Ashlin turned 4 on Feb 17th. I know I'm writing this 6months after the fact, so details are pretty shady, I've completely drawn a blank on the day. I remember that night very clearly, but I don't really remember what happened during the day. I'm sure we made it very special for her, letting her pick the meals, going to joy school. We had a party planned for the following Saturday, so we kept it pretty chill. That night we ended up at a baseball potluck thing at the ballfield. We were getting in the car to go home and open presents when my phone rang. It was Dena, "Stacy, Jenn's dying!"
My Sister-in-law, Jennifer Young Bayles (married to my oldest brother, David), had been battling cancer (GIST) for over 7 years. Since she was diagnosed, she continued to amaze people with her positive attitude and her ability to serve in the church, school, and home. She was truly amazing. She never even acted like a cancer victim. She was always so strong. She had been on a medication that seemed to be doing the job of keeping the cancer away. About a year prior, her body became immune to the medicine and her condition started to worsen. She was in and out of the hospital and had started many different treatments to try to control the cancer. She started losing her hair, she started losing weight because of bowel obstructions and strict diets of only broths. It was obvious the end was near. She was doing well enough to visit her sister in Hawaii (right before they left, my dad announced to the family that he had leukemia). As that visit came to a close, she started to get really sick and wasn't able to hold anything down. When they returned to California, she was hospitalized for several weeks. It was at this time that we realized that Jenn wasn't going to make it much longer. It ached me to think that Jenn wouldn't be around anymore. She had been such an important part of my life. I lived with them for a few months in college. Jenn played a huge role in helping me decide to serve a mission. She was a great example to me of Christ-like love and service. I hated the fact that we would be having a funeral in her honor, and she wouldn't even be there to hear all the great things that people had to say about her. I thought about doing a "Celebration of Life" for her, but figured she wouldn't appreciate all the attention. So I decided to gather as many letters as possible from family and friends sharing memories and words of encouragment. With the help of my sisters (okay, let's get real, I thought of the idea, but Dena actually did all the work) we gathered 2 binders worth of letters. She had that binder in the hospital that she could read and letters were added daily. We started to put together a video of Jenn's life (again, I started the collection of pictures, but Dena and Dave Blood did all the work of putting it together). After a couple weeks in the hospital, they decided to let Jenn come home and Dave could administer most of her meds there. Her family was due to come visit her, so we presented the video to her so she could share it with her siblings and parents. I wanted Jenn to know how much we all loved her, but most importantly, I wanted the boys to have something they could refer back to to remember their mother.
While Jenn was home, David started going back to work. The sisters in the ward all signed up to "Jennsit". She had someone with her around the clock. Mostly just to sit and talk with her, help her take her meds, keep her company, be there when the boys came home, etc. Jenn was obviously loopy from the meds, but she was still fun to talk to. The binder turned out to be great for giving the sitters something to read to Jenn while they were there.
Well, on Wednesday, February 17th, when Dave got home from work, the sitter expressed to David that she thought Hospice needed to be called. Jenn had been unresponsive for the majority of the day and things weren't looking good. As soon as we got the call from Dena, we stopped by the house to see how we could help and to say goodbye to our sweet sister-in-law and aunt. I went in first while Grant waited in the car with the kids. Dave and my mom were there with Jenn (the boys had gone to Scouts). They were waiting for my dad to arrive so they could give Jenn a Priesthood blessing. When he realized Grant was in the car he invited the whole family to come in so Grant could assist with the blessing. I prepped the kids for what they would see. I tried to explain to them that Jenn wasn't doing well and she wouldn't look the same as they were used to. Ashlin and Troy decided they didn't want to see her, so we shuffled them into one of the back rooms without looking at the bed in the middle of the living room. Abby came in and was able to give Jenn and hug and say good-bye. My dad arrived shortly there after. David gave Jenn a beautiful blessing and asked Heavenly Father to take care of her and his family. We then sat and waited for her to pass. As badly as we wanted her to stay with us as long as possible, we hoped that this last stage of her life would be short and painfree. But she kept on breathing. Eventually the room was full of all of my siblings, except Scot and Mike who were in Utah, and several nieces and nephews. We all took turns saying good-bye and shared stories of Jenn. Around 8pm my sister-in-law, Mary, offered to take my kids to her house for a movie so Grant and I could stay at there (Ashlin was so excited to go to her cousins house, she was more than willing to wait until the morning to open presents!) As we sat there waiting, we thought of all the people that might want to come and express their love to Jenn. Phone calls were made, and slowly the room filled. I couldn't believe all the people that came. What a tribute it was to Jenn. I wanted the boys to remember this night (they eventually came home from scouts), and all the people that were there. So I started taking pictures. (And let me tell you, I wasn't the most popular girl in the room, taking pictures of everyone in the middle of them crying.)
I didn't get them all, buy I tried my best
Brock and Rich Rupp
Becky and my Gunnar
Mary, Leticia Strong, Jalene Lunt
Brenda Hansen, Gretchen Barnes, Jennifer Hughes
Jenn (in the bed), Mom, The Blood Family
Mary, Hospice nurse, Dave, Gretchen, Leticia, Jalene
Mary, Kathryn Rowley, Leticia
Matt Barnes saying good-bye
There's a better angle!
Me and Becky
Allyson Anderson, Annie Wright (hiding), Louise Rupp
We tried to accomodate with lots of chairs
Zach, back from scouts
Mitch sportin' the uniform-making his mom proud!
Matt and Gunnar (why is everyone holding my baby? oh yeah, so I could take the pictures)
Jim and Sue Matherly
Michelle Brock (Dave's listening intently to the Hospice nurse-she must have thought we were crazy)
Melissa and Molly Wilson looking at the binder Dena made
Melanie Stott, Kathryn, Jalene, Karen Wolf, Debbie Scott
Me and Suzette (Look, I'm holding my own baby! He's just sleeping by the way!)
After awhile everyone started leaving. Mitch and Zach went to bed to get sleep for school the next day. Me, my mom, Dena, Becky, Gretchen, Leticia, and Jalene were determined to be there by her side until she took her last breath. I secretly had been hoping that Jenn would wait until after midnight for Ashlin's sake. I was grateful that she did. Finally at about 1am Dave suggested we leave. He said the Hospice nurse said that sometimes patients can be in this state for days. He was planning on carrying her back into their bed and going to sleep himself. So we said our final goodbyes and left. It was rough sleeping that night. I was very jumpy waiting for the call. At 5am the phone rang. I jumped up to answer it. It was work, "Stacy, can you come in to work today?" "Um, NO. Sorry, I can't." hang up. Finally at 7 am I got the call that Jenn had passed away. Dave and the boys had woken up and did their normal routine. Dave picked up the phone to call a friend that hadn't been called the night before. She said she was coming right over. Dave walked into the room, told Jenn the friend was coming, and then Jenn took her last breath.