The Goodbye: Part 1

The Goodbye: Part 1

September 27, I received a phone call that changed my life. A phone call that, deep down, I knew was coming. I just didn’t know it would be so soon.

It was a regular Wednesday at work and quiet. After lunch, my phone boasted mom’s name as it vibrated on my desk. She was hesitant, but always asked how I was before any conversation, and then…

“Your dad’s been taken to the ER. He wasn’t responding to the dialysis nurses.”

I don’t remember a lot after that except that I told mom and my boss that I’d head to Kennestone ER so he wasn’t alone. That gave mom a little time to tie up her workday. I made the 45 minute drive from Atlanta, talking to God the whole time. “Lord, only you know what’s about to happen. I don’t know that I’m ready.”

I parked, got to Dad, and he didn’t even remember why he was there. I helped him try to put together the pieces as he came out of his fog. Taken to dialysis, hooked up to treatment, woke up at the hospital. I hoped this wasn’t about to be a long hospital stay since his hyperbaric dr told us he was doing great just the week before. Doctors came in and out, examining, asking questions that thankfully I was there to answer since Dad was still fuzzy.

When we were alone, I took notice of my dad. Just watching him. We always told him how cute he was and this day was no exception. I wondered how I got so lucky to call him my dad. He was so funny, thoughtful, kind, and SMART. I hated he was going through this, but I was thankful I was there for him. He’d been through hell that whole summer, but he was fighting as hard as he could.

Mom found us just about the time that his vascular team came in. Here it came…

“Mr. Frost, there’s a pretty bad infection in your amputation. we could do surgery and remove more, but we need to think about your quality of life. If untreated, this infection will be terminal… I would not blame you if you decided you’ve been through enough. You really have. You can let us know your decision within the next day.”

No words. I had no words. I could only make eye contact with my mom. Then I felt the tears stinging and involuntarily streaming down my face and everything turned to slow motion. Was this real? Was I dreaming? I watched Dad reach for Mom’s hand and they let us know we were being admitted in a few minutes.

The rest of the day was a blur as my dad told us he’d think about his options overnight. Though, again, I knew deep down what his decision would be. I’d watched as he went from an independent man hoping for a kidney to his life turning upside down and unaware if he’d ever walk again within 5 months. Looking back now, We hadn’t had many wins, so deciding to go out on his own terms would be the last bit of control he had. I called our family to let them know of the day’s happenings, I remember thinking I’m too young to make these kinds of calls about my parents. But there I was.

Unable to sleep, I laid in bed all night wondering what the next day would bring…

The Rainbow Connection

The Rainbow Connection

You know those beach trips that are good for the soul? That are so needed in so many ways? I love those because there’s something about everyday that you soak in and keep with you. It’s not just a vacation, it’s a recharge. Last year, in the midst of Dad’s battle, Adam and I were able to get in a day and a half at the beach and I remember saying “I so needed this” through a large exhale while staring at the water. Feeling so small next to that ocean, yet so peaceful. Little did I know that in exactly one week from that moment, Dad would be admitted to hospice. That small press of the mental reset button would be what pushed me through the worst time in my life. Since December, we’ve had a departure date of August 25th in the planner for this year’s vacation to Miramar Beach, FL and Adam, my mom, my sister, and I have all been running on fumes to get there, counting down the days via text message when we knew of one of us having a rough day.

However, we also knew this trip brought a different element. On one hand, gratitude for the opportunity to refill the tank. But on the other, a sadness and exhaustion that feels too permanent to be erased in the salty air. A walk on the eggshells of emotion stood between us and sandy toes. This would be the first vacation without our Captain. He was our best event planner…

“Tuesday – we putt-putt, Thursday – pizza in our suits and night swimming”

And we went along with it because he’s never failed us, every trip was special and he made it that way. How would we fare without him?Well…it’s a week later and I’m proud to say we made it through. I think we all feel rested, we’re definitely more tan than when we arrived, and while sadness still lingers, we can find comfort in another peaceful goodbye.

