then, we began to plan our own little birthday party for Mommy, just TJ and me. We're going to Red Lobster. (It's been his favorite special treat lately-- yes, the kid LOVES lobster... I know... I'm creating some sort of monster... It will be his second trip there in a week. He suckered Mimi into taking him once when I was away on business last week.) We're going to eat lobster and we'll have them bring a birthday cake and sing happy birthday to Mommy with us. (Seriously, they'd be cold-hearted or just plain dumb not to, at such a request, right? I mean, the kid can be VERY persuasive!) I assured him that Mommy would be able to see our little party and it would make her very happy that we're having birthday cake with her, while she's having her party in Heaven.

So, that's how TJ and I are celebrating Leslie's 33rd birthday. Now, here's your opportunity to join the fun. I'm inviting every reader of this blog to post a comment. I seldom give a shout-out for comments. But I'd like to just honor Leslie in this way. Some of you have never met Leslie. But she means something to you... You know her story, you are living her legacy. Tell her (by clicking on "comments" below) what she means to you. Those of you that knew her, share a memory. Tell a story, or share something about her that you truly appreciate. I believe she can read-- or feel, or somehow know-- these comments as you share... carried up on the wings of angels, perhaps... like some sort of Heaven-bound birthday card or e-greeting or something.

Let me start by sharing a brief memory... Of when I first met Leslie...

She was a Psychology major at good ol' Taylor U. in Indiana. I was a Psych. minor, so we had a few classes together. She'd "caught my eye" as they say, and I got up the courage to ask her on a "study date" before a mid-term one semester. To say we hit it off would be... well... an outright lie. Oil and water. No chemistry. I thought she had a chip on her shoulder and was hard to get to know. She thought I was a cocky punk with an attitude problem. (She was probably not far off.) That was that. I'm not sure if we ever spoke again...

...Until a couple of years later, after we both graduated and happened to both move to Indianapolis... Where we bumped into each other at a party... And were married about 18 months later. My, how a little "coming-of-age" can change one's perspective! Or two people's perspective.

So... What's your "Leslie story"? Join with me in celebrating Leslie on her birthday.

PS. Just found out this morning that my book proposal for Leslie's Journey is being presented to publishers in the coming week(s). If you think of it, I could truly use some prayer, that God would open and shut doors and make His desires known as to which direction we should go with this. Let the adventure begin! Or continue, I guess...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Having a TJ Day

I've talked in the past about TJ and I occasionally having a "Mommy day". Well, for me, today's a TJ day. Dana called me at the office a couple of hours after I dropped him off this morning. He was throwing up. I wasn't really that surprised. He wasn't himself last night--not lethargic, but rather restless and edgy, actually-- and looked a bit pasty, but denied feeling sick when I asked. Maybe he was just trying to convince himself...
So I'm back at home with him now. We just finished watching the Jungle Book (his favorite movie these days, although I believe this is the first time he's had the patience to watch the whole thing start-to-finish in one sitting). He really only watches TV when he's sick or very tired. (Or, as I've mentioned before, it's The Wiggles or a sporting event-- but that's not as much "watching" TV as it "doing" TV. He does all the Wiggles' dances and can't watch a sport without simultaneously playing it.)

Anyway, The Jungle Book is over now, and he's held down about 3 ounces of Sprite and a cup of jello. So far so good. He's fast asleep on the make-shift bed I've made him on the floor of our newly refurbished bathroom on the main floor, where I can keep an eye on him as I fiddle with work stuff in the living room. Bathroom floor beds are a special treat when he's sick. He loves "camping out" on the floor for naps, and he's so good at puking into the toilet all by himself, so it's a pretty good arrangement for everybody. I make sure I'm there when I hear that tell-tale whimper which forecasts another bout... I sympathetically cheer him on and rub his back and tell him how brave he is. But he does it all by himself. Wakes up from his nap, lifts the lid, does his duty, and rinses out his mouth with Sprite afterward. (He knows not to swallow until his tummy settles back down a little.)

The day is rather fitting of these past weeks, really. My mind and heart have been so completely full of him, and we've had a lot more "down-time" to spend together as well. I mean, he's bringing me so much joy. I'm learning so much from him. He's been so happy. I've mentioned to various people lately that he really seems to have turned a corner from those "terrible threes" I blogged about a month or so back. He's hardly had any "melt-downs", and when he does start to "go there", it's only a small inkling of the magnitude of the events they used to be. He has been obedient, kind, playing well with others, and extremely lovey... Cuddly, kissy, verbally expressive... "I love you, Daddy!" Spontaneous proclamations of his passionate adoration. I feel like I could just burst with all the love that it builds inside me. The most amazing attribute of his that's really starting to blossom is his inquisitiveness. The kid doesn't miss a THING. And he has this insatiable desire to KNOW the ins-and-outs of everything his mind stumbles across. The lady sitting two tables over from us at Panera on Monday night couldn't hide her amusement with the discussion, even though she tried-- she looked almost apologetic when I caught her chuckling at us, as she was trying hard not to eaves drop on our conversation.

