Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Beautiful Service for a Beautiful Woman

I have been avoiding a blog entry about mom's Celebration of Life.  I have been wanting to write about  it, but I don't know where to start.  For those of you from out of the area, or who weren't able to attend the service, there were approximately 800 people who came to celebrate her life.  Mom's freind, Shelly, helped us create a wonderful slideshow of photos.  Nancy Lee Grahn sent us a home video she filmed while visiting my family in 2007 and we played that video at the service as well.  I wanted to speak but I didn't think I could make it thru without crying so I asked mom's good friend, Pastor Mitch, to read my thoughts.  I have received a few emails from people who were there who have asked me to post my speech on the blog.  So, I will leave you with my thoughts.

"When our father died last April we were on over-load.  We were trying to make funeral arrangements for dad while still focusing on mom’s health and emotional well-being.  When his service came, we discussed the idea of speaking but no one felt they could make it thru the speech without crying.  So we passed on the opportunity.  Now, only 18 months later, as we prepared the celebration of life service for our mom, we find ourselves in the same predicament.  I don’t want to look back later with regrets so here goes…. 

I am blessed.  My family is blessed.  Don’t be sad for us.  Although my mom’s time on this earth was much shorter than we would have liked, Doreen was my mom, and that in itself is a gift.  Many of you under the age of 35 thought of her as your “other mom” but we were the lucky ones…. and we never took that for granted.

You learn a lot about someone when they come face to face with the life and death struggle of a disease like cancer.  From an emotional perspective, cancer is one of the most devastating pronouncements a person can receive.  You find yourself living outside of the physical realm of reality at times….But, the truth is, when you hear the word “cancer” you have an immediate choice to make.  You can get caught up in the idea that you might be dying…. Or you can get busy living.  What happens to you in life is usually not within your control, but how you respond to those things most certainly is.

I don’t want to talk about the things I have lost these past few years….I want to focus on what I have gained.  I learned early on that the character traits worth having are those you acquire at the cost of personnel sacrifice.  We have all sacrificed during these difficult times but I wouldn’t change one step I have taken on this path.  We have been living in the moment while still focusing on the big picture.  Life did not pass us by.

My mom will be fondly remembered for the compassion in her heart.  She loved and respected everyone, regardless of their differences.  Her kindness and encouragement to others makes for a legacy that will remain long after her death… and for that we are grateful.

There are a lot of young people in the room today, which shouldn’t surprise anyone.  She loved kids, and young adults.  She valued everyone, regardless of their age and she made them feel important.  She especially loved the inspirational kids who might not be the star athlete but the ones with the best attitudes, who made their teammates and friends better people.  Those are the kids she loved the most, and those are the kind of kids we will continue to support and mentor, just as my mom would want us to.

She taught me… the kind of person I am is a matter of my character, not my circumstances.  And I learned that from the best.  When my mom could not change her circumstances, she chose to change her perspective about them.  She didn’t view cancer as a curse, she viewed life as an amazing gift.

My mom inspired me to do better… to be kinder… and be more patient.  She taught me to give more, and take less.  She would encourage all of us to motivate others and take the time to mentor young people.  I think she would also encourage us to volunteer our time…. Or at least a smile… to people who might not expect it, but probably need it the most.  Because… the truth is, no one was a stranger to my mom, they were simply a friend she hadn’t met yet.

I learned that tough times will either break you, or they will make you.  I think it’s fair to say we’ve had a few moments of each, but we did more “making” than “breaking”.  Although I was slow to give into the idea that some things in life can’t be fixed…. life became much easier when I finally accepted that the only thing in the world I could change was my view on life.

Mom made me realize that if you’re not doing something every day to make someone else’s life better, you are wasting precious time that could be spent improving your family, your community, and yourself.  I hope we all get the chance to live like we are dying someday, because from where I’m standing, it’s a blessing in disguise. 

I am not consumed by the fact she has died, I am simply grateful that she lived.  I would choose quality of life over quantity of days, whenever given the opportunity.  I believe the greater loss is not for those of us who knew her, but for those who did not.  My sadness is for the children who will never sit on her lap and giggle as she speaks to them in her “Donald Duck” voice… or the young adults who won’t get to hear one of her heart felt talks about what it means to be a good friend… or a good parent.

Throughout this process I have learned that when we believe life won’t give us more than we can bear; we can bear so much more than we thought possible.

On behalf of my family, I want to express our sincere gratitude for your out-pouring of support, love, and heartfelt sympathy during this difficult time.  We ask that you dry your eyes, keep your head up, and smile…. That’s what mom would want."

Dreaming Big-

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Quote of the Day

A few weeks ago, while at mom's house, I started reading a book I found on her bookshelf.  The book is called "Saving Graces," by Elizabeth Edwards.  I only made it a little ways into the book before things got worse with mom and I put the book down.  This morning, I picked up the book and it made me sad for a minute.  It brought back the memory of where I was when I started reading the book.  It brought back the reminder that I was reading a book about a woman with cancer.  When I opened the book I noticed something I hadn't noticed before.  On the bookmark, in my mom's handwriting, it said, "Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle."  I'm not sure why I hadn't noticed that before, but I do know that I love my new bookmark and look forward to finishing this inspiring book. 

