Jen quietly came into my life at a time when I needed, more than anything, true fulfillment and happiness. When she laughed her eyes sparkled as if backlit by a mysterious energy…so I tried to made her laugh as often as possible. When she cried she seemed so vulnerable and I felt like such a strong man…so I encouraged her to cry whenever necessary. For far too long the words “I Love You” did not roll off my tongue easily. She made those three words feel natural. When fatherhood scared me, she showed me through her actions as a mother that all it takes is love. Although married less than five years, together Jen and I shared a lifetime of experiences. Even without knowing our time with one another would be short, God directed us to make the most of those years. I would live them over and over again if it meant she could still be here with me. I cannot imagine our lives without Jen. Emma, Peighton, and I will take it one day at a time knowing that her spirit is with us.
I wanted to share these quick thoughts with those unable to attend Jen's beautiful services this weekend. I did not have strength enough to speak, but this blog is a fitting place to briefly reflect on what Jen has meant to me. Thank you to everyone that partcipated in and attended both the Celebration of Life service and the Mass of Christian Burial. Both services exceeded any visions I had of a proper send off for Jen into her new life with our Lord.
Peace be with all of you and Happy Birthday to our dear Emma.
Jen was born February 17, 1979, in Cape Girardeau, Mo., to Dennis G. and Jan F. (Kohlfeld) Bles. Jennifer was a devoted and loving wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. She touched many lives during her battle with cancer. Her grace, dignity and courage was an inspiration to us all.
Jennifer is survived by her husband, Chris Ireland; daughters, Emma Claire, 4 years, and Peighton McKenzie Paulette, 22 months; her mother, Jan Velander and husband, Bob; her father, Dennis Bles and wife, Tina; brothers, Jason and Jordan Bles; sister, Robin Velander; niece and nephew, Lilly and Dylan Velander; maternal grandparents, Leo and Blanche Kohlfeld; paternal grandfather, George Bles; and many special aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Jen was preceded in death by her grandmother, Vernita Bles.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, at St. John LaLande Catholic Church, Independence. A "Celebration of Life" service will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9, at the First Baptist Church of Blue Springs. Burial will be held in Floral Hills Memorial Gardens, Kansas City. Visit www.jenniferirelandfoundation.com for memorial contributions and further information.
Some of you in Kansas City were tuned into Mix 93.3 FM last week when Jen's battle with cancer became a story in the community. Rocket and Teresa's morning show (with Ponch) dedicated a large portion of their show to Jen. They knew that her strength in the face of such adversity would touch the lives of many...and they were absolutely right. The KC community's response was unbelievable. Thank you Kansas City for serving as a giant shoulder to cry on while we tried to stay strong for Jen in her final weeks.
Tracy Moss of Mix 93.3 was kind enough to upload audio files of portions of the shows where Jen and our family were discussed. Feel free to download and listen for yourself. I will certainly be making copies so that someday I can play these files for Emma and Peighton. It will be another important tool in showing them how inspirational their mother was to so many people.
Today we finalized the schedule for services to celebrate Jen's life. Watch for the published information in Tuesday's KC Star, Blue Springs/Independence Examiner, and the Southeast Missourian.
Friday, February 9th, we will have a Celebration of Life Service at 7:00 PM at the First Baptist Church in Blue Springs. This will be a sit down service followed by a time of fellowship for all that want to attend. We will dedicate the evening to memorializing Jen and her 27 great years of life. The address of the church is 1405 Main Street in Blue Springs, Missouri.
Saturday, February 10th, will be the Mass of Christian Burial at 10:00 AM at St. John LaLande Catholic Church in Blue Springs. This will be a beautiful event. The address of the church is 801 NW R.D. Mize Road in Blue Springs, Missouri.
Following the Mass will be the graveside service at the Floral Hills cemetery at 7000 Blue Ridge Blvd. in Raytown, Missouri.
The services Friday and Saturday will be an example of Jen's influence bringing people from all walks of life and denominations together. Just as she transcended cancer, her spirit will transcend denominations and we'll all share the time together as family, friends, and supporters of Jen that simply worship the same God.
