The Depth of Your Story

The thoughts. Then the tears, oh the tears. The flood of tears pour down as I’m driving back to the condo on I-80 east. Why? I ask myself. Why the sudden flood? Why the uncontrollable tears that form into sobs while I somehow keep the composure to drive us safely home? As I look into the darkness only lit by the red and white lights of cars passing by the thoughts start to come. Moments after the tears trickle down my mind relaxes as clarity becomes available. It is as if my soul was releasing but my mind was lagging behind in understanding. My soul had built up all these emotions that I had squashed deeply inside as to not interrupt the lovely holiday the five of us were experiencing.

Then it hits me. The year is about to end. The welcoming of 2017 highly contrasts the welcoming of 2016. Oh what a year it has been. A year of trials. A year of what could have been life ending errors. And, also a year of triumph. It feels as if I lived a lifetime these last 12 months and at the same time it is almost a blur. A blur that still glares at our daily life, but somehow, someway it is a life in the distant past. That is the uniqueness of this life. Every moment is fleeting and all lives end at some point. Therefore, why not somehow live a life that you want now? A life that you create purposely. We have the ability to live purposely according to each of our own desires. We do have the ability to make the changes, make the choices and live grand to our own personal wants and desires. They look differently for each and every person, but they are unique to you and unique to me. That is why I write. It is my unique way to share life with those I will never meet and those that think they know me but aren’t able to look into my soul. Hopefully, those that share life with me thru the blog or thru social media will graciously accept me (and Ryan) for who we are, but I have also become well aware of the fact that there are many who ungraciously will never accept me and there are even those that will blatantly let me know who the person they think I am. And that is okay. It is okay because I know that in this world there will never be a person I one hundred percent agree with. I don’t even agree with my own husband 100% of the time. Shocker? Surely not. We are all unique individuals and the beauty of life is to learn and accept each other’s uniqueness. Ahh, a whole other chapter in a future book of living life with one another thru the acceptance of uniqueness. It’ll come . . . someday, sooner than later.

The tears, yes that is right. The thoughts that led to this blog. The flood of memories full of emotion that caused endless quiet tears as I desperately tried not to wake the sleeping children in the van. Within the weight of countless memories and emotions there are two distinct thoughts that stand out over the 40 minute emotional drive.

One year ago today I took Ryan to the emergency room and within an hour the doctors were speaking to me about possible intubation and putting my husband on a ventilator. It was bar none the scariest and most emotional time of my entire life thus far. I chose to go thru those early morning hours completely alone without contacting anyone. I had to come to grips with the fact that my husband could in fact die. I had to come to grips with the fact that maybe we were completely wrong about all things medicine and healing. I understand now so many of the reasons that led to that day. So many things we had done right, but so many things we had done wrong . . . or, in actuality, so many things we did not do. I do hope to share all of these thoughts soon. Truly soon because I know so many make the same mistakes just as we did. So, today as we finish out 2016 I cannot adequately express how thankful I am that my husband has been skiing down the mountains and enjoying life with the kids and me. While his lungs are still healing, breathing is no longer a concern. I can enter 2017 with confidence that right now all things are well and Ryan continues on a healing path.

The second set of thoughts are a bit more complex. Grace and acceptance envelope these thoughts as my emotions deal with a paradox that is never ending because everything we did and continue to do is always received by a dichotomy of people thru various views.

We could have never made it thru this journey without the hundreds of people who donated monetarily to our adventure . . . but it also meant heavy scrutiny of our decisions and how we went about fundraising. To this day we still receive scrutiny over the topic of fundraising. While fundraising for our family is a thing of the past it will forever become a part of how we help others. 

The story of so many who followed and kept up with Ryan’s roller coaster story as he shared the good, the bad and the ugly to this day still even awes me. His bravery and honesty was something at times I would shy away from. Ryan’s candidness about everything sometimes dug deep into my pride, but because of it so many were willing to be positive reinforcements, so many were willing to share knowledge of unconventional healing, and so many were willing to give their resources whether money, time or skills in spite of our mistakes. I’ll never forget as some donors would say that we were in all essence “guinea pigs” for what people hoped would work. 

We could have never made it thru this journey without the support of family, friends, former bosses, former co-workers and many more. I’ll never forget the night I realized I had hardly shopped for any Christmas gifts last year. While I was debating if we could really afford the prized presents our children wanted, a previous boss to Ryan was also at the toy aisle at Target. He proceeded to pay for all three gifts I had in my cart. Thankfulness seems almost inadequate.