We discovered that sticking to an itinerary is not really our strong suit. We’d decide on breakfast at one of our favorite spots…and that’s the day waking up would feel impossible. Renting a movie would be thrown out to the group, agreed upon…and then no one’s eyes would stay open long enough to even pick the film. We flew by the seat of our swimsuits. We welcomed the sunny days and rainy days equally. Clear skies provided the fun and the clouds gave the ok to take time for quiet reflection in the condo. However, we did stick to one plan, the most important plan of the trip. We brought Dad to his second resting place.

Thursday, August 30th, we woke with the sun and watched as Dad became one with the waves. Knowing this was where we spent our last family vacation together in 2014 combined with dad’s love of the ocean gave us peace. It was tearful, but beautiful as a storm slowly rolled in. It felt poetic and appropriate, no one enjoyed watching lightening over the water more than my dad. The thought of him being present for every future vacation fills my heart with comfort.

When we packed up and were ready to get on the road this morning, we all took one last look at the ocean from our balcony. None of us really wanting to leave. Knowing it was partly due to the week being over, but mostly because a piece of Dad would be left behind. We took a selfie with the ocean behind us and then turned around to find a surprise that left us in awe. I know the science behind it, but in this instance, I know the spirit behind it. Through tear-filled eyes, I watched as a subtle rainbow crept closer to shore with each passing second. This week was the summation of sunny rays and downpours, rip tides and gentle breezes. This week was a rainbow. A mix of emotions, experiences, and colors, but always special. Dad gave us a rainbow of memories in life and today he sent one to let us know that life’s salty and sweet would always be there, but so would he. Just when we needed him.

So Kermit, I think we’ve found it…The rainbow connection. The memories, my dad, and me.

Frank Sinatra & a Swimsuit

Frank Sinatra & a Swimsuit

You know those days where Facebook memories pop up from years ago and you just think to yourself “why was I like that?” I think we all have those moments, but the beauty of that is we can now appreciate seeing our younger selves trying to figure out who we were going to be. But if you think back to those younger days, it was scary to be yourself, even before social media. It’s always hard to have the confidence to live the way you want and not feel like some sort of judgement is going to come your way. The answer to that fear? My girl Taylor Swift says it best….just Shake It Off!

A special memory popped up this weekend and coincidentally reminded of the importance of being yourself. In July of 2011, our family took an awesome vacation to Cancun, Mexico. It was at an amazing Riu Resort with fun things happening everyday. Games, sports, entertainment, 24/7 soft serve ice cream. You name it, it was happening. I remember them asking if I wanted to play games and I always declined nicely. It was easy to play it off while reading my book, I was content in my bubble. But deep down I thought if I was bad at these activities, these strangers were going to ridicule me to tears. Better safe than sorry!

The last night of vacation, we went down to the lounge to watch the karaoke show. My dad sat down and said “I’m in!” I was shocked, he’d already signed up. He was going to sing in front of all of these strangers?? My huge love for music came from my parents, but I’m not putting it on display in front of all of these people who have the capability of booing me back to the United States. But my dad did. And this memory is the result….

He was amazing! I remember having so much pride in that moment, who was this guy with nerves of steel?? MY dad. The crowd loved him because he was having fun! And now he could say he performed a Frank Sinatra song in Cancun and everyone loved “Mr. USA”! What an experience to carry in your back pocket. The best part? He didn’t even care that they loved it! He sat down next to me and said “woo, I do love that song!” Even if that crowd hated it, I still would’ve been so proud and it’s still something he conquered. Which led me to think, what had I now missed out on? What memories could I have made that I let pass me by because I was scared of what others would think? I might have crushed it during volleyball in the pool, but I didn’t even give myself the opportunity to find out. Even if I was terrible, at least I would’ve tried.

