Seasons of a life

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After our family Easter parties this year, I was drawn to look back at pictures from Easter last year.

The difference in just one year, both in how Vanessa felt and acted, was staggering. Last year I remember her being a bit tired, but happily interacting with the kids and the extended family, hunting for eggs, etc.

Easter Party 2011

Easter 2012

This year the majority of Vanessa’s time at Easter gatherings was spent taking pictures of various textures and stuffed animals, and only occasionally interacting with or talking to others, although I believe she had a fine time attending each party.

Easter Party 2012

Easter Party 2013

It is so unbelievably hard to watch this process unfolding in slow motion.

I miss my sister so much, already.

But as spring unfolds and the days warm up (although not quite yet, as we had flurries here this morning, ugh!), I find myself reflecting once again on seasons. Seasons of weather, seasons of emotions, seasons of relationships, seasons of a life.

Red and yellow tulipThe bulbs blooming outside remind me to keep looking for the rebirth – in my garden, but also in myself and others. Just as I don’t ever want to get too complacent, too settled, or feel too sure I have anything all figured out, I also don’t want to miss noticing when those around me are growing, changing and teaching. To stagnate within a place, mindset or relationship ignores all the ways we can continually blossom and grow. Spring is when it all starts, with the seeds of hope, the seeds of change, seeds of joy.

As I got ready to put the kids’ heavy coats in the closet for the warm months, and dig out the baseball caps from storage, I thought about needing things for a time, and then putting them away knowing we will/may come back to them. There is an obvious association for me here with specific feelings and skills I pull out frequently (but not constantly), as needed – the grief that bubbles to the surface but then recedes with the reminders that life is still wonderful, the hope I keep in my back pocket to revive me when I’m sagging and doubting, the energizer-bunny me that emerges when there is a crisis and steps up to the plate before then putting the usual, slower (lazier!) me back in charge when the crisis is over. Sometimes I just need to be confident and outgoing and make connections, while other times I just need to put that away while I pull into my head, think about things, and be alone. It’s cyclical, like the seasons.

Additionally, though, this taking out/putting away for the season also reminds me a lot of some focuses, passions, and even friendships, cycling in and out of our life as they are relevant or needed. I want to be better about deliberately reflecting in order to recognize: when something in my life has run its course, when there is something I need to bring back in, and what is currently already in my life that I want to put more emphasis or focus or energy on. We routinely handle the seasons of the year with deliberate tasks we just do: put up the tree, take down the lights, clean the gutters, air out the garage, wash the cars, find the coats, bring the umbrellas. I want to do such purposeful tasks to mark the changing seasons of my life, too.

Vanessa continues to shuffle forward farther into the last season of her life. Each day, we see more ways this last season for her is coming full circle to her first. She, much like her child self, has very few complex comprehensions or concerns, but a slowly intense focus on her interests of the moment. (Also like her child self, she is very much digging all things that sparkle, dressing up, and giving people presents!) I wish with my entire heart she were living a full, passionate, normal life right now, with her hoped-for dreams for her 31 years- but in truth, her seasons are winding down now. In a more condensed period than most of us are given, Vanessa’s already had the new, hopeful and naive spring days; the sunniest, happiest, most carefree summer days that her life will hold; the reflective and purposeful cool days of fall; and now she is hunkering downward and inward to wrap up the winter of her life.

Ideally, one has a good few decades in each of these seasons of life. But even for a life shortened, to get to spend time in each distinct season, and be surrounded by love all along the way, seems to some extent to be a full and lucky life, all the same.

I know the literal seasons of this year will bring so MUCH yet – so much change, so much pain, so much uncertainty, so much I can’t even imagine. Yet also so much support, so much love, so much connecting, so much to learn.

No matter what our own individual circumstance or challenges or beliefs or history, we each have choices we get to make every day, that make a difference in how the rest of our life will unfold.

Until the very second our life is ultimately over, every single moment can be a new beginning. How amazing is that?!


  1. Silvia says:

    Thank you for sharing. I couldn´t hold the tears thinking about my two sisters with cancer, one passed away last easter, and the other one is bravely fighting against it, and winning so far…
    Through all her posts I could see that Vanessa is an extraordinary person, and the way she faced things has all my admiration. Now that you are the one posting I can see that she also has an extraordinary family.
    The lesson I learnt I´ll keep it in my heart and I´ll try to remind it everyday.
    I know is really hard to go with her this final part of her journey, and that you already miss her because she´s no longer the same person, but I can tell you from your words and her pics, that you can still see her glow, that thing that made her special and beautiful in every way,
    Keep giving her all your love, you´re doing great!!!
    With all my heart.

