Hiking to Help

a message from a little brother

Hello friends.

My big brother, Zack, died of liver cancer on May 28, 2011. He was only 12 and I was almost 7. Childhood cancer is a terrible disease and affects too many kids like my brother. Childhood cancer isn’t something that happens just to the kid with the diagnosis, it happens to the whole family. I spent most of a year in a hospital room and in the Ronald McDonald house with Zack and my parents. Sometimes it was hard but I was happy we could all be together.

My parents friend, Mike Owen, has been hiking in Zack’s memory since he died. We decided to join him this year to raise money to help cure cancer for kids.

I am participating in a true ultimate challenge – hiking to raise funds for children’s cancer. The money I raise will support CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, a national non-profit foundation whose mission is to fund and support targeted and innovative children’s cancer research, with measurable results.

We chose this hike for a couple of reasons. Since it is a 12 mile hike, we thought it would be great to hike a mile for every year Zack lived on this earth. Also, this hike is held the weekend of Zack’s 19th birthday so we thought this would be a great way to celebrate his birthday.

Additionally, they are a great source of information and resources about children’s cancer for families. With your help, I can exceed our family fundraising goal of $2,500! Please, donate and make a difference in the lives of the 43 children diagnosed with cancer each day. Click here to donate now:  http://www.curesearchevents.org/goto/mayofamily

Five of the 43 children diagnosed every day do not survive. Please, support me (and my family) as I help change the odds for those children most at risk.  No kid should have to watch their brother or sister die. Any amount you donate is greatly appreciated!

Thank you for helping me work tell children’s cancer to take a hike!

Nick Mayo (age 13)

Nick and Sam

Nick and 2 year old Sam always remember a big brother…

A Moment in the Junk Drawer

camera

As I dug through the mounds of items,  I could hardly believe how much junk stuff could be in one drawer.  I forgot what I was even looking for when I spotted the shiny object. Wondering how this tiny camera made it to our junk drawer, I switched the power to on. Nothing happened. So, I dug around a little more, searching for the matching cord. AHA!   

A minute or so later, my busy morning was interrupted by his beautiful, eleven-year-old blue eyes watching quiet tears roll down my face. His blonde hair was combed perfectly to disguise his Daddy’s trademark cowlick. “Take my picture mom,” I heard him say. He needed a picture of himself and since selfies weren’t cool yet in 2010, he still needed his momma – if only for a few minutes.  

I vividly remember that ordinary moment.

Moments don’t last but they become part of our story.

Does each moment count more than we realize?  

Why do we rush so many moments? 

If we are hurrying to get to the next moment, we might miss the ones we live in right now.

“Forever is composed of nows.”  – Emily Dickinson

I wipe my tears and cram all the junk back in the drawer. A messy moment waits for me.    

Grits wait to be cleaned off my cabinet, off the dog and off a tiny, giggling face with those “same” blue eyes. When mommy is distracted by shiny objects, moments tend to get messy.  

Cherish all the moments.

Even the ones covered in grits.

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog–it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. – James 4:14

Be blessed in all of your moments!

zackattack12

 

 

 

Bring on the Scary

We overcome fear when we keep God near...

Kings Dominion  roller coaster

Kings Dominion

Halloween brings out the scary.  Scary costumes. Scary movies. Scary stories.

A lot of things used to scare me.

But, I’m a lot braver than I used to be.

I used to be scared terrified of roller coasters. 

When our younger son, Nick, was too little to ride, he was my excuse.  I had to wait with him. And we would wait and watch.  Zack, our oldest, would exit the ride with my husband and he would be crazy-filled with excitement – telling me all I had missed. Once Nick was big enough to ride, I had no excuses. That’s when Zack laid on the guilt trip – saying he would have to ride by himself or with some stranger if I didn’t ride with him because Nick was riding with Daddy. He would tell me not to be scared and insist it would be fun.  Reluctantly, I would agree to ride.

If you give in to fear, you will miss the moments.

The “click” of the bar made me realize I was strapped in so tightly I could barely breathe. Suddenly, the ride began to move and I realized I was holding my breath.  My heart pounded wildly as we inched slowly up the hill. Zack giggled beside me as I quoted scriptures-convinced my life was at stake.  My stomach remained at the top of the hill as we descended at a rapid rate! I screamed so loudly Zack covered his ears. I strained to see what was ahead as we started up yet another hill. I couldn’t see what was to come.  I could only look behind and around me to see how far we had come. It was a brief distraction from the rising hill but it didn’t stop the hill from coming. I leaned in hard to Zack’s shoulder with my eyes squeezed tight. Uncontrollable screaming and laughter flew out of my mouth as I held on to him for dear life. Up and down – this way and that way…never knowing when it would end.

