Thursday, February 18, 2010

One Year Later

Hey. It's Reed.

It seems impossible, but today is the first anniversary of Carmen's death. We have been through a lot this past year. We have spent quite a bit of time thinking about all the things we have lost. We have at times been overwhelmed with grief. Some days it has been hard to find the motivation to get things done or to engage with others. We have been mourning, and we don't see an end to mourning any time soon.

But it is time for a change now. It's time to shift the emphasis from the negative to the positive. From what we don't have, to what we do have. Life is too good to spend all of it looking backward. We will choose to look forward. Here is some of what we have to look forward to:

(1) Our family is forever. Dorothy is a wonderful woman. This year we will celebrate 15 years of marriage. We have 5 beautiful children. We will see Carmen again, and when we do, the time we will have had to wait will seem so short in retrospect. In the meantime, we have 4 great boys to raise. This year Scott will start high school, James will turn 12 and receive the priesthood, Vincent will turn 8 and be baptized, and Timothy (6!) is what we call "a big boy."

(2) So many of our relationships with friends and family are much richer than they would otherwise have been. We have shared hugs and tears with so many, which is a significant upgrade from handshakes and smiles. We have been welded together through tender experiences that we will never forget. There is no other way that any of this could have come about, than the way in which it did.

(3) We have a greater sense of what really matters: loving and serving other people. And we feel the responsibility to live up to that greater sense. We just became officially licensed as foster parents (not just "pet parents") for the county. We still waste plenty of time with stupid stuff but we are trying to improve and life will be better for it.

(4) Springtime basically means two things: renewal and baseball.

(5) Life is an adventure. It is possible to not stress over every little thing that happens, but to walk through everything that gets thrown at us and to enjoy each moment.

God knows what He is doing. He loves us. He would not have asked Carmen to suffer for even one moment, if it were not for her good. I know this may sound strange, but it is true. Every bit of pain and suffering (which He is intimately familiar with) will add to Carmen's everlasting joy. Not one iota of it will be wasted. God will wipe all tears from our eyes.

So yes, we will continue to mourn, but we will not despair. Happy new year.

Love, The Galbraiths

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Merry Christmas!

So we have almost made it through our year of firsts. It is weird to have a family picture without her in it, and yet we could not think of a good way to make her a part of it. Christmas time is hard, but so was her birthday, Thanksgiving, and everything. We'll make it through fine, and it is comforting to feel the tears come, it would be strange if they never did. I do all the shopping in our family, as many other wives do, and it is strange to see all the girl stuff and not have a reason to look through it. I still have to remind myself that I have no reason to search for girl jammies or baby dolls or craft stuff.
We are so grateful to all of you that remembered Carmen's birthday. You guys are amazing. My boys are doing so well, and part of that is because of the love they feel from everyone around them.
Timothy, my youngest shows the most feeling at losing his sister. When she had just recently passed away he would ask us almost every day when she was going to be resurrected, expecting to see her in her perfect body any day. He even prayed and asked Heavenly Father to resurrect her soon. Jesus came back and showed himself, so why not Carmen? He doesn't ask that anymore. Sad. He does love looking at our picture book of her and doesn't understand why his friends don't enjoy looking at pictures of his sister. He loves showing her off. One day a couple months ago a little boy came up to him, just playing, and said, "I'm going to kill you", and Timothy punched him. When I asked him why, Timothy told me he thought the boy was really going to kill him. He takes death very seriously. He also tells me from time to time, "mommy I won't die because you can't handle another kid dying". He is very sweet.
We are overall doing fine, we miss our girl, but we love our life. Thank you to all of you who talk to us about her. We don't like pretending she never existed.

Friday, April 17, 2009

This is Carmen when she was three years old.
I know a lot of people wonder why a little girl would have to go through so much. I would like all of you to know I asked Carmen a few different times if she wished this had never happened to her and each time she said no. She appreciated the good things that came out of this. Some of them are: getting to spend a lot of time with me, seeing the love her friends had for her, and feeling God's presence with her non-stop. I know that the purpose of this life for all of us is to be tested to see if we will choose good or bad. Some of God's spirits do not need to be tested as long as others. Carmen was tested for long enough and was ready to move on to the next step. I can tell you for certain that there is life after death. Carmen was visited by angels towards the end of her life. The last few days of her life she would be moving her lips and carrying on conversations with people we could not see, but she would be looking right at them. The few words we caught were, "no, I'm not ready" or "maybe tomorrow" or "where did your friends go" or, "why do you have white feet". I am sharing these very tender memories with you. I hope you understand and don't think I am crazy. I know that this is for real.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

This is Carmen with her Grandma Galbraith.
This week has been a hard week for me. We found out that my son Vincent has pneumonia, he did not have too severe of a case, but it reminded me again how precious life is. I have been thinking a lot about Carmen and missing her this week. As time goes on it is easy to start wondering if I did enough. I love her.
I would like you to know that I am speaking at the Luminaria Ceremony for Relay for Life. It is on June 13 at 9:00 P.M.
I would like you to know also that my nephew, Chase, is doing an Eagle Scout project for the Family House in San Francisco, and if you would like to donate anything just email me.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

This is Carmen with a bunch of little American Girl Dolls someone gave her.
It is hard to transition to a life without Carmen. You all have been so incredibly kind and generous with us it is amazing. I am glad Carmen is not suffering anymore. I love going and sitting in her room. It is warm and peaceful in there, and it is almost like I am still sitting next to her as she lay in bed. I love my family dearly. It is hard to explain how lucky I feel. I am sad at my lost opportunities and friendship with Carmen, but I feel so lucky to have had her at all. I feel very lucky, or blessed, to have each of my boys too. I have a wonderful, beautiful family. They drive me crazy too. We have fights and problems just like everyone, but overall life is so good.
We don't know a good way to post our talks and Reed's song online still, so if you would like a copy of anything you may email us at:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Our First Everything without Carmen

It's Reed again.

