Today would have been Carolyn Wakumoto’s 68th birthday. This beautiful daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, and friend passed away April 29, 2014 after a valiant five year battle with pancreatic cancer.
Carolyn Wakumoto is the most courageous person I have ever known. Exactly five years ago, she was diagnosed and given 6 months to a year to live. Her family was all the incentive and inspiration she needed to be a survivor. Thus began her remarkable journey of lifestyle changes that sent her cancer into remission, escaping her death prognosis. Carolyn shared her miraculous recovery in a Friday Feature that ran on my blog in 2011.
Last year, Carolyn’s cancer returned. I was fortunate to accompany her to one of her cancer treatments at the City of Hope. During her chemo, she told me about the types of support and encouragement that she had received that helped her get through her ordeal. I shared her tips in another blog post.
Unfortunately, the cancer, accompanied with excruciating pain, returned in January of this year. Carolyn knew that her death was inevitable. Her family met and together they decided to enter her in to hospice care. Carolyn’s final desires were simple. She wanted to be comfortable, with as little pain as possible, and she wanted to spend time with those she loved as long as she could.
We – her family and friends –were blessed to have the two months to prepare for Carolyn’s death. We sat with her so she was never alone. We read to her. We laughed with her. We sent her texts and cards and letters and Facebook messages to boost her spirits. And despite the pain, Carolyn gave to us as well. She showed us how to endure to the end with dignity and grace.
Carolyn Jean Baker Wakumoto passed away peacefully with her family by her side the evening of April 29th. Her services were held one week later, services that she had planned, and that were carried out precisely as she directed.
Now it is up to us – her family and friends – to carry on without Carolyn in our daily lives. How will we choose to cope with her death?
One way for me to cope with her death is to emulate in my own life those traits that I most admired in Carolyn. She was a woman of faith and a fabulous grandmother. Carolyn belonged to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and her religion meant everything to her. Her strength to endure came from her faith in God and Jesus Christ. What really had an impact on me was witnessing her strong desire to attend Easter services. She was very sick and knew that she would pay drastically health wise for that excursion. Yet she was determined to put God first above all else. It was the last time she left her house. I want to be strong like Carolyn and put my faith first, no matter the cost, just as she did
As a grandmother to 15 (with another one due in July), Carolyn’s grandchildren meant everything to her. She could relate to each one, no matter their age, and they all knew she loved them. For Christmas, she would give each grandchild a special invitation inviting them to “Grandma Week” where they all came to her house for activities and fun. They slept in a tent, cooked hot dogs over a campfire, played games, went on outings, read stories, and watched movies. This is something I definitely want to do with my grandchildren in her memory.
For those days when I will be looking for extra support, I have the book, On Loss and Living Onward by Melissa Dalton Bradford. Melissa shares her feelings of losing her teenage son in a tragic accident intertwined with quotes from various sources that she found solace as she learned to cope with the loss of her son. What I like best about the book is that the format lends itself to be a resource of comfort, whether I need only 5 minutes of relief or a few days. In other words, I don’t have to reread the entire book to benefit from its soothing messages. The book has been such a great support for my grieving that I wanted to share it with Carolyn’s sisters. So I gave each one their own copy after the funeral.
Coping with the death of a loved one is difficult. Keeping their memory alive by emulating their positive traits and having resources to turn to for comfort certainly helps to ease the loss. Rest in Peace dear Carolyn.
How have you coped with death?