Screaming. Laughter. Scared. Excited.  

Then it was over.

And I wished it wasn’t. 

And then Zack was gone but I wasn’t alone.

We overcome fear when we keep God near.

I suppose once you have ridden the scariest roller coaster of all, the other ones aren’t so scary anymore.

We must trust that the Lord is with us on this roller coaster called life….even when it doesn’t feel like it.  

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

Fear is powerful.  Fear can stop us or get us started.  It can push us to chase that dream, ask that girl out on a date, write that book, teach that Bible study, quit that job, ride that roller coaster. Fear can push us to living fully or it can keep us simply existing.

God didn’t put us here to simply exist. He has a beautiful purpose for your life – for my life – our precious, loved and purposeful lives. And – yes, there is purpose in the ugly, the painful, the unbearable and the frightening… and even in our shattered hearts.

Living in fear is like being in prison but our faith in God is the key that set us free from our fears. His Word tells us not to fear hundreds of times in the Bible but our human nature is to fear. There will be times in life where our fear paralyzes us and we can’t read our Bible, we can’t bear to think of what lies ahead and we can’t even pray… but God still hears us and we can choose faith over fear.

I sought the Lord and He answered me.  He delivered me from all my fears. – Proverbs 34:4

We overcome fear when we keep God near.

What fears are holding you back?

Ernie and Nick

Ernie and Nick

Roller coaster ride of pediatic cancer...

Roller coaster ride of pediatic cancer…

The Storm is Coming

Are you prepared?

hurricane

A storm is coming! A storm is coming!

It is on the horizon. A state of emergency has been declared in various parts of the east coast and here at my home in Wilmington, North Carolina.

The “experts” provide us information on the storm path and on hurricane preparedness. We anxiously monitor the forecast for up-to-the-minute coordinates on the path Hurricane Matthew is taking. We take action to prepare. We board up our windows, stock up on bread, milk, water (and in our case – diapers). We fire up our generator to make sure it is in working order and we fill our gas tanks. We test our flashlights and buy extra batteries, candles and matches so we will have light in the darkness of the storm. We secure our home and our business. We are in preparation mode.

Because we want to be prepared…

And we are as ready as we can be if the storm hits. Because we are prepared. Because we are warned. Because we know it is coming.

But, what about the storms that strike without warning?

Cancer. Health crisis. Death. Job loss. The affair. The spouse who leaves. The child who rebels. Disappointment. Depression.

Can we be prepared for these storms? The storms of life?

Because these storms will come. And they strike when we least expect it.

Just like preparing for Hurricane Matthew while the weather is still calm, we can prepare for the storms of life when life is calm.

Because the storms are coming! To you. To me.

And we can prepare…

  • Have a relationship with God. Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Are you walking with Him daily? I cannot begin to imagine surviving one minute without God. My Hope is in Him. That Hope is what gets me out of bed every morning and allows me to smile. His Promises. Knowing this life is not all there is and this is not the end of my story.
  • Use the Bible as your guide for living life. Set aside time each day to read even one or two verses. Pick one to memorize. Write it on an index card and keep it with you. Memorize with your family. Even just one. Because in hard times, the very scriptures we memorize can ring out loud and clear and can hold your foundation steady as the storm hits you hard and rocks you harder than you can begin to imagine. Storms delight in testing our faith. Start today. Pick one verse. Do it now. Make it your life verse.
  • Prayer. This is our direct line to God. He wants to hear us – not just during the storms of life but every day of our life. He wants to hear our praises. He wants us to confess our sins (we are ALL sinners). He wants to carry us when we lack the strength to walk. He wants to celebrate our successes. He wants to comfort when we hurt. Pray. Start today. Schedule 5 minutes. He wants to hear from you. If you don’t know how to pray and need help, send me a message. I will pray with and for you. Start with honesty. Honesty with yourself. Then share all of it with God. Start now.

Because the storms are coming…

To you.

To me.

Matthew 8

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

When life gives us a big enough crisis, we need something that is solid. Something to hold on to. Something that will not crush under the stress of the “storm.”  Something that will not let us down. Ever.

Jesus is that “something.” Jesus is the one we want to know, when life brings us storms.

But Jesus says, “Where is your faith? Why are you afraid?”

We can have peace. Even in the storm.

Maya Angelou once said, “When you know better, you do better.”

So the question today isn’t about whether or not the next storm is coming. It is coming. No doubt about it.

The real question is this: Do you know better? Are you ready?