"Daddy, can I please have a great-big piece of your bread?" (He's got me well trained not to be stingy with my sharing of the sourdough baggette that comes with my meal.)

"Sure, buddy. Here, you can dip it in this." I handed him a generous chunk of my baguette and a little cup of salad dressing that I had served on the side.
"Is that salad dressing yummy on my bread?" He asked, tempted to try something new.

"Yes, it's very yummy, see?" I dipped a piece of my bread and ate it, with a dramatic, "Mmmmmmm!!"

"Mmm! It is good!" He tried it himself. "Why is it so yummy on my bread if it's for your salad?" He asked.

"Well, it's kind of like how you like to dip your carrots in ranch dressing. It's just made up of good stuff like olive oil and garlic and..."

"Daddy?" He interrupted, apparently satisfied with the answer to his previous inquisition.

"Yes, TJ?"

"Why do other people like to eat at Panera like us?" He was observing the growing line at the counter.

"Well, they have really good food, here, TJ. And it's healthy food, too."

"You mean like your salad and my grilled cheese?"

"That's right, buddy. Our food is yummy and healthy too."

"Why is it healthy?"

"Well, it's made up of healthy things, like veggetables and good chicken, and good fresh bread."

"Why are those things healthy?" He truly wanted to know, and wasn't asking to be difficult... even though I confess, at times my patience wears thin.

"Because they're good for you." Indeed, my patience was wearing thin, in this case, as amused as I was.

"Why are they good for you?"

"Because they're healthy."

"Why are they healthy, though?!"

"Because they're good for you!" (This is a little trick I employ whenever I've had enough of a particular topic.) Just before he got frustrated enough to call me onto the carpet for the mean little trick I was playing, we heard the chuckle from the quiet lady two seats over.

"Daddy, why is that lady laughing at us?"

"Because she thinks you're funny, TJ." I answered, as I gave an understanding smile to the lady.

"But why does she think I'm funny?"

And the conversation goes on...

...and on...
...and on...

...All day, every day. And you know what? I love every minute of it... Even when my patience grows thin, I'm just constantly overwhelmed with amazement, compassion, and thankfulness for this little person. I am so thankful for how God is providing for his needs-- comforting his little heart; giving him safe "places" to find security and nurturing that his Mommy no longer is able to provide in person; allowing our relationship to just grow in trust, companionship, laughter, and love. Still, it is hard for me not to just worry-- or even hurt for him sometimes.

I was just watching him eat his dinner last night. (Special treat-- Chuck E. Cheese!) (As an aside, it was actually an impromptu decision... an excuse to get out of traffic in Naperville on the drive home-- with all the flooding we've had, the Wheaton-to-Bolingbrook evening commute has been horrible. Just as I started to feel the road rage creep in, I saw a smiling Chuck E. waving at me from a marquee just ahead. I baled. Traded in my frustration for a headache. TJ was quite pleased with the decision, at least.) But he was just so happy, as I watched him there eating his pizza and broccoli. (I know, the sign on the salad bar says "NO SHARING"... So sue me. Or start offering some decent greens on the kids menu!) Anyway, TJ was just watching all the flashing lights and action, looking out for Chuck E. so he could give him "five" again. As "into" everything as he is-- never sitting still, always figuring something out or imagining or experiencing something to its fullest-- he just seems so content. As I said, I thank God for this. And I thank all those who have risen to the occasion to help meet his needs, by the grace of God, as I will be the first to confess I cannot do it on my own. But sometimes I just fight this deep sadness. Not for me-- that I've lost Leslie, or the fact that I can't "do this alone"-- but for our son. It's like little man has no idea how big of a deal this has all really been. It's like he'll never really know just what he's missing. It's like he's somehow okay with the fact that Mommy's in Heaven, and we can't just go see her whenever we want. We do talk about her every day. But it's as if she's just "away". This morning he asked if he could just go to Heaven for a little bit, so he can just talk to her just for a minute, as if he was trying to get me to cut him a deal, similarly to a "just one more book" request at bed-time. I told him he can pray and tell God everything that he wants to tell his mom, and she will be so happy to hear it all from God. And I told him how proud of him Mommy is, watching from Heaven. And it's weird... That all seems to be okay with him. He just goes on loving me, laughing, playing, dancing, drumming, asking questions, watching the world unfold before him.

