Monday, March 31, 2008

A good friend and Alpha Phi Omega fraternity brother (of the female variety) mentions Alanna and Jim on her blog, if interested click here to see what she has to say: here. Thank you Katy and thanks for coming to the memorial- it was sooooo good to see you!

My Sweet Alanna

This picture tells a true story. Alanna was one to stand before you, vulnerable and open, quick with a smile and willing to not take herself too seriously. She is sorely missed.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

My Attempt at Honoring Alanna - by Erin

Side note: Alanna would have appreciated this cafe. She held each person responsible for thier own feelings and actions. Not a bad model to live by. Now back to my emotional speech:

I think at these kinds of gatherings we often hear about the positive qualities in the person. Of which Alanna had many. It is actually not hard to remember all the good she brought to this world. Creativity, leadership, bravery and a sense of adventure come to mind. But, as I reflect upon her spirit I remember that she was also bossy, opinionated, and sometimes insecure.

In moments of this insecurity she found herself wondering whether her jobs as a homeless prevention worker, a ropes course instructor, a tram operator, or a church secretary really mattered. She was plagued with the question if she was really doing what she was meant to do in this life- was she doing what God called her to do; or if she really making a difference. I think we all at some point in our lives have wonderings like this.

I ached for her during these moments because I realized that she did not know how much she touched other’s lives. And touch them she did. If there was any question of this before she died, there is none now. Visits to her hospital room by scads of well wishers, over 3000 website hits, and all the testimonies folks have in her honor continue to sing her praises- it is amazing and almost surreal.

Anticipating her death allowed us to express love with her and with each other. She was and continues to be a conduit, a catalyst, an instrument of love.

Alanna took an active rather than passive approach as she faced her uncertainty. I don’t know about you, but if I heard I had cancer- especially the aggressive kind she experienced, I would probably be immobilized, stuck in patterns of self pity or be down right rebellious. No, Alanna was not going to go down that way, she would go down, her way. She set upon planning her last days, planning a vacation, planning this event and deciding each day how to spend it.

As she pondered her upcoming death, she served as an example to those around her.
She lived within some principals that I think are worth mentioning. Include people in your life, love them the best you can, accept help when you need it, do what you can, live till your dying day and when you leave, leave with a little style. Her way also included inspiring others to goals.

Last night I was watching a movie called Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. In that movie, Mr. Magorium was letting Mahoney (a young woman) know that he would be leaving soon (dying), and he would be giving her his magical toy store as an inheritance. Mahoney decides to spend time with Magorium in special ways so that he would realize that life is good and he would be convinced that he did not need to go. So she takes him to a clock shop. They spend time mischievously setting each clock to go off at noon as the clock shop attendant looks on with a quizzical look. The picture zooms in to frame their faces so we can witness their covert conversation as they anticipate the sounding off of the chimes. She says, “Now we wait,” and he quickly corrects her by saying, “No, we breathe, we pulse, we regenerate, our hearts beat, our minds create, our souls ingest, And, 37 seconds well used is a lifetime.”

Alanna seemed to get this concept- about framing time. As she anticipated how to spend the time before her death (her 37 seconds), she chose to see it as a time to create, a time to feel, a time to heal, a time to express, a time to desire, and ultimately a time to live.

I have talked a bunch about what a gift her death was to me. Lastly, I would like to share what her gift to me in life was to me. She loved me. It really is that simple. And if you have ever really been loved and accepted you get what I am talking about.

She had the grace to love you me where I was, called me out when she thought I needed it, and ultimately allowed me to be me. It doesn’t get much better than that.

So, we continue on. Remembering and doing our best to live out what we learn. I thank you Alanna for teaching us.

Ya Nut! by Leo

Today we celebrate the life of Alanna West Hering.

Alanna left us much too soon… I have to admit it has been a struggle for me to understand or to accept. During the last few weeks of Alanna’s earthly life, my prayers had been all over the board… From complete healing of cancer, to being able to travel, to be with her family, to be pain free, to know she is loved by many… Hannah, my daughter, shared with me in an email her grief and struggles in figuring out why… One of her sentences was… “Well, I suppose God needs her more than we do”… Alanna will be ever so missed by her family and friends, but I also know that whatever God’s plan is… however God needs her… Alanna is filling that need!

Being one of God’s disciple was so much of what made up Alanna… as the church secretary at Maynard she always had a wonderful greeting, always a caring word… She was certainly organized which was important in accomplishing the church work, but the real important aspect was that she was doing God’s work. I know that she would take time to visit with people. She would call them to check on their well being. And it would go beyond the hours at work. Several years ago, Donna Boston was going through some health concerns and Alanna would stop by after work and visit her several times a week. I think they played a card game or two….