Be blessed and be a blessing – A Moment at a Time.

–          wendy

Our boys braved the "Titanic"in our lives together...

Our boys braved the “Titanic”in our lives together…

Stay in the word.

Stay in the word.

Our sun still shines after the storm.

Still Standing

Happy

Happy

It has been 5 years since Mayo and I attended an Express International Leadership Conference “Evening of Excellence”. It is a black tie affair and the evening is filled with fancy food, great networking and top offices are recognized with awards for various levels of achievement. Getting awards was always fun for us in the past, but after Zack died – it lost its appeal…

Everything changed after he died. We have had to learn how to live in a world where loss has transformed us. Loss forced us to adjust to a new normal….things and places aren’t the same; relationships with others are not the same; our relationship with God is not the same and the way we see ourselves is not the same.

And here we are.

Almost five years later (has it really been that long?).

After a record-breaking 2015 (with an incredibly committed and tenacious team), we decided to attend this year’s Evening of Excellence in the great city of Dallas, Texas.

I’m glad we did.

We are part of an amazing organization that has loved us through our loss and continued to celebrate our office’s success – even when we weren’t there to celebrate it ourselves. Saturday night, they cheered us on as Mayo and I took the stage to accept our award for the first time since Zack’s illness and death.

And we felt the love of our Express Employment Professionals Family (yes we are!).  This family was there for us in our office – in the hospital – at the Ronald McDonald House – at our home and at a funeral for 12 year old Zack.  They encouraged us, prayed with and for us. They believed with us and pushed us onward.  They cried with us and they grieved with us. They loved us.

And after being knocked down, they, along with so many others, helped us get back up.

And we are still standing

Even on the hardest of days.

We are truly blessed to be loved and to be in the business of changing lives daily and making a difference A Moment at a Time

Ready for the stage!

Ready for the stage!

This award will look great in our office!

This award will look great in our office!

ilc20163

Team Wilmington!

Team Wilmington!

ilc20165zackcadescove

Let God Fill the Empty

gravesite at christmas

The soft ground presses down under my feet. Perfectly placed poinsettias dance in the wind. Nearly every grave site shows signs of Christmas. Someone still remembers. Someone still misses.

We stop in front of Zack’s headstone and Mayo squeezes my hand. That squeeze shouts to my aching heart but quiet fills the air around me.

I wrap the tiny strings of light around the green wreath. The emptiness of the battery compartment is obvious and I wonder if emptiness is always obvious.

A tear slips out as I push in the batteries to fill what is empty.

Empty.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1

And the lights on the tiny wreath twinkle full of life.

Full.

Mayo lovingly attaches the Christmas wreath to a plaque stand next to Zack’s headstone then he grabs my hand and squeezes. Again.

And I feel love. I see love. And there, in that moment of love, I spot God, enthroned in the emptiness.

When we let God fill our empty with His presence, He equips us to face the physical and emotional emptiness of loss.

You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In your right hand there are pleasures forever. Psalm 16:17

How can you let God fill your emptiness?

New Season of Writing

I received many messages regarding my absence in blogging over the past year. Although I have continued to write (because writing is where I find my greatest healing) it has been better for me to keep my writing between God and me.

Mostly, because He is the only one who can handle all I had to say.

Because the world does not understand the reality of being a bereaved parent and the fear of loss again is real.

But, here I am ready to pour out words from my heart with whoever will read them.

Not because I am eager to share words – but because it may help even one.

And because we are called to be faithful to the task and leave the results of our training in the Lord’s hands.

May He find in me – and in you – faithful stewards.

I pray He will give me fresh courage in this new season of writing and the courage to keep seeking Him where I doubt He is and the courage to be part of a better story.

Watch for new posts coming soon… I hope you will be blessed.

Wendy

(And here is the newest picture of our Baby Sam – he turned 10 months old yesterday!)

Sam turned 10 months old yesterday!

Sam turned 10 months old yesterday!

Welcome Baby Mayo!

All my boys...

All my boys…

After being hospitalized for a week with pre-eclampsia, I was induced and gave birth early to Samuel Hugh Mayo on Saturday, December 20 at 10:29am…. 1 samuel 1:20 – it came about in due time, after Hannah had conceived that she gave birth to a son and named him Samuel saying “Because I have asked him of the Lord.” (Born in answer to prayer and dedicated to God). Thank you Lord for this blessed baby boy…truly an answered prayer for our family.

