Monday, March 30, 2009


We spent the weekend in Iowa with Gary and some of Winn's siblings and their families. We had dried all the floral bouquets from the funeral, and on Saturday Kendra and I made little potpourri sachets out of them, to give to each of Sherill's sisters, daughters, and granddaughters. We tossed the petals in English ivy hydrangea oil and used them to fill small teabags made of green netting. We then sewed slipcovers for the potpourri out of a soft fabric with pink flowers and a pink ribbon drawstring through the top.

We were the last to leave the house yesterday. No one wanted to be the last. Winn's dad ended up going to small group in the evening. I wonder if it was so that no one had to leave him there all alone. After he left, we packed up and cleaned the house and left the lights on and music playing and put Holly, their golden retriever, inside to greet him when he got home. We fought back tears as we closed the door behind us, thinking of the tough night he would have.

We got home around midnight and slept in the guestroom. The master bedroom is torn apart. My dad applied a few skim coats of mud over the drywall while we were gone over the weekend. Hopefully we can paint soon and move back to our own bed.

This morning Winn went back to work. I slept in and then had scrambled eggs, an orange, and white chocolate macadamia nut coffee for breakfast. Since then I have been listening to Pandora Radio, catching up on the news, ordering new register covers, making a grocery list, starting a roast in the crock pot for supper, and cleaning to get ready for visitors this evening. The wind and clouds are making me feel gloomy. I hope sunshine is on its way.

Friday, March 20, 2009

the first week

This week has been long and short all at once. It has been a blur, and yet its details are forever etched in my mind.

After having gone home for a couple days to check on things, we arrived back at Winn's parents' house one week ago today, at 3:30 a.m., an hour too late. Sherill was gone. They told us that the last several hours were very painful for her, but that at the last breath she leaned forward and let out a huge smile.

Her body was still warm when we went into her room to say goodbye. And it was gut-wrenching. Even as we kissed her head and touched her delicate fingers, almost panicked at the idea that soon her body’s warmth would turn to cold and dryness, we knew that she was no longer here.

We sat in the living room together as the mortician came to take her body away from us. And then life without her began…

Friday ~ We all tried to get a little rest that morning. But as exhausted as we were, sleep refused to be had. Winn and his dad and siblings went to the funeral home to make funeral arrangements and write the obituary, then to the flower shop to choose a casket arrangement. We began to pour over old photos, trying to choose ones that would depict the sparkle in her eye when she smiled, the joy that she brought to everyone, the closeness that she shared with her family. And as we stumbled around the house, we would stop and weep at the sight of her wig on the counter or her prayer shawl on the chair or her shoes by the door.

Saturday ~ Funeral arrangements continued. Reminiscing continued. Tears continued. We searched high and low (in four different cities) for the perfect pink dress shirts, ties, accessories to wear to the funeral, wanting to honor her 16-year battle with breast cancer, a battle she fought with strength and courage, even humor and smiles. A battle she fought for so many years, far beyond the doctors’ predictions.

Sunday ~ The 17 of us attended church together as a family, a hole in our hearts and in the pew next to Gary where Sherill would have been seated. And then someone brought us dinner, as countless dear people had been doing for weeks, and continue to do. In the afternoon we went to the funeral home to see Sherill’s body. She looked so pretty in her soft pink sweater with a delicate scarf around her neck. Gary and the kids agreed she should not wear her wig (she most often went without it, never one to fuss over appearances), and her short white hair, that had just begun to grow out again, was just right. We all stood back as Gary bent over her, admiring her, missing her. And then we surrounded her casket and even the grandchildren touched her affectionately as we all commented on how lovely she looked, how they got her lips and cheeks just right, what a nice job they had done with the pink nail polish that Winn’s sister Kendra sent along to the funeral home. And how peaceful her expression was. After a long while, Emily suggested that we could all use an ice cream cone, and so we stood in line outside at Grahams for almost an hour in the sun and warmth of early spring.

Monday ~ We spent the day ironing clothes, getting haircuts, and setting the disheveled house aright as we prepared for more family to arrive. That evening we received somewhere around 400 hugs from people that stood in line for hours at the visitation. It was comforting to see so many whose lives Sherill has touched.

Tuesday ~ Family and friends came from across the country (and a few even watched internationally via the Web) to celebrate Sherill’s life with us, filling the church to the brim, a sea of pink just as the family had requested. During the funeral, sweet voices sang of Jesus’ love and beautiful photos told of the memories we hold close to us. And afterward we had a huge feast, Sherill-style, with food and chatter and laughter. In the afternoon Aunt Patti came over and ordered us to sit and relax while she cleaned the house. We sorted flowers and opened countless notes of encouragement and gifts of sympathy.

