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Tuesday Top 5 | Recognizing Joy in the Face of Sorrow

I have been debating whether or not to write this post. Whether or not to get this personal. But so many of the photographer’s I admire are pretty much an open book on their blog. And I admire them for that. So I have decided to go out there and open up.

This week has been hard. On Thursday my grandfather was admitted to the ICU. It has been a long road, you see, my grandpa has been on dialysis for 5 years. And in those 5 years he has fought hard and done his best to get the most out of the last years of life. But every few months there would be a complication. Literally at least 10 times in the last 5 years my grandfather has almost died. No one thought he would overcome, but he would against all odds. He was like a miracle man, one of the toughest and bravest people I have ever known. But every near-death incident would take a toll. He grew weaker. And weaker. The last incident back in December took so much out of him that he was no longer able to walk.  But still he kept fighting. Until Thursday. Another infection landed him in the ICU and things turned for the worst. Somehow, again against all odds, my grandfather has managed to hang on by a thread. But now his question, and I guess our family’s too, is what for? He has fought and fought and fought. But now he is so tired. He has been through so much and now his quality of life is very low– he can’t walk, hear, sleep in his own bed, eat very much, and sadly can’t even go to the bathroom on his own. It is easy to understand why he said yesterday he’d like to discontinue his dialysis treatment…

Because this decision is a permanent one, the doctors will be asking him today again if he really wants to discontinue treatment. I don’t know what he will say. I don’t know what I want him to say. But I know that I don’t want him to suffer. I don’t want him to be in pain. If there is one thing that breaks my heart, that I can’t stand to see in the world, its suffering. I hate seeing anyone suffer. I really hate to see an animal suffer. But seeing a family member suffer? Its a horrible thing. And it’s frightening. Because it makes me wonder, is this what getting old is? Is this what dying is like? Will I be subjected to a similar fate? Its awful. And though I’m not a very religious person, all I can do is pray for peace. Peace for everyone. But especially my grandpa. And if he decides it is time, and I do believe it is his decision and should be honored and respected, I pray he goes quickly. Without pain. Without suffering. He has been through enough.

So considering all this grief and sorrow I am grappling with, I think its extraordinarily important for me to continue with Tuesday Top 5– for me to reflect on 5 things that remind me of the Joy that life still brings. So I remember that life is good. So here goes.

1. My Husband. I hate to admit it but some days I do take my husband for granted. But I shouldn’t. EVER. Because that man is my rock. He always goes out of his way for me. He always makes sure to listen, to hold my hand, to say what I need to hear. He is the type of guy who stays up till 1:00am and holds me while I scream and cry, even though he has to get up at 6:00am. And he never complains. He builds Ikea furniture for me. He cooks dinner when I am too tired. He lets my grandma cry on his shoulder. He never acts selfishly. I don’t know what I did to deserve this man. I really don’t. But I have him and I am so blessed. And I don’t want to ever take him for granted. Because everyday with AJ is a blessing.

2. My cats. My cats are people. They are little furry people with four legs and who speak “Meow.” They are non-human people. That’s how I feel about cats, dogs, and all animals really. But let’s talk about mine. My Stella knows when I am sad. She is very sensitive. She always is sure to sleep next to me or spend extra time in my lap when I am distressed. She has a way about her, like a caretaker, and its so sweet. Bobby and I have this routine. Our morning cuddle. Every morning when I wake up he jumps on bed and says “Not so fast mom it’s time for our morning cuddle.” And then he lays it on. The world’s best and biggest cuddle. Its amazing. And then at night we do it again. That’s our Nighttime Cuddle. These cuddles warm my heart and rejuvenate my soul. My cats do not need to cuddle me, you know? Yes we provide a roof for them, and feed them the best organic cat food, and scoop their litter, but really. Cats don’t need a leader. And our cats don’t need affection from us because they have each other and they give each other a lot of affection. My cats want to cuddle me and show me affection. They want my companionship. And that makes me feel so special. That they love me for me. And I feel so lucky to have that love. I can’t imagine life without my fabulous Cat People.

3. Food. Yep. Food. Simple, but oh what pleasure it brings to my life! I guess I should specify that I mean  good food. Cause yeah bad food kinda sucks!! But food.  I have definitely found a lot of solace in it this week. And I know when I die, I pray I can go down with something really tasty in my tummy. And since that is my feeling, I have been bringing my grandpa foods he really likes to the hospital…even though its “not allowed” (though his doctor did say at this point, I could bring it in anyways!!). He can barely eat more than 3 bites of whatever I bring. But I see him enjoy it and I feel a tiny bit better. At this point whatever life’s pleasures he can have, he should have. And if I can bring him a hot dog or Brisket Sandwich. Then that’s what I’ll do. Food. Yes, food. I may be a glutton but it truly is one of life’s biggest joys!

2. Laughter. It has been really hard to laugh these past few days. But I still have found stuff to giggle about. I have to. Life without laughter is pointless. And when you feel down the best thing you can do is laugh. I make jokes. Maybe things I shouldn’t joke about, but I go there. I watch comedy on TV. I make up funny names to call AJ or my Dad or whoever. I just work hard to find something , anything, to laugh at. I have to.

1. The knowledge that life does go on. Yesterday while leaving the hospital, I saw a new mother in a wheelchair holding her new baby. She was in awe just looking into this newborn’s eyes. And her mom was there cooing at the baby too. And then the dad rolled up in his car and loaded his new family up. And I almost cried. It took so much not to. It was just beautiful. Watching this family’s big moment in life. And I thought how ironic, seeing this new life start and then to think of another life ending. And though its hard, it is kinda calming. To know the circle of life. That after sorrow is joy, after joy perhaps sorrow. After life is death, but then life comes around again. I find comfort in knowing that world is moving and going forward and this pain won’t last forever. And one day I will have my own family. And when my own time comes, hopefully I will have future generations live on after me. And that makes me feel okay about it all. This moment is sad, it is horrible. But joy will come. Life will go on. And something good will happen. And that knowledge is a joy in itself– as totally meta as that sounds.

  • cindee bae - It’s good to see that you’re still looking for ways to incorporate laughter in life through the hard times! :) ((hugs)) let me know if you need to talk!

  • Anna Kim - I am choked up, at a loss for words. It’s great that you’re able to see the positive in all of this and to be grateful for life. Sending you big hugs all the way from Maui.

  • ellie - I’m sending you a hug from New York, I know you will get thru this!! You are such a positive person and thank you for sharing

  • s h e r r y - (hug). I hope everything works out for your family. That’s hard for anyone. :):) You rock, Ashleigh!

  • Sean - I hope your uncle decides to do what feels best, and you’ll always have full access to who he really is, Ash :) There’s nothing to worry and get yourself out of whack about.

    Love, love, love cats too. Aren’t they just the best expression of not giving a rip and just being to experience all the joy in the world they can find. What magnificent teachers!

  • -brittany- - Oh Ash! I am so sorry to hear about what you are going through with your grandfather! Praying for each of you! Despite what spawned this post…it is beautiful!!! xo

  • Melissa - Ashleigh! My prayers are with your Grandpa! He is Superman =)
    You got me all teary here girl! xoxo Be strong! I am so Proud of you!

  • Virginia Vo - Thanks for sharing! Your grandpa will be in our prayers! Stay strong and focus on what makes you happy…the memories, love and ppl you have in your life. :)

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