Samuel was not due until January 30 so he was born early at 33weeks 5 days has been in NICU since his birth and our family is pretty much living there with him.  He is doing well but is still taking most of his breast milk through an ng tube (feeding tube through his nose) and he has to be able to eat on his own before going home. He is also experiencing apnea/brady epsiodes (where his heart rate drops) but he is able to bring it right back up on his own with no outside stimulation. Both of these are normal and expected for babies born this early. He is 36weeks gestational age today so we hope to see a lot of progress this week and hopefully take him home in another two weeks or so.

Thanks for your prayers for continued progress for him and for me as I continue to deal with lingering high blood pressure from pre-eclampsia.

We are truly blessed and are enjoying each moment of this new season…

Words can not express the joy of new life.

newborn samuel7

Nick holding Samuel’s tiny foot

newborn samuel1newborn samuel5newborn samuel6newborn samuel3newborn samuel4newborn samuel

Samuel Hugh Mayo

Samuel Hugh Mayo

newborn samuel9

Nick visiting me in the hospital before Samuel’s birth.

newborn boys

All my newborns…

 

Permission to Grieve

A little brother visits an older brother's grave...

A little brother visits an older brother’s grave…

Some friends I care about deeply have recently experienced tremendous loss and are now navigating the “grief journey.” It is a journey I know well and is not an easy trip or a short one. My family and I have learned some things about grief that we never knew before losing our 12-year-old son, Zack.

Grief – at least in our society – is completely misunderstood.

One out of one people will die in their lifetime, yet, the vast majority of human beings do not want to discuss it or even think about their own death or someone they love. Inevitably, we will all experience the loss of someone we love – yet for most of us – growing up, no one teaches us about that experience and what to expect. Then, when we do experience loss, we are faced with an unfamiliar, unexpected and difficult emotion…Grief.

Grief, like death, is hard for people to discuss and even harder to understand. As a result, society does not give us permission to grieve – society just wants us to return to normal just as we are discovering life will never “get back to normal.” We find ourselves settling in to some kind of “new normal” and that “new normal” may continue to change for a long time. Work doesn’t give us permission to grieve. Work is demanding and performance requires focus and attention – neither which can be found for long periods when we grieve. Daily life doesn’t give us permission to grieve. Dinner must still be prepared. Laundry must be done. Hair must be combed and teeth must be brushed. Even friends and family don’t give us permission to grieve. Sure they support us and encourage us – but some may have expectations that we need to “snap out of it” or get back to our old “self” or “move on” and those expectations can be hurtful and make us feel guilty as we struggle through grief.

If we give ourselves permission to grieve, we can find the other areas of our lives will give us permission to grieve also.

 The only cure for grief is to grieve. – Earl Grollman

We may try to separate grief from the rest of our life or try to fight it somehow but that just makes grief mad. We may try to hide from grief by pouring into our work or staying busy with life and we may put on an outward appearance of being “just fine” and try to ignore grief.

But, grief refuses to be ignored and pain demands to be felt. And, like it or not, grief becomes a new constant companion after a loss. (And if we don’t acknowledge grief during the day, grief will surely come to visit at night.)

Grief is personal: It is as individual as a fingerprint. The way you grieve will be different from the way anyone else grieves. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Don’t be sorry that others might be uncomfortable with your grief. Even among families who grieve together, they still have to grieve individually. This individual grief can cause strain and even confusion between family members because we may not understand the way they are grieving. No one can do any one else’s grieving. Your grief is your grief. (Don’t hide grief from your children. Our children need to see us grieve and heal so they know it is okay to grieve.) Find a way to express your grief during the season of heavy grief. Talk about it with someone you trust. Write about it. Join a support group. See a counselor. Help others. Draw comfort from your faith. Pray. (For me, it is my faith, expressing myself through writing and helping others that helps me most.)

Grief is powerful: Grief has the power to give us sorrow, uncontrollable tears and unbearable pain one moment and then swing over to anger, guilt, fear and anxiety in the next. (And yes – grief can make us feel like we are going crazy.) The powerful impact of each of those emotions can knock us down and shake us to the core. We cannot ignore these emotions because if we try, they will just seep out all over the place and make grieving all the more difficult. We must face these emotions head-on and fully experience each one. I remember in the days after our son died, my husband and I looked at each other and asked if we would ever be “happy” again.

Grief is unpredictable: There are triggers for grief everywhere. We expect it with holidays and special occasions – it is the ones we don’t expect that take our breath. A picture. A song. A smell. A memory. Unloading the dishwasher. Folding laundry. Walking in the office. Hearing a joke. Exercising. And most of the time the triggers are not what we expect and it certainly is not when we expect it. Not too long ago, I was a mess in the grocery store (the cereal aisle) as a boy begged his mom for a specific cereal. Memories of Zack asking me for his favorite cereal came crashing down (with the tears).

