Monday, October 3, 2016

Thank you

I was driving to Southern States for chicken food, to be followed by a stop at the hospital to visit Ghon. The kids were with me, and had added “Get well soon” to the wrapping paper on their Father’s Day gifts they were bringing to the hospital. I received a call from a number I didn’t know, and went ahead and answered. I instantly knew that this was a call I needed to pull over and take. Ghon was in cardiac arrest, being actively worked on. I called my Dad. My mind raced, and immediately, I knew I should try calling our friend Brandi to see if she could come take the kids for me. I’m not sure I ever actually called her before. We texted a few times, messaged quite a bit via Facebook, but that old fashioned phone call? Not sure it had ever been done.

I was barely to the front of the hospital when I realized Brandi was already there and helping get the kids into her van. She stayed with me, and off her husband Mike went with the kids for the night. Brandi stayed with me until I was able to see Ghon. She navigated the hospital maze to get me a sandwich from Subway for dinner and drove my car home so she could bring my kids home the next day.

Before I could blink, Brandi set up a Meal Train page, and my little family had meals prepared for two weeks. She asked if it would be ok, and again, before I knew it, there was a Go Fund Me page out there to financially assist my family. Not only was I then sitting in shock from losing Ghon, but I was shocked that people were donating to the Fund Me.

We had our first visitors the day after Ghon’s death. They came armed with a gift for the kids, juice boxes, multiple Lunchables, and the finest china – paper plates, plastic cups and plasticware. And what became my right hand – a notebook to track various gifts and visits.

The gifts kept pouring in. And gifts weren’t always tangible. Gifts may be prayers, positive thoughts, a sharing of our story or their own, offering of time and labor at the farmhouse, taking the kids for a few hours to play, cards, or simply letting me know they were there – and they cared. Friends took me to a sing-a-long less than a week after Ghon died where at the end I began crying on Laura's shoulder and a group hug commenced. Surrounded by love.

I've tried to keep up with thank you notes, but have fallen way behind. I’m still working on getting them out. Yet, there are so many people I'm not able to send thank you's to. There are quite a few generous people that donated to the Go Fund Me that I don't even know! Some, I barely know, or were Ghon's friends and co-workers, so I don't have addresses. Please know, your gift means the world to us.

Ghon did not have life insurance. We did not have any savings. He'd recently cashed in his 401K to pay off a few bills and prepare for farming. I had enough to cover his cremation expenses, but that was it. I've always been one to be accountable for monetary gifts. I've taught the kids to send thank you notes to family that send monetary gifts for birthdays and Christmas - or at least - a phone call to say exactly what you chose with the money. I wanted to let people know some of the things we've been able to accomplish with your gifts:
  • Supplies to sand and protect all of the hardwood floors in the farmhouse. Our friend Jeff Smoke volunteered his TIME, a TON of it, to complete the floors and floor joists in the living room ceiling. (let me know if you need work done so I can send you his contact info!!)
  • The final build-out of Jonathan's room and the kids playroom/office area. Materials and labor.
  • Repayment of a loan we had to paint the house exterior.
  • Handyman services that built our back steps, material and installation of our dining room and living room ceilings, rails and installation of the barn doors in my bedroom, creation of the stone walkway from the driveway, tree trimming and removal, stacking wood, and most importantly, a MASSIVE cleanup effort of the yard from 2 years worth of construction debris. Oh, and moved the heaviest furniture I have to the farmhouse.
  • Various odds and ends to finish the house from trim board to curtains.
  • Stone to fill in our driveway and parking spot.
  • A shed. Ghon was going to build one with the stash of pallets he collected. This was desperately needed.
  • Create a savings - for future emergencies and for the kids.
We'd thought (as in Ghon and I) we'd be able to get a lot of that done ourselves. Especially the trash. But there is NO WAY I would have been able to do it alone. I had a ton of help, then still hired people to finish. I had friends and coworkers come help clean, paint, install window screens, make trash runs, move stuff - you name it, they helped. None of this would have been possible to do without the love and support of our friends and family. I am humbled, and thankful every single day for each of you.

You call me strong - you make me that way.

Thanks to your gifts - including the lovely housewarming gifts of birdbaths, chimes, candles, plates, flowers, and figurines, you have helped do what this blog was all about - making a house a home. Giving of yourself to help remember Ghon, honor him, and help us start our lives without his physical presence but surrounded by his spirit and your love.

As I reflect, I know my life drastically changed with two phone calls. One coming in from the hospital, and one going out to Brandi. 

I think I'm a friendly person, but I can't say I make friends easily; I'm a bit introverted and awkward in new settings or places where I don't know people. Years ago, I thought to myself, we should really get to know them (the Cowdens) better. I bet we could be friends. Unlike kids, I didn't know how to say "hey, ya wanna be friends?" Life took it's course. It's unfortunate that it took Ghon's death to propel it forward, but I will forever be grateful for the love and friendship the Cowden family has given mine. 

At some point, I promise I'll stop thanking you. Just know I so appreciate you all - and you never need to hesitate to call us for anything. I'll need support and rescuing again for sure. The kids will continue to reach out to Miss Brandi because she knows everything (I think you are in competition with Google now though), and Mr. Mike to support all their crazy ideas that Mom would say no to (like multiple packs of powdered donuts and cake face smashing).  There's not too much painting to do. There's no more Ikea furniture to build.

Through a gazillion (or close to 20) birthday parties and our tragedy, we've become family. Little adopted Lockhart/Mason/Eisert/Cowden/Goodmans. HA! You can't get rid of us now.

Despite your poor choice in football teams, we love you all. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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