Fast forward to this weekend, Facebook showed me this video right when I needed it most. I grew up with the mindset that in some instances I will always be lesser than compared to other girls. I think that’s a normal circumstance for teenage girls, nothing crippling, just the norm. When it came to summertime and bathing suit shopping, no one wanted to see me in a 2 piece. No matter how cute or the style, if I’m covered enough then it’ll save me the judgement of someone thinking I wasn’t good enough to be wearing it. Through the years, I’ve looked at cute styles in magazines and online, but the fear always got the best of me. But I’m thankful, because this past year of growth plus the physical changes discussed in my last post have given me the confidence to be me, to recognize what I want for myself, and…to order that 2 piece swimsuit! I tried it on as soon as it was delivered and much to my surprise, I actually liked it on! But why did I still feel the urge to return it? Knowing our beach vacation is coming up, I was allowing the fear to come crawling back in. Surely I can’t wear this…

And that’s when dad’s karaoke video popped up. Reminding me that this is MY life. Want to sing New York, New York in another country in front of strangers? Do it! Want to wear a 2 piece swimsuit? Do it! Want to start a blog and share your life? Do it! Want to win the lottery and adopt all the cats? Well…Keep trying! Find what decisions make you happy and do them. Those that love the real you, who know your heart, and aren’t your friends because it’s convenient, will support you. And the others who won’t? Their judgement just proves they’re living in fear of criticism themselves.

So, what are you scared to do? What opportunity has you fearful to fail? Just go for it!

…As for me? Me and my new swimsuit will see you at the pool! 🙂

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Ch-ch-ch-changes

Ch-ch-ch-changes

#TransformationTuesday. That’s what the kids are calling it, right? 🙂 Lately, the fam and I have been doing some transforming of our own and it wasn’t until I did a side by side recently that I really noticed how far I’ve come.

June 2018 on the left, June 2017 on the right. Crazy, isn’t it? I think the craziest thing is I’m not even mad at that girl on the right. That girl wearing the Frost Strong shirt and smiling in the hospital waiting room? I needed her, here’s why…

That girl did A LOT (minus sleeping) for her family. That version of me took care of her dad. That meant feeding him, physically cutting up food and fed him when he was too tired. Repositioned him when he was too weak to pull himself up. Helped nurses when there wasn’t enough staff on the floor. That girl worked her butt off so that her new job wasn’t at risk. That girl made sure her mom was getting rest and took turns sleeping in a chair bed or waiting room couch. She took care of the family pets if anyone else stayed late at the hospital. And yeah, that girl stress ate and didn’t leave time for healthy meals for herself. But that girl was strong when she had to be and that girl’s strength is what led me to where I am now.

So far I’m 35 pounds down and looking to continue. Thanks to that girl’s belief in herself, I’m able to accomplish so much a year later. Using her positivity and perseverance, I now know what it takes to keep pushing through to get the job done. Setbacks will happen, but we just keep moving forward the next day. It’s ok to have them. The 2017 me learned who is really important in life and that’s who you make the time for. Don’t sweat the small stuff, in the big picture it won’t matter. She gave the time to what really mattered.

And in the end, I’m thrilled for the weight loss, but I’m more excited about all that I’ve gained.

Another Trip Around the Sun

Another Trip Around the Sun

Summer is officially here! And that is news to no one…because the month of June brought the HEAT this year! People are sweating going to their mailbox (at least I hope that’s not just me) and daydreaming of their planned vacations. June just might be my favorite month. It’s hazy, lazy, and slow. It’s pool days and ice cream nights. It’s car windows down, the music turned up. Sunglasses on, shoes off. It’s my birthday and…Father’s Day. Yep. I love June, but would I love it this year?

With my birthday on the 16th and Father’s Day on the 17th this year, I didn’t exactly know how to prepare myself. I’m still not sure I know, nor do I think it’s really possible to ever be ready for a guessing game of emotions. It would be a never-ending game of Clue….