Grief is a process: There is no timeline for grief. Sure, some people may think that you should be done grieving by now but I don’t even know what that means. It is not as simple as saying “I’m done grieving now.” Grief is not a virus that runs through your system and is done. It is not a disease that can be treated with antibiotics. Grief is a process that takes time – longer than people expect. Here I am, 3+ years later and I still grieve for my 12-year-old son, Zack. I still grieve because I still love. My grief is not like it was in the beginning, but grief is still my companion. And just because you have a good day doesn’t mean you are done grieving. It may take weeks, months, years, or a lifetime. But, grieving does not mean we don’t go on living. We continue to go to work or school, we get our children up and ready for the day, we cook dinner, we shop for groceries and we can still do all of those things well. We just have to understand that our lives may look different from the inside out because priorities change during grief. The way we see life changes during grief. The way we see each moment changes during grief. Some things, that used to seem so important, won’t even matter anymore. Most importantly, the way we see ourselves changes during grief. Grief forces us to not only acknowledge the death of someone we love, but it forces us to face our mortality. Grief may cause us to look closely at our faith, ask lots of questions of God and question our own purpose in life. (At least it did for me.)

We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey. ~ Kenju Miyazawa

Grief gives us a path: Believe it or not, grief actually helps us. Grief is a natural, healthy process that helps us to recover from terrible emotional wounds. Grieving is a necessary part of God’s path to healing. Grief may change us, but that doesn’t mean it changes us in a bad way. Grief has changed me. My relationship with God is stronger now than ever in my life. I don’t worry about the “little” things like I used to. I cherish each moment with the people I love. I care more about others and less about myself. I miss Zack and will miss him every day until I am reunited with him in heaven. That will never change. Part of our path to healing has included our family finding ways to honor and remember Zack. Doing this, helps us to know that his memory will live on and lets the world know he is never forgotten. Find a special way to honor your loved one. It doesn’t have to be something big or elaborate. It can be whatever is meaningful to you. Whatever you do, don’t stop talking about your loved one. Even if it makes others uncomfortable – who cares? They may be gone, but our relationship with them has not ended. In our house, we speak about Zack all the time. Sometimes speaking about him may cause my voice to crack and sometimes it brings tears, but that’s ok too. Mostly, we laugh and talk about things he would like or not like and what he would think about something we are doing. We celebrate his birthday every year and his little brother always gets a gift from Zack at Christmas and birthdays. When someone we love dies, they remain in our hearts and they should remain a part of our lives however you decide that should look.

 “Grief is itself a medicine.” ~ Will Cowper (English hymn writer)

Grieving is not easy.

Giving yourself permission to grieve and heal from the hurt of loss takes great courage. Be gentle with yourself during the season of heavy grief.

I have listed some resources below that may be helpful to anyone who is grieving. If you know someone who is grieving, be sure to love on them.

Be blessed as you live and grieve A Moment at a Time.

For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning. ~ Psalm 30:5

compassionatefriends.org

griefnet.org

onlinegriefsupport.com

Zack Mayo September 17, 1998 - May 28, 2011 Cause of death - liver cancer

Zack Mayo September 17, 1998 – May 28, 2011
Cause of death – liver cancer

Life After Death

cropped-zack54.jpgOur 12 year old son, Zack, moved in with Jesus just over three short years ago.

And while he is physically gone, he is always with me.

The pain of losing him is not as raw as it once was, but it is painful just the same.

When we found out I was pregnant, we felt this was truly a gift from God.

Baby Mayo

Baby Mayo

And then someone asked me if I was worried if this baby would get cancer too.

And someone made a comment about my age.

And someone said something about Zack being reincarnated in this baby.

Some people always want to take the wind out of your sail.

And there is always someone waiting to be negative because negative people need drama like oxygen.  But if we just ignore them, it takes their breath away. The less we respond to negative people the more peaceful our lives will become.  (and then there is always the “defriend”option – J)

This life…this life we have learned to live without our Zack is harder some days than others. This new life, this miracle, this gift, growing inside me will never take his place.  But this new life has breathed a new joy into our family.

Each time I feel a kick, I smile.

This video of Nick finding out about the baby will surely make you smile too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODtOCet5x78

God’s people have only one way to face life – confidently.  So, we will continue to live this life after death with confidence – a moment at a time.  I pray you will too.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.  ~Lamentations 3:22-24

PS – September Marks National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month – please support childhood cancer research by making sure you KNOW which organizations truly fund the research and only supporting those organizations.

big brother Nick