Thursday, January 21, 2010

Today's Thoughts

If you've posted here, you know that I moderate them. I did this at first because of the ads that were being posted (usually for viagra or an adult site) but sometimes the notes are really strange and I reject those. There were a couple recently of note. One person said that this site helped with a school project. Another said that the recent posts were more interesting than the older ones. Huh? I've also had a few requests to post links to noteworthy causes (Haiti relief, healthcare information sites) and I've declined, not because they aren't worthwhile but because that isn't the purpose of this site. Anyways, don't let that discourage you from posting or writing to me. I like hearing from you even if I don't always respond right away. I'm getting to talk on the phone most of the time now without crying the whole time. No promises on the crying part.

Adrienne's death was the most painful thing we've ever experienced and continue to experience. One dad at Compassionate Friends said he already had the worst day of his life and it's so true. Still, I'm thankful for the time we had together, a lot longer than most doctors thought we would. We never lost hope and she lived as full a life as anyone could under the circumstances. I still think back happily on so many things...trips, graduation, dinners out, even TV. A new season of Project Runway just started and it would have made her so happy to watch it. Every time I watch one of our programs, I think about how excited she would be. Oh, and she would have loved Rudy, telling him a thousand times a day how pretty he is, just like she did with Moe (and Prince and Caesar before them).

Sometimes, I feel so hopeless when it comes to refractory Hodgkin's. For most people, a Hodgkin's diagnosis is a few months out of their lives and then things go back to normal, but for refractory folks, it's a constant nightmare. Kelly Urban, whom I met last year when she was in Las Vegas, passed away last week ( and Bekah is going through a very rough time right now. I have hope that they'll come up with something soon, but in the meantime, it's tough, really tough.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Finding normal?

I'm not sure what normal is any more. I'm trying, but I'm not there yet. I still get up each morning and go about my day but I don't feel normal at all. People tell me I'll find a new normal. Only time will tell. The smallest thing can get me off track. Last week, it was the dentist of all things.

Getting a puppy has turned out to be a great move. Rudy has no idea what's going on and he's always just himself...funny, sweet, mischevious, well, a puppy. Last week, a part of the sprinkler broke and the mud was too much to resist. That made me laugh for quite awhile. He's too big now to lie down in Caesar's food bowl but seeing him lie down there was pretty funny too. He'll be perfect once he's fully housebroken (yes, he's been a challenge) but seeing that little tail wag just makes my day.

I wanted to extend an open invitation to any Las Vegas visitors. We love showing people around. Please send me an email if you're planning a trip this way.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Adrienne Leigh Boardman • Adriana Chai bat Avigail

Funeral Service
October 4, 2009 • 16 Tishrei 5770

The words of Psalm 121:
I lift up my eyes to the mountains;
What is the source of my help?
My help comes from Adonai,
Maker of heaven and earth. (1-2)

A poet has written:
After my death, mourn me thus:
A girl lived -- behold, she is no more.
Before her time her life was ended
And the song of her life was broken off.
Oh, she had more melodies within her
Melodies now lost

We are gathered here today to say goodbye to Adrienne, to mourn a life ended too soon. Today is the second day of the Jewish festival of Sukkot. It is customary during Sukkot to read from the biblical Book of Kohelet, or Ecclesiastes. A well-known verse from this book says, “The eye never has enough of seeing nor the ear of hearing” (1:8). For those who knew and loved Adrienne, or were inspired by her life, your eyes, your ears, your hearts have not had enough. Not enough time with your daughter, your sister, your niece, granddaughter, cousin, friend. And Adrienne, too, had not had enough of this world. She did not want to die, and her passing, and the long illness that led to it, is a tragedy that has robbed the world of a person who was going to make it better.

I did not know Adrienne, but like so many people who have commented on her blog over the years, and especially over the last few days, her story has touched me, and I am honored to stand here today to give voice to the memories of some of her family.

