Sonija's Crown Has Many Jewels

The tone of this blog is typically positive because I think there’s so much negativity out there that it’s nice to have a resting place, but today I wanted to ask for prayers of comfort and peace as the family navigates the loss of my Grandma Sonija. She went to heaven early this morning after a short, but intense battle against an aggressive and rare form of stomach cancer. I was so thankful to be able to see grandma, my grandpa Neil, and other family members yesterday before she went home to be with Jesus, but we’re all feeling the loss of her company.

Grandma and grandpa 1

This is my grandpa Neil and grandma Sonija during the trip we took with them last summer to Yellowstone.

A few months ago we were told grandma had a bad type of cancer in her abdomen, but the doctors gave everyone a lot of hope with a 5 week treatment plan that would end in the removal of the tumors and bring many more years of life. But right before her surgery they checked her again and realized her cancer had spread so fast and so far that they could no longer remove it. The doctors said she would have “not weeks, but months. Maybe even a year” to live. That was 2 weeks ago.
Yesterday my brother, Willis, and I went down to my hometown to visit. We sat with grandma and grandpa in the early afternoon, knowing it could be our final goodbyes, but thinking she would probably be with us a few more days or a week. She was awake then and asked us if we had eaten– bless her precious servant’s heart (I know she’s in heaven now with the biggest, best crown because she always served everyone around her). She was happy to see us and we exchanged I love yous. I just wanted to sit with her and comb her hair or hold her hand, whatever would comfort her because I could tell she was in pain. Eventually a nurse needed to see Grandma and we left to go visit our dad’s dad, grandpa Leo.
After about 2 hours we decided to go back to grandpa and grandma’s again and say goodbye to grandma Sonija one more time. But in the 2 hours since we were there, Grandma had stopped talking and was having even more trouble breathing. So we sat there with my faithful grandpa Neil, diligent aunts, caring mom, and sweet cousins while my brother read to all of us from the book of John. I felt like I held my breath between each of grandma’s breaths because it seemed like any one of them could have been her last. We didn’t want to see her go, but we prayed that she would be taken to heaven quickly so she wouldn’t have to suffer down here anymore.
Grandma ended up going to heaven in the early hours this morning and I know the whole family is feeling the loss immensely, especially Grandpa Neil and their four daughters. She was just 72 years old and until recently she was constantly serving, playing, traveling, and laughing. She loved Jesus, Grandpa Neil, her daughters, and politics more than anything. Her houses were always spotless, classically decorated, welcoming, and fun to be in. Her shoe collection was adorable, and her work ethic was never ending.
I’ve learned so much from watching my grandparent’s lives. When I was a pre-teen I watched in tears and without understanding as grandpa Neil and grandma Sonija sold literally everything they had at a garage sale and moved to Texas to study Spanish so they could go to Costa Rica as administrative missionaries; because, of course, Grandpa worked on the mission’s finances while Grandma worked as a hostess to other missionaries. I have fond memories of visiting them down there and learning about the Latino people’s need for both the Gospel and humanitarian support.
There are so many things going through my head right now and I want to write them all down, but I’m sure they are memories better suited for my personal journal. For example, how faithfully Grandma helped Grandpa while he went through his chemo treatments; the smell of the soap Grandma used to do the dishes down in San Jose; how Grandma (and Grandpa) always made family vacations fun; or the games and movies Grandma had ready for us grandkids during our slumber-parties. Grandma always made everything fun. She always listened with wisdom in her answers and an amazing lack of judgement. (***i said she listened without judgement, I didn’t say she lacked strong opinions**). These are among the things I’ll always hold as memories in my heart when I think of her. Gosh, I want to be like that when I’m a grandma!
And now I want to give you something, a gem to hold onto, dear reader:
Treat your loved ones with great care because any day could be their last. Any day could be your last too. Put the phone down or whatever distracts you from real life and be present so you don’t miss sweet moments. Don’t let the sun go down without reconciling with anyone you’re fighting with; it’s not good for you, it’s not good for them, and it doesn’t make anything better to hold onto anger. Know where you’re going. Jesus is the only way, the only truth, and the key to everlasting life.

Scandinavian Stripes 

Jeans: Target • Sweater: Motherhood Maternity (cute non-maternity here and one with grey stripes and fringes here)• Silk blouse: Nordstrom Rack, old (similar here) • Necklace: a Swedish store, old (similar here in white and here in pink) • Sunnies: Cole Haan (similar style) • Purse: Coach (similar) • Boots: Jessica Simpson 

[you try drawing someone’s face who’s constantly moving. then judge.]


[Little Sven was literally like my baby– he even wanted to be held like one 24/7]

This past Saturday was spent sitting at an adorable Swedish bakery eating, talking, writing, and drawing. The atmosphere was quant and homey and the food was fantastic. Especially the Semla. But in spite of our smiles and self-inflicted distractions, we were hurting deep down inside. Still mourning the loss of my little Swedish fur-baby, Sven– even after a full year has passed. 
I should probably stop here, but this is on my mind so I’m going to share it anyway. 
I’m always amazed by how much Sven meant to me and how much I miss him daily. His death so sudden and traumatic. I cannot believe I’m admitting this to you on such a frivolous blog, but… I only recently stopped regularly crying over losing him. I wish I knew he had a heart condition. I wish I could go back in time to get him the right medicine. That would have at least given me enough time to mentally prepare. 
To say that my last memory of him is not peaceful is an understatement. He was sickly that night and I stayed up with him, cuddling him on the bathroom floor, not realizing how sick he really was. I didn’t mean to, but I fell asleep by him. At 5AM I woke up. He wasn’t there. I found him under the bed, gasping for air; eyes bulging, tongue out, hind legs paralyzed. It was a nightmare, but it was real life and I was awake. We rushed him to a veterinary clinic that was open where a well-meaning vet told us we had to put him out of his misery and swiftly injected him. He was gone. I don’t know how long the visit to the clinic took, but it felt like milliseconds. 
If you’ve lost someone, I’m sure you know what I mean, times a zillion. 
As we sat in the bakery reflecting on the life of my little Sven I realized that I’ve had a hard time finding peace about all of this because I don’t understand why it happened. He was such a sweet, innocent little guy, why could God let him die? But if everything happens for a reason (and I believe it does), there’s something to learn from little Sven. I’m still not 100% sure what that lesson is, but I think for me it’s that we need to cherish the ones we love. Don’t take anyone for granted. We have no idea what could happen in the blink of an eye. That also means that we all need to be prepared to go and we need to encourage others to do the same. We can’t stop death, but we can band together and support each other, we can learn from it or it can destroy our own wellbeing. 
So there I sat with my handsome husband, talking and laughing. Having fun with the man I love. It was a distraction from the pain, but healing to reminisce. I drew Beckett as he wrote a story about Sven for me and I realized  all over again how insanely lucky I am to be married to such a loving, caring man. I think that was the whole point of that day. 
Too many of you know this lesson far more intimately than I. My grief probably sounds silly to those who have endured worse. How did you cope with the loss of a loved one? How did you find peace? Have you found any glimpses of “good” as a result of a loss?