My wife, Jennifer Claire Ireland, took her last breath around 2:40 this morning. As I looked over and saw her chest no longer rising and falling, relief was the overwhelming emotion...no more pain, no more suffering. As much as it hurts, I can quickly draw comfort from knowing that she is at heaven's gates.
As I walked out of the hospital and to the car - Jen's car - the thought of now having to face our girls weighed heavily on me. I started the cold car and at that moment playing on the radio was John Mayer's song "Daughters." It is no coincidence that I was hearing an artist that Jen and I shared as our favorite - going back to our wedding day when we found his first CD in the stereo of our honeymoon suite. I had my first sign from Jen that everything will be alright. She is with me. She is with us.
When I briefly set the pain aside from seeing Jen go through this, I ponder the amazing thing that is the human body. How a body riddled with cancer, saturated in toxins from failing organs, and infused full of medicines can continue to work to survive is incredible. This may be the only time in a cancer patient's life that a young body is an unfortunate thing. Our great nurse, Channing, just left a few minutes ago after taking vitals. Slight, low-grade temperature, heart rate of 142, and blood pressure of 111/55. All of those numbers indicate an exhausted body, but a body not ready to give up. I have to keep reminding myself that we are on God's time. Jan and I have become so in tune to Jen's body in the past three weeks, that I really feel like we are sharing her decline in condition in the form of exhaustion. If that is true, I hope that when the time comes for her ascent to heaven we will feel well again.
Today we had to take another step toward reality and purchase Jen's "lot" at her body's final resting place. In a very emotional but special talk with Jen in late December, she asked if it were OK that she be buried near my mom. Today we signed the contract that will make that wish of hers happen. Although they never had the opportunity to meet, I have no doubt that next to Jan, my mom would have been Jen's second-best friend.
For those of you interested in the exponential increase in blog activity -- today there were around 40,000 page views. If only I could harness the time and emotion from all the readers, we would be a powerful force with a powerful cause.
Here on out we just count breaths. A part of me needs to be by her side when she takes that last breath, but a part of me wants to turn away from it and not see the moment she physically leaves us. I guess I'm just scared. Tonight my prayer will be that God takes her soon. It must be hard on her to be in this strange transition between mortal life and heaven. It is certainly hard on those of us watching her. Despite the short, raspy, irregular breaths and the motionless, swollen body, Jen continues to look beautiful. Her nurse this evening even felt compelled to say so.
I want share an excerpt of a letter that Jen wrote her stepsister Robin, following the death of one of Robin's closest friends. Robin visited the hospital today and felt that the letter would help me understand that Jen's faith is strong and that her words may provide me some comfort. This letter was written in September of 2005, several month prior to Jen discovering she had cancer...
...I just want you to know how deeply sorry I am for your loss. I honestly can't imagine what you are going through. I couldn't imagine what I would do if I lost Chris. I am not one to preach, but you should use this heartbreaking, confusing time to learn and lean on your faith in God. We have learned that he works in mysterious ways. He'll get you through this...
There is much more to the letter but that is between Robin and Jen. In seeing just those few sentences above, I know that Jen would be telling all of us the same thing regarding her passing.
One of Jen's favorite things is snow. It is unfortunate she couldn't open her eyes and look out the window today at its beauty. As I looked out, I hoped that her mind was as clear and peaceful as the soft, white, falling snow. Sounds sappy, but I've had deep thoughts lately. Sitting in her room and watching her breath in and out is a little surreal now. I can honestly say that through all of this - her incredible battle - I never let my mind prepare for seeing her in this condition. We'll continue to make sure that she is treated like a princess in the coming hours. The time will soon be near where the roles will change and she will be watching over us.
On another note, we have been overwhelmed once again today with the outpouring of support from the Kansas City community and around the country. I'm still trying to convince myself that everyone out there understands that this blog and its following have become much more than I ever intended. I just wanted to keep everyone close to us informed and create a resource for cancer patients looking for answers. Wow...has it exceeded its purpose! I look around at the many, many patients on this oncology floor at North Kansas City Hospital and I'm sure every one of them has a touching story. They also deserve to be embraced and encouraged. Their families need surrounded as they try to cope. It's unimaginable to me why many of them are alone. We are so lucky. Thank you.