While I did not personally have the privilege of witnessing Alanna with her job as a tram operator in Albuquerque, I know that she did enjoy that job – Sure, she ran the tram, but she really enjoyed being around people and sharing and witnessing. Another example of her Christ like attitude. Alanna cared deeply about people - especially her family and friends.

I will treasure my memories of Alanna – I will remember our families sharing a house at the beach in Nags Head on the Outer Banks in North Carolina. I will remember sharing meals at our houses. I will remember working on projects together at church. And I will remember how she would call me “ya nut”. Usually it was when I would goof up or do something crazy! She would say “what are ya doing… ya nut” I will miss that!

And so we all will miss Alanna… , but we will support each other…. We will remember and celebrate Alanna and be glad that she was part of our lives – and we were part of hers… AND We will treasure the memories and hold them dear…
I love you Alanna – ya nut!!

If it were not for Lucious Louie (her younger sister)

I asked myself “If not for Alanna… fill in the blank.” Here’s what I came up with.

If it were not for Alanna, I wouldn’t have made it to my own prom.

Mama had me go with Alanna on her dates once a month. I don’t know the logic in that, but as long as Alanna was miserable, everything was cool with me. As conversation fodder I would quiz these guys on their automotive knowledge. When they would work on their cars, I’d be right along side holding the next appropriate wrench, etc. Had it not been for Alanna and my mom’s fractured logic in having me accompany Alanna on her dates, I would not have made it to my own prom when the car stalled on the way to the dance. Me in my red dress, hovering over the engine of a 1987 Monte Carlo SS, cupping my hands over the carburetor to ensure a “lean start.”

Oh yeah… Alanna also slipped me a fifty the night of the dance. That bought a lot of Pizza Hut and my dance photo.

Heck, if it wasn’t for Alanna, I might not have gotten an A in Freshman World History! Especially since I spent most of the class sleeping on my textbook.

Is this the same woman that at the age of 18 had to be bribed into getting her driver’s license? My mom made a deal with Alanna that if Mama obtained US Citizenship, Alanna would get her license.

Here’s how the whole thing went down. It was beautiful shake down. Brilliant in its simplicity:

Alanna didn’t believe Mama when she said she was going to get her citizenship after some 30 years of Mama being in the United States, so Alanna didn’t sweat it.

In the meantime, like a good little 14 year old minion, I approached my history teacher, who was also the American History teacher and asked her for some text books and general US government materials.

I smuggled them into the house and would quiz Mama on the historical and political facts all the way up to the time she took the citizenship test.

Bingo… She passed, Alanna’s stuck having to agree to obtaining her license, and I get extra credit for reporting on the events leading up to Mama’s citizenship raising my grade from a C to an A. Pretty sweet, wouldn’t you say?

But now, we are celebrating the life a woman who not only obtained her driver’s license, but also piloted cars full of unsuspecting tourists being a tram operator?

If it was not for Alanna, I wouldn’t know what “Responsible Licensed Driver” meant.

As a fun side note, there are four years between Alanna and me. So you could imagine how weird it was for me to be one of her “responsible licensed motor vehicle operators” in the passenger side when she had her temps.

Like I said, Alanna was never ordinary.

If it were not for Alanna, I wouldn’t know what the term “Inner Strength” meant.

There is no memory that serves me a laugh or two more than the one when she was in labor with Sean, and members from both Jim’s family and Alanna’s family were waiting for a report of progress in the hospital waiting room. Jim comes out a little worse for wear every hour or so. In his second or third report, he indicated that Alanna was in just a little too much pain and so she asked for some aspirin.

Only the other mothers in the room could appreciate how precious that request was. I could only imagine the size of the aspirin that would take care of that pain.

Let’s go back even further. This is a testimony to Alanna’s ability to bounce back that we have admired and draw strength from today. Any time there was a party in our house growing up, the us kids were left to amuse ourselves. It is no wonder we came up with unique forms of entertainment. One of us kids, in our travels, won a colossal stuffed smiling carrot at a fair or carnival. Why any of us would opt for the carrot over something at least resembling a creature is beyond me. Anyway, the stairs to our bedroom had a door at the bottom that was usually closed.

We kids got the great idea to open the door, load onto the carrot, and ride it down the stairs, smallest kids in front. Appreciate, even though Alanna was older than me, that bears nothing on our relative sizes.

So, all of us kids load onto this carrot at the top of the stairs and ride it down. What joy… what elation! Coast to a smooth stop. Let’s do it again! So, again, same formation, we ride the enormous carrot down the stairs.