    • Jessica says:

      Silvia, thank you for sharing both your own pain and words of encouragement. From someone who’s traveled this road already, your comments really mean a lot to me – and to read your “great job” when I am not always getting that sort of feedback from Vanessa… well, you’re not the only one tearing up! ;) Sending love for the loss of one precious sister and best wishes to the other as she bravely marches on with you by her side. I know how it’s difficult in its own way to the one without cancer. Wishing you peace!

  2. Wendy says:

    Jessica, you said it best when you said you miss your sister already. Although my experience was with my mom I remember having those exact feelings seven years ago. She is now gone, and my heart is filled with the happy times, and not the sad times. It breaks my heart that we must go on these journeys, but I do believe that there is a reason and that it will unfold in front us.

    • Jessica says:

      Wendy, thanks so much for writing this. This journey has really reinforced for me how universal the experiences we are each going through really are – loss of a loved one, for whatever reason and at whatever age, seems to inspire similar feelings and thoughts in all us. With a prolonged terminal illness, one is this feeling of loss long before the actual death. It’s still just as heartbreaking, but a little less hard, to know so many of us walk this same road. I am inspired to hear that you now remember more of the happy times with your mom than the sad – at times right now it’s hard for me to see how that’s possible, so thanks for confirming it happens! ;)

  3. Elaine Mercado says:

    Please know how very meaningful your posts are. You write with such clarity, compassion and thoughtfulness. All of us who have been touched by cancer are helped by people such as yourself – willing to open up your heart and mind and put the ensuing words down, reaching all our hearts. In a magnificent manner you have manage to take the utter sadness of what is happening to your dear sister and transform the awful ordeal into a triumph of love. You don’t minimize the heartache in any way……but you enhance the positive influence of all the love she, and you, and your whole family continue to experience and for which you are all grateful. Thank you so very much. Elaine Mercado,RN

  4. Maureen says:

    Such lovely writing, and so expressive of very complicated feelings and observations. All I know is that you Blust girls are magnificent. Thank you for caring for yourself, your sisters, and those of us who are helpless on the side. Blessings, always.

    From Meg’s mom

    • Jessica says:

      Thank you Meg’s mom/ Maureen! “Very complicated” is the perfect way to describe it all. We’re lucky to have such a full sideline rooting us on.

  5. Pam Irvin says:

    Jessica – you write so beautifully…. wonderfully letting us into Vanessa’s world….. My heart goes out to all of you…. I was fortunate to meet Vanessa through The SCAR Project when she was winning her battle…. She was so alive and full of zest…. It’s hard to read your post knowing that she is not that person today. Today, I plan to spend the day with my 16 year old daughter….. nice that at this age, she still will spend a whole day with her mom….. I am glad I read your post before we go….. We will stop and smell the roses on our way to get our manicures…. and focus on the beauty around us. Thanks again for sharing. Pam

    • cindy says:

      You should read the book Freddie the Leaf…it reminds me of your post and life and the seasons….Watching someone become childlike ..again…is telling you they are getting ready to see Jesus…Prayers to you all!!!

    • Jessica says:

      Pam, I hope that you had a lovely daughter day! My oldest is about to turn 5 and I already see glimpses of him not always wanting to spend so much time with me… the time we do get is so precious. And I’m sooo glad you could meet Vanessa in earlier days, to see the real her – somehow it helps validate for me when others who knew her pre-cancer can see the depths of these current losses, too. Thank you for your comment. :)

  6. Mary Pat says:

    When my brother was going through all his cancer issues years ago, I would not have been able to write out my feelings and thoughts as beautifully as you have. Maybe, fortunately, for me, I did not realize that Tom was as bad off as he was. I will never forget the morning Dad called our house to tell me that Tom had died. Jason was 6 months old. So John and I had been married for a few years and I was already out of the house. I just laid in our bed and could not believe what Dad had told me. I can totally understand why you say that you miss your sister already. I miss my mom that way now and she is still alive and living in a nursing home. But she is not the mom I remember. I pray for Vanessa and your whole family all the time. God bless you all.

  7. Diane Rosen says:

    I find myself going to this site alot to check up on all of you. I really like Vanessa’s attitude and am trying to adopt it as my own. Vanessa is so lucky to have all of you for her family. You are all in my prayers.

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