The last 4.5 years have been hard on the Alleyns (and extended family).
It has not been an easy road navigating Joel's mom's diagnosis of brain tumours and brain surgery, her severely broken ankle, her cancer and chemotherapy, and the countless, seemingly endless seizures. When we get updates of her health we gasp in despair and in the same breath we gasp in awe of Joel's dad, Ray, who has been there by her side for every single moment. If that is not a sacrifice of love and commitment, I don't know what is.
It wasn't easy to go through my own health struggles to produce our dear child; our parents' only grandchild. And then, a temporary and thankfully false skin cancer scare.
And then, Joel's grandma's lung cancer and Joel's aunt Elaine was by her side, playing the role of caregiver and estate manager. When Rita died we felt sadness, but we knew she lived a full life. We are happy she got to meet her great-granddaughter.
And then, somewhere amidst the birth of Charlee and the death of Rita our dear Elaine received her own diagnosis and it struck us hard.
It isn't always easy to be an "in law" - you know? I know you all know what I'm talking about! It's tricky to navigate the intricacies of family when they aren't your own blood, but the ones you chose because they are your partner's blood. It's been tough, despite my 12 years of being part of this family, to know exactly what to say and when to say it, what to do and when to do it. I'm certain it is this way for all "in laws", daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, etc. around the globe.
For me, Joel's aunt Elaine was the real deal. Elaine and I shared interests (yoga, traveling, running, crafting, cooking, gardening, to name a handful) and we often talked about these interests for hours on the beach up at the lake. Elaine was the one who consistently made me feel welcome both at the lake and in the many family gatherings. Elaine was the one who hosted a baby shower for Charlee and hand made her a quilt to match Joel's baby quilt, made by Rita 30 years ago. For me, Elaine's presence will be deeply missed, probably for the rest of my life, when we Alleyns are all together. I can't even count the times I've broken down in tears since her diagnosis, crying out how unfair the situation was and is. I don't understand. She was one of my rocks in this family; I still need her.
Joel has given me permission to write on his behalf about his aunt Elaine. Elaine and her husband, Jim, did not have their own children, but my goodness, they played the role of Aunt and Uncle like none other! Joel, his sisters and his cousins, enjoyed some pretty incredible vacations (Disneyland, Disney World, among other trips) growing up. Once Joel's cousins and extended family grew up and had their own children, Jim and Elaine continued their role as rock stars and gave the next generation of kids the same kinds of experiences. We were really looking forward to Charlee becoming part of the crew, joining in on the fun adventures; thus strengthening the bond with these so-called "adopted" cousins. Joel feels so grateful for the experiences Elaine was able to provide him while he was growing up and he will feel the loss of his aunt's influence in our daughter's life immensely.
It will take time to heal our broken, saddened hearts, but we know Elaine was not one to enjoy suffering! We do feel at peace knowing that she is now at peace, but even this deep peace does not stop the tears from flowing freely, randomly. My dear friend recently told me that it is only in an experience of death that we learn the true value of life and I've seen Elaine's legacy begin to trickle down and ripple around already.
When I sit and think deeply on these last 4.5 years I feel exhausted. How can one family suffer so much in such a short amount of time? Please pray for us. Please keep us close in your thoughts and hearts. We are protecting one another right now. We have been keeping our eyes above the waves for a long time now.
shanti - shanti - shanti