Here we have another shot from Jack's Camp. I figured we already had lots of pictures of Carmen on the blog, so I picked this one of Vincent in his younger days, before he turned 7 and all. I wonder what's on his mind here.

I've been meaning to write this post for several days now. Thanks to all of you who participated in the ice cream social are long overdue. Hard to believe that was nearly two weeks ago! We were once again overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support we received from all of you. There is no way we could name everyone, yet it's literally true that every single one of you has strengthened us and lifted us higher.

So what's next?

Life without Carmen is next. No, she hasn't forgotten us, and we certainly haven't forgotten her, but she's on the other side of the veil now. We went out to dinner as a family (a rare event) the other night. There was a gap between two of our boys, where Carmen might have been once upon a time. I tried not to think about it at that moment, but my eyes kept moving back to the empty seat. Our first family dinner at a restaurant without Carmen. I try not to overdo this in my mind, but I can't help but notice her absence.

On Sunday I visited Primary (children's Sunday school) for the first time since Carmen died. It was hard. All those little girls in there, reminding me of my own little girl. Do you know what, I don't mind crying. I actually crave it because those are the times when Carmen seems the most real to me. It alarms me, how much I typically forget about her, all the little everyday things I always took for granted before. Her hair. They shaved it off before her initial surgery, and it never really grew back. It tried, but it just ran out of time.

People ask us what we need. Do you know what I feel a need for more than anything? Communication, any form, with people who care about Carmen. Each word, each touch, is like a lifeline that I cannot wait to grab hold of. I know some people (maybe almost all people) worry about saying the wrong thing. I'm not going to lie, there are wrong things that can be said. And quite honestly, there are not that many right things that can be said, either. "Hang in there" and "It gets better" are noble sentiments, but did you know that these things are already implied by the fact that you care enough to reach out in the first place? No words are eloquent enough to say more than that mere gesture of reaching out.

To those of you who have done so, who continue to do so, or who will do so, we owe you undying gratitude. Those you help in the future will thank you as well.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Hi, it's Reed again.

Here's another snapshot from Jack's Camp (for pediatric brain tumor families) in October. I am just so struck, more and more, by every picture of Carmen I see, by how beautiful she is, and how relatively unaffected by her illness she seems to be. I love her so much.

Last week was so beautiful. My insides were tied up in knots as we drove to the public viewing on Thursday, but as soon as I stepped into the viewing room, I had such a sweet peaceful feeling that just stayed with us for the rest of the week (even when we were a bit nervous). Each one of you that came to the public viewing, the family events, and the memorial service, and up to greet us after the memorial service, brought us so much joy amid our sorrow. We thank all of you for every effort you made to attend the services. Every effort made a difference to us.

Some of you have asked to get a copy of a song or remarks from the memorial service. We would like to post this material in its entirety but are not quite sure how to do that. We will talk to someone who knows how to do that stuff and see what we can come up with.

Today was a special day in its own right. We feel like God is gently nudging us to move forward. It's a new month, and the beautiful rainfall seemed to be a bittersweet combination of mourning and cleansing. We went to Palo Alto today to witness the blessing of our baby niece. She was born the same weekend we found out Carmen was terminal. Her parents chose to name her Abigail Carmen. I don't think we are imagining things, sensing God's hand in the timing. By the way, our Sunday School class today was taught by Steve Young (yes, that Steve Young), who is a marvelously articulate and thoughtful speaker. So that was a nice treat too.

We sense that many of you have been staying away out of respect for all we had to deal with last week. If any of you are inclined to visit at any time, please come. We would love to talk with you about Carmen and about the events of the past week. We will be healing from these wounds for a long time, and we know many of you will be as well. We know that for the most part we all need to return to our normal lives, but closure is a slow process, so please don't leave anything unsaid that needs to be said.

In that spirit, we are very much looking forward to the ice cream social this Thursday. We will enjoy associating with you and talking with you at greater length. We respect and appreciate all the gifts you have given us. You have helped us so much. We do want to emphasize that we feel the time has definitely come to shift our gift-giving focus to others in greater need. Please be thoughtful and prayerful in your giving, and we feel that you will be led to give in ways that will be most pleasing to God, and to Carmen.

I wanted to share one more thing. On Friday at the graveside service, we chose to stay and observe as they lowered Carmen's body into the ground. As the cemetery workers slowly and reverently moved the casket to its resting place, the little children in attendance came forward and quietly watched the descent. I thought of the parallels between this spontaneous scene, and Carmen's baptism less than 6 months earlier. It was a sacred moment.

Timothy (our 5-year-old) and I were talking tonight about how one day God will fix Carmen's body and she will be able to move back in. "Will He fix her hair too?" he asked me.

What a beautiful thing is the mind of a child.