Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Finding perspective in Denver

It is crazy to think that I have already been in Denver for over two months.  I haven't managed to blog about my new job, Lucy, or all things Colorado - and that is a good thing.  With a heavy heart, my first post (in a long time) is about a truly remarkable woman who lost her husband this morning to a long and courageous battle with cancer.

Theresa was one of the first friends I made in elementary school. I had transferred to a new school in third grade, and was the luckiest girl in the world to sit next to Theresa. Theresa was (simply put) the funniest and kindest person I knew. Every day in school she made me laugh until I was in tears.  My favorite memory was lunch time in elementary school.  Nearly every day, without fail, Theresa would discover that she didn't have a spoon for her yogurt. She would then go into a routine we called "No Spoon" where she would start talking to her yogurt container (while tapping on the lid), and say "No spoon! Where are you? Hello in there!" and then she would proceed to eat her yogurt with the lid (unless she scored a spoon from a friend).  It never got old.

Theresa was incredibly goofy but she was also the most thoughtful and genuine person I knew.  She was the definition of the "cool girl" who was also kind to everyone, despite the bullying that went on in school.  She embodied (and still does) the type of person you wanted to be some day.  I will be eternally grateful for the positive impact that Theresa had on my life - back then, and now...

Flash forward to 2010, when Theresa met her husband, Brandon.  A few years later (after their engagement), they found out the unimaginable news that Brandon had leukemia. Their story was remarkable, and featured in Cosmopolitan Magazine.  For a while, Brandon's health improved, but then this Summer, it took at turn for the worse.  Last week, Theresa wrote a beautiful and brave message to her family and friends on their public Facebook support page: 

Hi ‪#‎teamlepow‬, Theresa Lepow here. I have dreaded writing this but wanted to update people who have followed Brandon's journey the past two years. You all have just been incredible to us. In an effort to make this brief, here we go...

As most of you know by now Brandon has had serious complications from his stem cell transplant and now his body is giving up on him. 40 days ago Brandon decided to stop treatment and live the rest of his days filled with family (Penny Lane included), friends, and the biggest love I have ever seen. Brandon's doctors gave him hours to days to live in late August. That was 40 days ago.

To say that Brandon is a fighter, doesn't even begin to explain the strength and courage he has. I am so proud of him in the way he has chosen to leave this world. Under his own terms. We are here just to experience it and hold his hand through this process. These days have been long and hard. I feel challenged beyond anything I thought I could ever endure. But we are all getting through it. I promised Brandon I would be ok in the end-so that's my plan. 

Brandon is now sleeping all the time. He is peaceful and not in any pain. For most of the past 40 days Brandon was awake. Holding our hands, kissing us and simply being Brandon. I have fallen more in love with my husband as I sit and watch him die. He continues to take care of me, to make sure we all are going to be ok. It's incredible. 

Thank you to everyone for showing up for Brandon. He needed to know his 32 years counted and this community of people did just that for him. That is such a gift to us and what a life he had. 

With so much love,
Theresa Lepow 

This morning, I read the heartbreaking news that Brandon had passed away.  I was in my home alone, getting ready for work, and the news just stopped me.  At that moment, my home was perfectly quiet.  The sun was shining through the living room windows.  I paused, sat down in silence, and let things soak in.  I prayed that God would wrap Theresa with so much love - that was the only prayer that came to mind, but it was the right one.

The most incredible thing about Brandon's journey was the outpouring of love from literally hundreds of people around the country, including over 50 of his colleagues from the White House.  It was so special hearing about some of my childhood friends who flew out to Houston to visit Brandon and Theresa at the hospital.  I'm not sure if I've ever seen a better demonstration of love.

Another amazing thing that happened in recent months was a fundraising page that was started in Brandon's honor - to help Theresa and Brandon with medical costs, in addition to setting up a foundation to help carry on Brandon's legacy. Within just days, family, friends, and strangers had contributed literally thousands of dollars to the campaign.  Today I will be making a donation to this campaign, and I'd ask that you please consider joining me.

This morning was one of those days that put things into perspective (yes, that is an understatement).  It's a reminder of how beautiful and sacred life is. It's a reminder to not complain. To live life fully. To forgive, love, and appreciate your partner. To treat others with kindness and respect. To wake up each day with gratitude that we are alive. To hug your dog. To spend time outside. To call your family to say hi. To not sweat the small stuff. To reconnect with old friends. To pray.  

To my dear friend Theresa: I love you, am praying for you, and am here for you always. No words could ever be the "right" words to share in this situation, but I want you to know that you are deeply loved, and you and Brandon have been (and will forever be) an inspiration to many.