Adrienne was born on August 18, 1987, and grew up in Saratoga. She went to Saratoga High School, and just this past spring she graduated cum laude from Claremont McKenna College with a degree in Psychology and Leadership. While in college, she spent part of her junior year at Columbia University in New York City. Though it was far from home, she loved New York, and loved the academic atmosphere at Columbia. She was enrolled in a joint Master’s and teaching credential program at UNLV, and over the summer, she’d begun taking her first classes. She was going to be a math teacher.

One of the first things I learned about Adrienne is that she was never afraid of anything. Even from the time that she was a little girl, she was fearless. Once, when the family was in Hawaii, she didn’t hesitate to jump on a rope swing over a pool—she just jumped right in. She was one of those kids who would come right up to you and talk to you. She was intelligent, and a hard worker. She loved learning—when she was in Kindergarten, she would bring home a new book every day, read it, and go on to the next one, and the next one, and the one after that. She loved college, and her education was the most important thing to her. When she was undergoing treatment, she would bring her school work with her to chemo, and she’d do her very best to ensure that her treatment did not interfere with her learning. Finishing school meant so much to her that she cried at graduation.

Adrienne also loved dogs, and at one point asked Alison how she could get a kennel license so that she could have more than three at a time. I am told that she was honest, sometimes to a fault. She loved movies and wrote reviews of every film she saw. Someone recently commented to Alison that they missed Adrienne’s Facebook movie reviews. Adrienne loved food, and became interested in good food while watching Food Network in the hospital. Not a cook herself, she would pick out recipes for her mom to cook for her. Alison, you told me about a special meal that you recently shared together at Jean Georges, one of the finest restaurants in New York City. You ordered the tasting menu and enjoyed a four-hour meal together.

Adrienne was a planner. For her, planning ahead—whether it was about her career or her new apartment—was an act of bold optimism. It was a statement: I am not cancer; cancer doesn’t define me. I will make for myself a normal life. This is what she wanted most: a normal life with family and friends. Though she fought cancer from the age of nine, going through treatment after treatment after treatment, the words that perhaps best define her are the ones on the home page of her blog: “Though I’ve now had cancer for most of my life, I no longer plan my life around it; instead, I try to plan cancer around my life.” She was realistic, but never resigned to her fate. Her doctors couldn’t believe how hard she fought. She was inspirational, not only to her immediate family and friends, but also to other cancer patients and to complete strangers in the far reaches of this country and the world. People spoke of her “fierce determination.” In recent years, when she was in the adult oncology wing, she mentored her fellow patients, all of them much, much older than she, telling them what they could expect and giving them advice and comfort. A friend of Adrienne’s from school told Alison that Adrienne taught him more about life than anyone else he knew.

No one was ready to lose her.

There is a Hasidic teaching that “All the world is a very narrow bridge. The important thing is not to be afraid.” Adrienne embodied this teaching, and she will be sorely, deeply missed. In the Psalms, we read these words: “Hear my cry, O God, hear my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint. Lead me to a rock that is high above me...O, that I might dwell in Your tent forever, take refuge under Your protecting wings” (61:2-5). The psalm asks for shelter in a time of great pain. Lead me to a rock that is high above me. For just a moment, give me something solid to hold onto, when everything around me is in chaos. Lead me to a rock.

In a time of great pain, all we can do is try to be that rock for the people we love. To be steady and constant; to be with them and hold onto them when their hearts are faint. Today, as we say goodbye to Adrienne, we gather to pray, to give and receive comfort, and to hold on to one another.

Zichronah livrachah, may Adrienne’s memory be for a blessing.

The words of the 23rd Psalm:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures,
leadeth me beside the still waters;
He restoreth my soul.
He guideth me in straight paths for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff—they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.
Thou hast anointed my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

El Malei Rachamim (The Memorial Prayer):
God, full of compassion, eternal spirit of the universe,
grant perfect rest in your sheltering presence
to Adrienne Leigh Boardman who has entered eternity.
O God of mercy, let her find refuge in the shadow of Your wings,
and let her soul be bound up in the bond of everlasting life.
God is her inheritance. May she rest in peace.
And let us say: Amen.