Thanks for the quote mom...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dreaming Big, Living Large

Attached is an article that was in today's Stanwood Newspaper, written by Jeremiah O'Hagen.  I thought those of you from out of town would appreciate a chance to read it.

When Doreen Schmitt passed away last week, it wasn't a death so much as a miracle.

Schmitt was diagnosed with stage-four, non-smoking lung cancer in April 2006.  She wasn't supposed to live for five-and-a-half more years.  But did she ever.

Scroll through her blogs (cancersurvivor2006.blogspot.com ; imaginenocancer.blogspot.com) and you will lose yourself in a woman's insatiable appetite for life.

You might also cry.

"I woke up this morning feeling really scared for the first time," she typed on April 30, 2006.  "I looked in the mirror and I saw Doreen... and then I remembered the 'C' word.  I remembered how 11 days ago I was just living a normal life and then it all changed."

But you will also laugh and rediscover with her the simple pleasures of wearing flip-flops ("life's too short not to"), or of Copper River salmon, or of a reunion with 8 former cheerleaders.

"We laughed about the past, talked of the present, and dreamed about the future," Schmitt wrote the next day.

And you will learn, really feel it in your guts, that when Schmitt dreamed about the future, she dreamed of life so full her arms couldn't contain it.

So, she spilled in onto her family and friends.

"My mom's story is about family, not cancer," said Amy Schmitt.  "She was very grateful for the opportunity to become an advocate for living life to the fullest."

Schmitt's other daughter, Angie, said, "In many ways, (her final years were) more inspiring than sad.  It can make you or break you- it made us."

Not that watching Schmitt get sick didn't break hearts.  And after Schmitt was diagnosed, her husband Rick found out he had cancer, too.  He died 18 months ago.

"We were just getting over that, and now mom's gone, too," Angie said.  "A tough part of it is the permanence piece."

If loss is permanent, good can be, too, and Schmitt lived that belief, infusing her world with energy and grace.

"If you were to poll the audience (at her memorial service), you'd find many people who would say that she was their best friend,"  Angie said.  "She was so welcoming to everybody.  She didn't judge people.  As my sister said, there were no strangers to my mom, only friends she hadn't met yet."

"She was as much of a role model for adults as she was for children," Amy said.  "I think of her laugh, and that infectious smile that lit up the room.  And, although it doesn't seem real that she isn't coming home, I find joy in knowing she's no longer in pain."

Schmitt most often signed off her blogs, "Dreaming Big."  Over the last months, she took to typing, "Love you more."  Between the two sentiments, you find a life.

Angie said her mom's goal was always, always, to "beat this disease." 

"She was a person with cancer, "Angie said, "She was not a cancer patient.  She didn't let it define her."

Schmitt didn't beat death.  No one does.

But, wielding unflagging optimism, voluminouss love and profound commitment to dreams, to leaving something precious and vital in her wake, Doreen Schmitt beat cancer.

(Staff Reporter Jeremiah O'Hagen: (360) 629-8066 Ext 125 or ohagan@scnews.com)

Loving you more... when you're dreaming big....

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Questions Answered

We would like to thank you all for the support over the past two days. This is a difficult time for us but we are working together to create a celebration of life service that will honor the wonderful woman that mom was. We have been asked the same two questions over and over during the last 24 hours so we thought we would answer both question for everyone to hear. First, if you want to make a donation in my mom's name you can send it to the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, 1100 Industrial Road, Suite 1, San Carlos, CA 94070. Next, if you are one of those people looking to bring a food dish to the service on Saturday we are still in need of some salads. Please do not bring your salad in your favorite bowl, just in case it gets accidentally misplaced by the crew working in the kitchen that day.

There will be a public viewing at Gilberton's Funeral Home on Thursday October 13 at 9:00 AM and it will continue through Friday at closing. Contact Gilbertson's at 360-629-2101 for more details.

Thanks again for your support of our family during this challenging time,

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Doreen Lynn Schmitt: May 30, 1958- October 11, 2011

It's with great sadness that we tell you Mom lost her battle with cancer earlier today. She was such a fighter and a huge inspiration for all of us. As we begin the mourning process and prepare funeral arrangements we ask that you keep her family and friends in your thoughts and prayers. This has been a difficult path to follow the past 5 years, but we have grown significantly in the process. In losing our mom we know we have gained many true friends along the way. Thank you for supporting all of us through good times and bad.

The luckiest Kids in the World

Funeral Services will be held at the Camano Chapel on Camano Island, Saturday October 15th at 1100, with a luncheon to follow. A private burial will take place at Anderson Cemetary in Stanwood.

Camano Chapel
867 SW Camano Drive
Camano Island, WA 98282

A public viewing will take place on Friday at Gilbertson's Funeral home in Stanwood. Call Gilbertson's for more details. (360) 629-2101.

If you want to share a story or memory about Doreen with us kids, please email Pastor Mich Michl at michmichl@camanochapel.org