Okay - AGAIN! Only this time, our eventual landing wasn’t so smooth. Mid flight, to the horror of us riders, especially Alanna who was in front, someone attending the party shut the door at the bottom of the stairs essentially as we careened aimlessly down the flight of stairs. There was no coasting to an easy stop. Thud thud thud thud boom boom boom bonk. There we were, a pile of sixteen arms and legs, and tufts of orange batting that once resembled a smiling carrot, and below all of the rubble and debris, was Alanna, unharmed, but a bit stunned. Like a trooper, she got up, brushed herself off, and conspired with the rest of the older kids to look for something else to ride down the stairs now that the carrot was no longer an option.

Alanna’s size was a curse, but also a blessing. She was the best at playing hide and go seek. She would hide in the neatest places! I guess that comes with the territory of being so small… you see kitchen cupboards as havens and laundry chutes as possible means of transportation. We even used Alanna to break into the house when we forgot our key by sending her through the milk chute.

But, as tiny as Alanna was, she left enormous footprints on this earth and in each of our lives. She taught me that frailty does not mean weakness.

She eventually came to terms with the fact that I was A LOT taller than her, and no I wasn’t wearing high heels.
If it were not for Alanna, I would not know what it means to love someone entirely, good bad and ugly. She loved and respected the people around her unconditionally.

Whispered Blessings from DeeDee

Below are words DeeDee, Alanna's twin, shared at Alanna's memorial. I am trying to capture each speaker's words to share with you. The category will be Ode to Alanna.

From DeeDee:

Many people would agree that if you’ve met any of her sisters, you’ve met Alanna. I think we all have a bit of each of the following qualities: spunk, loving attitude, take charge leadership, stubbornness, drama queen, inclusive of others, thrifty, creative, involved, well connected, passionate (almost to a fault) regarding our families, our life’s work, friendships and simple love of being with people. If you’ve ever noticed that about one of us sisters, you know it was true of Alanna too.

Alanna gained some special insights this year and she wanted to find a way to share them with you. She found that way, I believe, in a dream I had last week. Let me share a little bit of that dream with you.

Picture yourself, surrounded by extended arms, each hand offering you a glass containing something different. Imagine pushing away each of those glasses – not wanting to accept the gift contained therein. I realized that’s where Alanna was at the beginning of her journey.

Whether you start that journey long ago or during the past year, doesn’t matter. I’m going to start it just over a year ago. She was only sick for the past 10 months but their house burglary happened in January so we will start there. After a visit from ABQ to Ohio for Christmas, Alanna, Jim and the kids arrived home to find their house had been robbed. Alanna was planning to clean up the mess and move on. So often that is what happens. Not with her church community!

That following Sunday morning Jim had accepted a gift from people who wanted to help. Alanna called me for advice on how to give it back. I wasn’t there to answer the phone and by the time we talked, Jim and Alanna had been showered with other gifts. Both money and wit J. This was the start of Alanna accepting the generous gifts that were offered. Don’t get me wrong, she wanted to push them away. It is so much easier to be the giver than the receiver. But God had challenged her with a new role.

By June, Alanna’s cancer had made its presence known and so her role of showing God’s grace and glory despite adversity began. Lots of people held out their glasses filled with kind, encouraging words and supportive hugs. All of those gestures of help and support were appreciated.

Fast forward with me to these past few months. For Alanna’s journey, the glasses being offered were filled with many different gifts. The creativity in the gifts shared was amazing. Chocolate, hugs, more cards and emails of encouragement, prayers for herself and her family, tickets to a ball in her honor and Irish music in her hospital room were all ways she felt loved and spoiled by those who meant the world to her.

In her last days, Alanna re-taught herself how to swallow and those glasses being offered were full of lots of different flavors. Her taste sensation was completely off and she was searching for a flavor that would be palatable. She would taste a little and share the rest. She taught me that showing God’s love in a practical way is as simple as a cherry icee. Showing God’s glory is as simple as sharing the rest and letting him use you.

What’s in your glass today? What can you share with others? Is it humor? A positive outlook? Gifts of service? A spare bedroom? Or a spare car? Frequent flyer miles? Great cooking? A special song? All of these were shared with our family in the past two weeks. Whatever God has filled your glass with is intended to be shared. Share it and God’s glory will become obvious! What you have to offer is significant, let God use you!

The Hering’s Albuquerque family allowed their glasses to overflow! God is rejoicing in all the glory, grace and love that has been shown to our family. Alanna wanted us to not only recognize that, but continue to love each other in practical ways.

