I have written the majority of the almost 300 posts on this blog and could easily write 300 more on the experiences following Jen's passing. However, I have chosen to quietly end the blog known as "Jen's blog." I feel that it has served its purpose - actually it has served many purposes. Beginning as a method of communicating to friends and family, it developed into a tool of encouragement for Jen and our family during her cancer experience. In addition, it served as a resource for cancer patients and a source of inspiration for thousands upon thousands of compassionate people. What this blog also became was a window into our lives. Unfortunately it is time for me to shut that window as my family moves forward.
I won't sign off without a brief update on how we are doing. As you can see from the pictures, the girls are growing up fast. They have definitely developed into two totally different personalities. Emma is a very bright and calculated individual. She quietly soaks in everything around her and often surprises me with her observations and sharp memory. She thirsts for attention and is as determined as any young child I have ever seen. She has been enjoying gymnastics, cooking classes with Nana, "play dates" with various friends, and just simple time at home playing with her sister. She is definitely excelling at her gymnastic abilities and is quickly (almost too quickly) becoming a fashion-conscience girly girl. Peighton is best described by a word used by our new babysitter - precocious. She is growing up very fast. She seems so advanced at 2 1/2 years old but at the same time so laid back. She goes to bed and wakes up with a smile on her face, and is most content doing whatever it is her big sister is doing. With her big blue eyes and adorable face she turns a lot of heads. I just wish they both could stay as innocent and oblivious as they are now, forever.
As for me, I am doing well too. I quickly came to terms with Jen's death and continue to use the fact that she is with our Heavenly Father as my source of peace. My struggles have been related more to the almost overwhelming reality of being a single father and the scrutiny that I am subject to as an individual. I am surrounded by the most helpful people I could ever wish for, but that doesn't change the fact that I now have the role of a mother and a father. It is an inexplicable responsibility that I am slowly coming to terms with. Everyday I obsess over decisions related to how I speak to the girls, how I discipline them, who I expose them to, etc. I can't just take things with a day to day attitude, I have to consider what they've been through and where we're going as a family. The scrutiny I mentioned gets to me only because I am a people pleaser and want nothing more than everyone to think nothing but the best of me. I have finally realized a new respect for my father and the difficulties I can now see that he had following the loss of my mother. People are naturally quick to rush to judgement and we are all guilty at times. I have felt the brunt of it as it relates to how I handle my children, who I am with in public, how visible my grief is or isn't, on down to the simplest of actions in my everyday life. Time will bring the old comfort of living a humble, private life. I have also been dating someone that I truly believe God put in front of me at a time that I would call my "emotional rock bottom." The furthest from either of our minds was a relationship when we coincidentally ran into each other. I can't thank her enough for picking me up and helping me take my first steps forward. I don't wonder if happiness will someday come anymore because I have actually begun to feel it again.
As Jen's battle with cancer came to an end, I had a strong desire to not only keep her name and spirit alive but to also help young families that may have to endure the awful circumstances that come with a cancer diagnosis. With the help of supporters and a dedicated board of directors, the Jennifer Ireland Foundation is a reality. Beginning with our friend Shawndra Turner, the foundation continues to provide grants to families such as mine that are living with cancer. The grant applications are rolling in from all over the country - and even overseas. Please redirect your attention to the foundation website at www.jenniferirelandfoundation.com. There you will find an ever-improving and informative website that will hopefully become a major destination for the cancer community, patients and supporters alike. In the very near future you will see a blog maintained by Jen's oncologist who will open a window into the life of someone who experiences cancer through hundreds of individuals everyday. The foundation site will also have a "blog center" where patients can create their own blogs to document their experiences and feel the therapeutic effect of sharing their stories and feelings. I even intend on dedicating a small portion of the site to updates on my two beauties - Emma and Peighton. Please make the foundation site as important as your morning cup of coffee.
I've said it many times since January of 2006, thank you so much for what you did for Jen, what you have done for me, and what you continue to do for those out there valiantly fighting this despicable disease. May Jen's strength and courage continue to inspire and may God bless you.