Player 1: “Kara, uncontrollable sobs, in the kitchen, with birthday cake.”

Player 2: “Nahhh…I got Kara, no motivation to do anything, in her bed, probably still with cake.”

(Listen…Cake is important, people. Buy a cake and my family will come. Cake can be had, happy or sad.)

Anyway, let’s all agree that turning 31 is not the most exciting age in the first place. So, with this realization in addition to the fact that it’s my first birthday without my dad, would it still be good? When anyone asks “did you have a good birthday?”, could I answer yes and actually mean it? Will any birthday be good from here on out? Thankfully, I can tell you the answer is yes. It was good in a new way, I don’t think it will ever be the same as years 1-30. But, what I do know is I have an amazing family and husband who made sure it was the right amount of fun mixed with the perfect amount of laid back. With a Braves game, a massage, way too much shopping, and, duh, CAKE… my cup runneth over from their love and excitement to make it a positive in a year of “meh”. They succeeded and I cannot thank them enough for knowing that I needed it.

So, in their honor, I wanted to recreate that positivity for Father’s Day. I didn’t want to undo their hard work of smiles on Saturday by crying on Sunday. I know Dad wouldn’t want that either. Adam and I hiked up Kennesaw Mountain so I could talk to him at his bench. As I approached the top, I wanted to cry. The tears were stinging under my sunglasses. I wanted to be spending this day WITH him. And just in time, the sun began shining, dedicating its own ray like a spotlight to his bench as I spotted it. It’s now covered with wildflowers and a beautiful, clear view of our town. And in that moment, I knew I was already spending the day with him. He said hey in his own ways all day on Sunday and I wore his hat while we had a family pool day before the rain came in.

When I think about the weekend, a text conversation with Dad comes to mind from last year…in June. We were all stressed, none of us really knew what we were up against and for how long. So as my birthday approached and I learned of an Apple Watch bought for me, I begged for it to be taken back. I didn’t want it, I didn’t want to enjoy anything to do with me while one of my own was in more pain everyday. I texted Dad saying it was a nice gesture, but I just wanted it returned.

His response? “We’re always going to celebrate you…no matter what”.

WOW. What an unselfish love I was given in his dark times. A bigger lesson was taught than I was ready for in that moment. But I get that lesson now.

To Celebrate. Celebrate your people, make them feel that love. If they’re at their lowest, lift them up. Celebrate the people who aren’t here anymore. Finding new ways without them hurts, but it also heals. Celebrate the hard days, because you made it through them stronger. Celebrate the good days, because why the hell wouldn’t you?

So, do I LOVE June? You’re darn right I do.  Hello 31, I’m thankful for another trip around the sun.

kara pool hat

 

 

34 Years

34 Years

To my mom on her first wedding anniversary without my dad,

If God gave us one more day with Dad, I’d want him to spend it with you. Why? Because of days like today…June 2nd. The counting of the years has stopped physically, but not emotionally. My heart hurts so much on these days because there is no one but your best friend in life who understands. And I truly wish he was here for you, Mom. So, while I know today will be hard in so many ways. I hope to ease that pain with just a few of the amazing memories you’ve given me and Kelsey. Our memories won’t be those staged portraits you see on mantles (we all know Dad hated a photo shoot 🙂 ). This is how a marriage lasts, by your example:

  • Always stay laughing. There was not a day you two didn’t laugh together. Humor has always been a big part of our lives and that was handed down from you both. I’m so grateful for that. I love laughing and I learned it from you two.
  • Trust each other in everything. From the big things to the small, you both compromised and allowed each other to lead in decisions that shaped our family. There was no second guessing or putting each other down if something didn’t work. A true partnership formed our family unit as we know it today. Parenting, moving, purchases, careers, medical – you did it all in good faith of one another.
  • Honoring the commitment. In good times and in bad, for richer or for poorer. You guys did it all together, in every circumstance, and you did it SO. DAMN. GOOD. I’m inspired daily thinking of all you went through together and never let the stress show. Just think about the last two years and how effortless you made it look on the outside. Because nothing was more important than the commitment of being there for each other.