God decided to heal Alanna on HIS side of heaven instead of ours. That is hard for us to accept. Being Alanna’s twin, I just keep thinking that a part of me has died with Alanna’s passing. If that is the case, then a part of her remains alive in me as well. Since Alanna has touched each one here, her legacy will live on in each one of us.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Last Lecture

I watched a neat video on You Tube which may be considered lengthy but I really like this guy's concept. He is a professor from Carnegie Mellon University and has found out that he has pancreatic cancer. He decided to give one last lecture to enlighten his students. The lecture has been rolling around the internet and has been affecting a much larger audience than the one in the lecture hall. His name is Randy Pausch and it makes me ponder what would my last lecture be. This video came into my awareness (thanks Chelahnnhe!) after my beloved sister Alanna lost her battle with cancer and this concept of a last lecture is synergistic with an epiphany I had on my way to the hospital to visit her before she died.

A song came on the radio as I was driving Alanna's car in New Mexico. The song was upbeat, and very insightful. I instantly thought of Alanna and could hear her saying many or all of these things- in essence her last lecture. It became apparent that this song would be a good one to share with others while we remember Alanna at the memorial next Saturday. Funny thing is that all I could remember about the lyrics were the words: kiss husband, take chances. Lord knows she lived these lyrics in many ways:

Point Of Grace - How You LiveFrom the album How You Live
Wake up to the sunlight with your windows open
Don't hold in your anger or leave things unspoken
Wear your red dress, use your good dishes
Make a big mess and make lots of wishes
And have what you want, but want what you have
And don't spend your life looking back
Turn up the music
Turn it up loud
Take a few chances and let it all out
'Cause you won't regret it
Looking back from where you have been
'Cause it's not who you knew
And it's not what you did
It's how you live
So go to the ballgames and go to the ballet
And go see your folks more than just on the holidays
Kiss all your children, dance with your wife
Tell your husband you love him every night
Don't run from the truth 'cause you can't get away, no
Face it and you'll be okay
Oh, wherever you are and wherever you've been
Now is the time to begin
So give to the needy, and pray for the grieving
Even when you don't think that you can
'Cause all that you do is bound to come back to you
So think of your fellow man
And make peace with God, and make peace with yourself
'Cause in the end, there's nobody else

Lastly, if you think of things that you would consider saying in your "last lecture" I would like to hear them. Leave a comment if you care to. I think there is a lot of wisdom, humor and stories we can benefit from- while we are living. It doesn't have to be fancy; whatever comes to mind will do.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Back Seat Thoughts

Kye: Mom, I want to stay 5.
Me: What do you mean, honey?
Kye: I don't want to be 100.
Me: Why not, Kye?
Kye: I don't want to die.
Me: It will probably be a long time before that happens. Don't you want to learn to drive?
Kye: I guess I would like to learn to read, and I want to not have to use a car seat anymore.

Pregnant pause.......

Kye: Hey Mom, you are older than me. That means you will die first. I will be a grown up when you die. I will be sad that my family dies before me. I am the smallest.
Me: We don't always know how it goes- it is our job to do our best and love each other- that's all we can do.

Silent pondering in the back seat.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Parting Glass- for Alanna, St. Patrick's Day and Well Wishes

The Parting Glass


Of all the money e'er I had, I spent it in good company;And all the harm I've ever done, alas was done to none but me;And all I've done for want of wit, to memory now I can't recall,So fill me to the parting glass, goodnight and joy be with you all.

Of all the comrades e'er I had, they're sorry for my going away,And all the sweethearts e'er I had , they wish me one more day to stay,But since it falls unto my lot that I should go and you should not,I'll gently rise and softly call, goodnight and joy be with you all.

If I had money enough to spend and leisure time to sit awhile,There is a fair maid in this town who sorely has my heart beguiled. Her rosy cheeks and ruby lips, I own she has my heart in thrall,So fill me to the parting glass, goodnight and joy be with you all.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Ending with a Flourish

Aunt Virginia died this past week and the kids and I went to the wake. We got to see family and friends and learn about a side of the family that we are not as familiar. She was 93 years old when she died.

It turns out that Aunt Virginia (my great aunt) was quite a spunky one. In the picture above, she was on a cruise ship with my great uncle (my grandpa's brother) and participated in a talent show. She was in her early 70's. The talent show's prize was a bottle of champagne and she was determined to get it.

Two of the guys seated at her table were asking their wives to sing a song they wrote and enter the contest. The wives were not willing to get up and make spectacles of themselves so my great aunt said she would. The picture above shows her singing with the guys.

If this was not amazing enough, my aunt realized that singing alone may not take the prize so she decided to end the song with a "flourish" (as quoted by my cousin Ginger). Below is the picture that shows her flourish:

That is one way to flourish. She was right though, the ending clinched the win for her. Cheers to you Aunt Virginia and I know you are flourishing in your new home now!

Lessons learned: Be yourself, take chances, express yourself, Don't let someone else dampen your zest, old people can do amazing things, take care of your body, if ya got it, flaunt it!