His Spirit Lives On

August 28, 2015

Things have been really tough for me lately, so naturally, I wasn't blogging. But blogging helps me process my thoughts, so I figured it's about time for me to sit down and address everything that's been going on.

My white coat ceremony, the last day I got to spend with my grandpa.
Photo credit: Kerkoff Photography & Design 
My grandpa passed away on August 13 and the past two weeks have been a bit of a blur. His passing happened suddenly and much to my surprise. His obituary can be read below:

James Hall Jones (Jim) unexpectedly passed peacefully from this earth to the next on Thursday, August 13th, 2015 at the age of 82.  Ironically, he was born on a kitchen table in Murray, Kentucky on May 3rd, 1933, and he died at the kitchen table in the arms of his loving wife of 59 years, Myke Jones while having dinner at home. 
Jim was an accomplished architect who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1957. While there, he joined the Triangle Fraternity for architects and engineers and maintained a lifelong commitment to the fraternity.  During his college years, he met and married the love of his life, Martha Doench (Myke Jones) and went on to have 5 beautiful girls: Tracey, Terry, Tricia, Tiffany and Taurin.  The girls will always be grateful that their daddy was an amazing father who loved and cherished them and provided so well for the family.   
Shortly after his graduation, Jim ran a successful architectural practice in Cincinnati focusing on commercial and later residential properties and a member of AIA. While holding a license in 6 states and looking to continue his career in architecture and construction, the family chose to call Colorado home in 1981.   
Jim retired in Westcliffe and spent his last 16 years committed to the community.  He was active in the United Methodist Church, the Rotary Club (Paul Harris recipient) and member of the Economic Development Committee.  Jim adored traveling, architecture and art, theology, the outdoors, and jazz music. 
Jim will be remembered as a charming story teller, painter, writer and one tough man.  Jim survived a brain tumor in 2008 and then went on to participate in actively raising Maya, the youngest grandchild of 7, who graduated high school in Westcliffe.
Survivors include:  his loving wife Myke; 5 children; 7 grandchildren; 2 1/2 great grandchildren; sister Bettye; niece Jennifer and other extended family in Kentucky and Ohio. 
Amazingly, on the day he died so suddenly of heart failure, Jim had printed out his autobiography, and noted such in his diary.  In it he said,
 "It's been a great life-God has blessed me immensely.  Great Family. Great Career. Great Life." 
My grandfather was one of my absolute favorite people and losing him was more difficult than I ever imagined. He and I were born exactly 56 years apart and we were kindred spirits. We saw eye to eye on so many issues and with every conversation, I gleaned a little bit more wisdom. 

Naturally, I wanted to be with my family during our time of loss, so I managed to make it down to my grandma's the weekend after his death. We were able to laugh together, cry together, and share stories. We grieved. I spent time with my mom and grandma, just the three of us, and had some intimate time to try to help us all process our loss. Three generations of women, all coming together to grieve, but more importantly, to CELEBRATE the life of my sweet grandpa. 

A beautiful sunset on the way to see my grandma 
My favorite thing about my grandfather was the way he recorded his life. He was observant and thoughtful in nature, always scribbling down his thoughts and ideas. He filled notebooks, jotted things down on scratch paper, and wrote longer essays. I can still remember when I was young that he encouraged me to write, whenever possible. He said I would never regret it and someday I would be thankful to have the memories written down. While I never have written as much as him, he did inspire my journaling habits (and later my blogging habits) as a way to process my thoughts and emotions. Writing, with or without the intention of someone reading it, helps me feel more grounded. 

It was so eerie, but also surprisingly comforting, when I learned that he left behind his autobiography for us to have. On the day of his death, we found that he had written "print autobiography"on his daily calendar, which leads us all to wonder... did he know that he was going to die? It's hard to say, but it is a strange coincidence. 

I had some time to myself while I was visiting my grandmother and I took that time to sit in his office and read through old essays and papers. I found the ticket to my white coat ceremony next to his computer, which reminded me of how quickly it all happened. I sifted through old essays; some of them brought me to tears, while others made me smile and say to myself, "that's exactly what I would imagine he would say." His writing was like a new window into his soul, which we all felt like we had lost. But he left little pieces of himself for us to discover, in a completely different way - - and what a sweet gift that is. 