I’m so thankful for the household you both created. I’m thankful you raised us to now recognize what a gift your marriage is to this family and to those around you. I’m thankful for you both finding each other as kids and writing letters and keeping at it. I’m thankful for your love.

Happy Anniversary to my favorite couple of all time. This is what love looks like. ❤️

Go Rest High on that Mountain

Go Rest High on that Mountain

“What’d you do this weekend?”

The one question I hoped no one asked me to start my week. Not because I was ashamed, but as usual, for fear of bringing someone into a conversation they didn’t see coming at 9AM. Picture this…they ask while making small talk, we’re pouring our morning coffee, I pause because I am trying to think of a way to say “I spread my dad’s ashes” in a cheery tone (no one likes a Debbie downer on a Monday morning). Their eyes get big and yadda, yadda, yadda…we part ways both wishing that exchange didn’t happen. Another part of the process that I just have to fake or push through.

So why am I sharing now? Well for one, no one talks about this part. The fact that our actual goodbyes are just now starting is a big deal. And two, it was truly an amazing day. Amazingly sad, amazingly hard, but amazingly blessed because Dad found so many ways to tell us he was there. And I don’t want to forget those signs. So here we are…

Dad’s wishes were to be cremated and he was only able to give me two chosen destinations in our discussions before the pain meds took their toll. Those places are actually out of state. But I wanted a local spot, somewhere I can go visit him, somewhere I can talk to him. Very much like Jack’s tree in This Is Us. So we agreed on a local spot that may or may not permit what we did – that’s right, I was a rebel for Dad!

Why May 20th to do this? Because we were invited to attend a memorial service for the families of hospice patients in the past year as they read the names out loud for reflection. We figured that this would be Dad’s day. We’ll let the tears fall and keep falling. If anyone knows our journey thus far, they’d know nothing has gone smoothly. This was no exception. After reading all of the names from their list, they asked if they’d missed anyone… Sigh – such sweet, unorganized volunteers. Of course we were skipped. *facepalm*

We then hiked as a family to our chosen spot. It was so hot and humid, we were all becoming more dehydrated as the day went on from crying. But that’s when Dad stepped in. The first 30 minutes of our hike, I was second-guessing everything. Is this the right choice? I’m picking a final resting place, would he approve? At that perfect moment where I questioned everything, I looked up and a cardinal sat on the branch beside me. For those who don’t know, it’s said cardinals are a sign of your loved ones from Heaven paying a visit and I so believe it. This cardinal just sat and looked at me, only being a foot away, as if to say “I’m here. You did good, kid”. And it’s color was such a vibrant red. From that second on, the worry was gone. We saw this cardinal multiple times in the hike, as if it traveled the 2.5 miles with us. And finally, when we reached our destination, there he sat waiting for us. I could hear his words, “what took you so long? What a great spot!”

We decided this was my turn to spread the ashes since the location was my idea. We’ll all take turns at the different sites. Truthfully, I’ve been nervous about this for a long time. Many of my relatives have been cremated, but I’ve never been involved with their final wishes. Thankfully, a calm came over me as I opened the urn and I did it. Again, not without a little faux pas, but I did it. Emotions of doing so really haven’t hit me until 48 hours later. I let a part of him go, but I did as he asked and that makes me more proud than anything else. As we hiked back to our car, the wind picked up as we talked about him and told funny stories. I know that Dad wrapped us in hugs as we left him on that mountain and I’ll never forget it. I know he was with us.

Mom said that as we made our trek, all she could think of was a particular song. Isn’t it amazing how lyrics can take on a whole new meaning? I feel it’s only fitting to end the post with these words:

Go rest high on that mountain
Son, your work on Earth is done.
Go to Heaven a-shoutin’
Love for the Father and the Son.