Witnessing all of this just reminds me-- even amidst my own bouts with sorrow or worry for him-- that indeed, Jehovah Jireh, our God provides. TJ is the one thing I protect and hold onto with all that I am, all that I've got, above all other things-- far above even my own life. And even TJ is something I am learning to lay down at the foot of the Throne-- to give up into the more competent hands of our Father-- in humble acceptance of God's will and provision. Certainly, God is using me to provide for His child, TJ... pouring into me (or right through me) far more love and wisdom and "parental guidance" than I ever thought myself able to contain. But even then, the stuff that comes out of me is not enough. I just fall short. And when I have run dry and empty, God continues to hold TJ in His hand-- providing all the more perfectly in my weakness. And He doesn't stop there... God is loving and healing me through TJ. God has given me TJ to provide for me, as well. It has been truly miraculous to see Him work in this dynamic these days.

So that's been welling up in my heart for the last couple of weeks. Feels good to broadcast it to the world. Tears of pride and joy are welling up in my eyes as I watch him sleep on his make-shift bed on the bathroom floor. Such a big boy. A warrior, like his mommy. A true joy and a blessing. Thank you God, for my TJ.

(whew... I'll call it a day, I think. While I dry myself off a little... here are some candid photos I've shot this past week or so, with the camera phone...)

TJ waiting for his food at Panera.

Seconds later, waiting for his food at Panera.

Doing the high-flying balloon-bike thing at Chuck E. Cheese's.

Monday, March 2, 2009


I woke up this morning to the gentle crescendo of my iHome clock radio-- a feature ALL clock radios should have, if you ask me. My particular model displays the date next to the time.

Mar 2 2009

As my sleepy eyes gained focus, I stared at that date, letting my mind wake up and my heart settle into the reality of the day. About a half-hour later, I pulled myself out of bed and started another day. It wasn't 3 snoozes-- the typical way I'd spend 30 minutes getting myself out of bed and to the shower. I was fully awake. Staring at the ceiling. The couple of pictures that remain on the dresser. The empty pillow beside me.

In a past life, I'd have rolled over and kissed her forehead and said, "Happy anniversary, baby". I imagined doing just that this morning. I smiled for a minute at the thought. Then the loneliness set in. This day is no longer shared. It's not "our day". Not like it was. "We" are only a memory. So is our anniversary. I'm somewhat certain there are no calendars in Heaven. If there are, I'm QUITE certain Leslie doesn't pay much attention to them these days. In her earthly life, she was obsessed with the calendar-- birthdays and season changes and upcoming vacations. And anniversaries. I found myself wondering if she gave it a second thought today. March 2, 2002 was an awesome day. Perfect for the first day of "Tyson and Leslie"... great food, friends, and a beautiful bride and the groom who loved her. I thought of the excitement of our honeymoon in St. Marten. Our first house in Fishers. Our friends we'd meet up with at Brewpub or Chalkies or Fox & Hound. Her beauty school adventure. God calling us (quite literally speaking) to the Chicago area. Pregnancy. TJ. Parenthood. Our friendship. Her smile. Her laugh. Her scowl. Her voice. Her eyes. My mind was awhirl from about 5:00 until sometime just before 6am, CST, this morning... March 2, 2009. And then it was on with another day... Dana called before 6. Will's sick. Activate contingency plan. Call Gram, see if we can get him down to her ahead of schedule this week. (Work schedule had required/ provided for a mini-vacay for TJ at Gram's this week.)

God, we had such a good life. You blessed us so much. You bless me every day-- in this "new life"-- with the life we had. She taught me how to live this life. I literally owe her my life (as I was just pondering with Dana via email). (Thanks, by the way, to all of you who dropped me a voice mail, email, etc... today to let me know you were thinking of me.) I literally spent the day just remembering. Giving thanks for Leslie. Giving thanks that her suffering is over. That she is now complete. No more cancer. No more depression. No more Februaries. Yet her memory and the very essence of her life lives on in so many of us. In TJ and me... in Dana and Mom and Dad and Chris and Margarette and Cody and Dan. In all of her family. In our friends here... In Indy. Shoot, across the entire globe, so says Google Analytics.

Tonight I called Mom (-in-law). I used the excuse that I wanted to say goodnight to TJ, but really, I just wanted to tell her thanks. Thanks for "giving me" their daughter. For trusting me to love her and care for her the way they did. And for accepting me into their family on March 2, 2002. This date is not only a wedding anniversary... it's a "birthday" of sorts. Today is the anniversary of the day I was welcomed into the Bucher family. So there's still reason to celebrate. And there always will be.

So it was a beautifully and difficultly complex day today. Memories and missing Leslie. Thankfulness and worship. I guess it was a perfect "anniversary". Leslie, my wife, was honored. And fittingly enough-- as this, I hope was the essence of our very marriage-- so was God.