The story of a woman and two of her boys who drove over an hour one way just to bring us PleurX catheter kits so that I could drain my husband’s fluid filled lung at midnight is just one of many selfless acts. That evening a friendship was created that will last the test of time. Some things only those that experience cancer and its demands will understand.

I leave 2016 with two key words: grace and acceptance. Grace to live life knowing that there is no “perfect” but perfectly imperfect people are trying to navigate their lives as best as they can. Grace allows for love no matter someone else’s choices or decisions.

One of the greatest examples of grace is the story of a friend who is an oncologist pharmaceutical rep. He and Ryan were tennis buddies and he made sure to reach out to Ryan on several occasions expressing his desire for Ryan to seek chemotherapy. In spite of their strong disagreements this gentleman offered three very nice scooters for our children for Christmas. Of everything they received during the 2015 holidays, the scooters have had the most use. Every time I see our children go up and down the street on the scooters I am reminded how relationships can still thrive under disagreements. Grace allows for all of us to realize that each individual is trying. My personal belief is that each individual is not only trying, but trying the best that they know how with their current understandings. Grace has increased my empathy and decreased judgement, as judgement is now replaced by empathy. Through grace, acceptance follows.

I have accepted that Ryan is a unique individual who is not afraid to put it all out there. His fearlessness to be who he is in spite of criticism and judgement still awes me. I have also accepted Ryan for all his decisions even when we did not agree. What I did know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that Ryan is his own person and if his life ended he would have passed knowing he lived life to his own beat. I am my own person and I am learning to live life to my own beat too. Therefore, accepting Ryan for all he is allowed me to see a beauty that I had not seen before. Now, I have been experiencing seeing the beauty in others that I had not seen . . . once we accept ourselves and give ourselves grace we can then extend to others that same acceptance and grace.

I distinctly remember looking ahead at 2016 as if it were a canyon. A canyon I was so afraid of because we were so close to loosing our footing. At the same time, as I looked at the vastness of the canyon, somehow I could see the beauty of the treacherous path. The beauty that can only be seen on the road less traveled. It was my hope. Somehow, that hope was enough to keep moving forward.

In 2017 would you explore what Grace and acceptance means to you? My prayer is that all who read my blogs can seek grace and acceptance in their own lives.

Live loved,
Live free . . . because YOLO!
~Caroline Luelf

4 thoughts on “The Depth of Your Story

  1. So many thoughts in my head and heart right now after reading your blog. First, you are a beautiful writer. I can’t wait to read your books! Second, as I watched yalls skiing trips, it almost took my breath away just feeling what it must be like to experience such deep lows and such high highs, in such a short period of time. As totally, off-the-charts, wonderful as it must be at the end of 2016, that’s still a pretty darn steep roller coaster ride. And I wondered when and where you could/would find a bunch of moments alone, letting it sink in and get to the place of allowing the intensity to subside so you can actually breathe and feel calmly where you are in the here and now. My husband had liver disease he was infected with from an injection when he was admitted into the army. I sat alone as they took him for a possible liver transplant if everything worked out. Which it did. What was to take minimum 12 hours, they came back in three and said it went as smoothly as a liver transplant can go. I was filled with so much gratitude I knew my life would never be the same. I reached for my journal. I was going to document what I would never do again. But I was stopped. I felt a strong impulse from the Holy Spirit that urged me to begin the post transplant life trusting. Not mandating, legislating to myself. That’s what I did. Adjusting to,post cancer may be similar, perhaps, to adjusting to post transplant. Gratitude was powerful. But eventually that strong feeling of gratitude weakened and life’s pains stuck their ugly heads into my view and I found myself back at the place of having to purposely trust. I think God may keep this “faithing” as my husband calls it, sharp by continuing to give us opportunity to believe. I am sooo very happy for you, your children (who will draw much strength from this over and over again throughout their lives) and your husband. Last thing I want to say is how disheartening it is to me to know folks could be mean-spirited in their opposition. I’ve learned in my life that not engaging in behavior for which there would be regret (as y’all have done) is possibly the most effective thing we can do in the kingdom of God. And sometimes God actually allows vindication, once we don’t need it. Lol. Much love to you guys and to you specifically. I have a heart for women. I came from a lifetime of abuse which has been turned for good in ministry for women. Can I say, I love you even though I haven’t met you? I think so. We are sisters in Christ. Blessings,

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