One piece of writing in particular brought me great comfort. In this essay (written on May 21, 2015) he wrote:

I suspect we are spirits (like God) but have a body of matter which is necessary to overcome Earth's gravity - science tells us matter can not be created nor destroyed - but changed - so what if God uses our matter again and lets our spirit live around the universe? 
My grandpa thought a lot about life and death. This passage brought a smile to my face, because my current grief is due to losing him in the flesh. I will miss him dearly and wish for more time with him, but the only way that he was lost was in his flesh form. His spirit is still very much alive and feeling his presence at my grandma's was truly comforting. 

He went quickly, which is what he always wanted, but selfishly, I didn't want him to go. He is not physically with us, but I know that his spirit is and I'll be with him again someday. Tomorrow, our whole family with gather for his memorial service and the scattering of his ashes. He affected so many people and I hope that we can all celebrate his influence on our lives tomorrow and for all the years to come. 

I miss you every day, Gramps. You are so very loved and I'm a lucky woman to have had your presence in my life. 

The Fragility of Life

August 8, 2015

This week has brought many things to my attention, but nothing more than this: life is so very fragile. During lecture, we are learning about all kinds of disorders caused by teeny-tiny little alterations to portions of the DNA that can cause life-altering birth defects. One small little mistake can lead to a child inheriting a disease that will change the course of their life forever. Legs fusing together, absence of a limb, mental retardation.... JUST ONE SMALL THING. What's even crazier than that is the fact that so many of those things happen by chance. I truly believe it is a miracle for babies to be born healthy and maintain their health for decades in the future. Your body is constantly trying to maintain its health - it does so much! Our health is such a gift that we often take for granted. 
(image from google)

Healthy babies fill my heart with joy and this week a dear friend of mine in Botswana just had a healthy, baby boy. It is her third child and she is hands down one of the most amazing women I've ever been lucky enough to know. She's a great mother and I'm just thrilled to celebrate the news of her sweet baby boy. His life and health are such a miracle. 

And unfortunately, on the flip side of the week, I've had a dear family friend pass away. Cancer took over and took her life today, which just reminds me of how fragile everything truly is. She was a dear friend, role model, and leader. I know so many people who love her and will be left with deep sadness from her death. 

It's a miracle to have health, it's a miracle to maintain health and live a fulfilling life, and it's a miracle to be able to do all those things with people you love. The art and science that combine to create health is such a beautiful thing. 

Make note of the fragility of life and be thankful for all the days we have. 
RIP Christie... your life was well lived and you are so very loved. 

One week down, forever to go!

August 3, 2015


You guys... I did it. I survived my first week of medical school. It was insane.

I was warned before I started that medical school was a lot like drinking water from a fire hose, and I never had a reason to try to conceptualize that before, but the analogy is quite accurate. I was whining to my good friend, Heather, the other day about the fire hose and she responded with, "well, at least you're hydrated!". Touché, my friend. Thank you for keeping a smile on my face.

But what she says is true. I'm trying to be good about reminding myself of this as well.. but everything I'm learning is amazing. I'll never be able to know all the details or feel 100% comfortable with the material (there's just TOO much), but being able to step back and remember that I'm a physician in training.. well, that's just pretty amazing.

We learned a lot about cell signaling pathways, metabolism, and proteins, AKA I spent a lot of time wrapping my brain around a whole bunch of tiny little proteins in pathways inside a cell. All the tiny molecular details can drive anyone crazy, but at the end of the week, my school does what they call a basic science correlation. It's when they lecture about all the science they threw at us during the week and how it applies to clinical cases. The material was so engaging and I could pull back to ook at the bigger picture - " OH! When patient X has Y disease, we use drug Z to work at that specific point in the pathway I spent all that time memorizing. ".

Beyond trying to synthesize all the material, I'm doing my best to doggy-paddle and keep my head above water. It's a whole new ball game, this medical school thing. I'm working out the kinks in my approach to note-taking, studying, etc. I'll find a rhythm somewhere along the line, but I'm not in a groove yet.

Our first exam was today and it was relief to have a way to evaluate my study habits. I felt really good about the material and I passed - HIP HIP HORRAY, a small victory. I'm learning that it is easy to get bogged down in all the science and the stress, but intentionally setting aside time for myself is going to need to be a priority. Slowly, surely, I'm going to find a balance between being a medical student and a normal human being. That happy place has to exists - and I'll find it soon.

And one last thing I'll leave you with is this incredible TED talk we watched at school during our ethics course this week. Some may agree or disagree with what this video is all about, but to me, it made me  revisit all the reasons I wanted to be a doctor in the first place... and gosh darn it, I'm really excited to have the opportunity to work my butt off to become one.

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