Wednesday/Thursday ~ We began to contemplate getting back to everyday life, not wanting to and yet wanting to. We went out for lunch, for the first time without her. Sherill was cremated, and Gary brought her ashes home, each of her children receiving a small urn to keep. Loyal friends continued to care for us. One neighbor even stopped by and offered to take us on a guided tour along an old railroad bed on his property. We chose our walking sticks and set out through the trees, crossing an old bridge, spotting several deer, and ending at a pond with the sun just setting on the water. The fresh air and exercise were a perfect gift from this kind neighbor.

Friday ~ Today we left for home. It was hard to do. The next time we pull into their driveway, Sherill will not be sitting in her chair by the window. Her voice and smile will not greet us. Only a week, and yet so much has changed.

{yesterday's walk}

Thursday, March 19, 2009

out of the mouth of babes

Kendra (to Hannah when Sherill was very sick): Very soon Grandma is going to get to go and be with Jesus. Hannah: I’m so excited for Grandma!

Stone: Dad said that Grandma is in heaven. Grandpa: That’s right, Stone, Grandma is in heaven. She’s with Jesus now. Stone: Then why is everybody so sad?

Stone (when we got to the funeral and saw Sherill in the casket [we had already seen her in the casket at the family viewing and then again at the visitation]): Mom, why does Grandma keep following us around?

Kendra (to Hannah after Sherill died): Grandma died, but she’s in heaven now and has a new body and isn’t sick anymore and she gets to be in heaven. Hannah: Grandma is so lucky!

{Stone & Hannah w/ Grandma on Grandparents' Day at school}

{And Paxton with Grandma}

Friday, March 13, 2009

goodbye sweet heart

Sherill K. Cradic, 66, died at 2:36 a.m. on March 13, 2009, surrounded by her family at home.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

last words

Dear Sherill,

I have struggled in trying to verbalize how you have impacted my life, not for lack of things to say but rather because I fear I will not be able to adequately express all that you mean to me.

I met your kids before I met you, first Kendra and then Winn, and eventually Tim and Kim. I knew something about you when I got to know your children. I knew that they had a good mother when I saw their character and when they told stories around the campfire at NYR of their parents and of family memories at the Cradic house. I liked you before I met you.

And then I met you, along with your sisters Jenny and Rowena, and I learned something else about you, that you were a good sister and a good daughter, that your family was close and strong and godly. And when you smiled, it took up your whole face. And then I not only liked you, but I admired you.

And then I began to get to know you. At first I observed your humble wisdom and quiet spirit and beautiful heart from afar, and then as I began to seek your counsel from time to time, your thoughtful advice was always exactly what I needed. As my mother-in-law you have never made me feel as though I’m not good enough for your son but have always made me feel like I belong. As I have watched you be a wife to Gary over the years, I have learned to be more patient and sensitive with Winn, to be more cheerful with everyday tasks, and to be a better listener. As I’ve watched you be a mother and a grandma, I’ve learned that nothing on earth delights you more than your own precious family. And so as I got to know you, not only did I like you and admire you, but I quickly grew to love you as well.

I see you in Winn. When he smiles, it reaches up to his eyes, and his laugh is easy, like yours. Sometimes when he sits and listens to people’s troubles, or when he gives them caring advice, I think about how it is probably something he learned from you. Or when he is the first to put his desires aside for the sake of others, I wonder how many times he has observed you doing the very same thing. I can’t thank you enough for your selfless and Christ-like influence in his life.

We hope to have children of our own someday, and I am tortured by the fact that if cancer has its way, they won’t get to meet you on this earth. My only comfort is that because of your legacy, they will get to meet you in heaven, and for that I am forever grateful.

I love you, Sherill.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

these days

We are home for a couple days to grab some clean underwear, attend a couple meetings, and pay a few bills before heading back down to Iowa. Sherill's health continues to decline quickly, and she now spends the day in bed sleeping, hooked up to oxygen and a catheter, with only brief moments of lucidity. But even in the midst of pain, God gives us some highlights to hang onto...

* holding new baby goats in diapers
* catching Winn reading at the foot of his mom's bed
* watching Gary tenderly care for his wife
* eating lots of pie and cookies and sweets from caring friends and neighbors
* seeing my husband hug his family and being grateful for their closeness
* playing tractors on the floor with little Paxton
* celebrating Birthday No. 6 with the twins
* the whole Martin family squeezing into Grandpa's chair
* the never-ending flow of visitors, cards, meals, and flowers, reminding us how loved and admired Sherill is

Friday, March 6, 2009

photo fun

My friend Andrea tagged me in a photo blog game where you open your 6th photo folder and post the 6th photo in the folder. There was only one photo in my 6th folder (the rest were all videos), so hopefully it still counts!

I present to you my adorable nephew Joel...

Let's see what you've got, Rebecca, Jennifer K., Esther, Peggy, Kaylan, and Kari!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

for my niece

I'm a novice knitter, but after two scarves and three hats, I thought I might try my hand at something different. And just to prove that I really did make it, here's an in-process shot on our way to Iowa last weekend...