Category Archives: Who We Are

Who We Are – The Crystal

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There is always a point when you have to say ” Goodbye “. This has been a period of way too many of them, including a final goodbye to one of my dearest friends. I was blessed to have him in my life, and he will be in my heart always.

The Crystal

There hung a beautiful crystal in a large picture window of the house. It held an almost countless number of facets as it was cut by the hand of the master, but had been hanging there long enough that time and circumstance had marred some of its surfaces. At times the wind had blown so hard that the crystal was dashed to the hard floor below, and though the impacts created chips and cracks on some of its edges, it had never broken.

If you entered the room when the light was low, you might miss seeing it, for other than a bit of dust, it was perfectly clear, but it’s location had been carefully chosen. The window behind it received the morning sun, and as soon as the first ray of light hit the crystal, it came alive. From it radiated brilliant blues, and greens; sparkling pinks, magentas, and purples; glowing reds, yellows and oranges, and everything in between. The shimmering colors reached all parts of the room, and when the breeze blew, the lights danced, creating an infinite number of dazzling patterns. Even it’s damaged edges were able to receive the suns light, and emit their own unique design. All those that were lucky enough to witness the crystal’s display were awed by it’s power and beauty, and in seeing the damage it had survived, recognized its rare strength.

One day a deadly storm came through carrying a cold and howling wind. The crystal was tossed from one side to the next as it swung and spun on it’s delicate string. Before long, the string could take no more and it was hurled once again to the floor, but this time the impact came on an edge that had already been weakened, and the crystal shattered into many pieces. When the storm subsided and the owner of the house saw what had happened, he carefully picked up all of the broken pieces and gave one to each person that had seen the crystal whole. He knew that as soon as the sun’s ray passed through the piece, it would send out a brilliant beam of color to remind them of the incredible beauty they had witnessed.

~~

Goodbye Dear Friend. Until we meet again.

Mission Positive Films

 

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MPF Eye on Health – The Darkness and The Light

The Darkness and The Light

The Darkness and The light,Mission Positive Films,MPF Eye on Health,MPF Eye on Health the Darkness and the Light,Heather M Spencer

This post is for a dear friend that is caught in the depths of deep depression. I’m hoping she will be able to find her way out of the darkness into the light.

The Darkness and The Light ∼ For those who have never really known depression, it’s akin to residing in darkness where form is barely visible, but depth and detail are not. You sense that there is light around you, but you can’t find your way to it, and the fear of falling further into that darkness paralyzes you from any movement at all. As the cold and dampness envelope you, you start finding an uneasy level of familiarity, then acceptance, and finally comfort. This must be where you belong, for certainly you would not be here otherwise. The thought, the deed, or the experience that brought you here, have made you unworthy for anything else. From a distance you hear the voices of your family and friends trying to tell you otherwise, but you know better, as would they, if they really knew the truth. You soon begin setting roots into the core of this place of solitude and despair, because the effort needed to remove yourself seems overwhelming.

There are times, you hear a few words that pierce the gloom to remind you of the world you left behind, and when you look for their origin, you find a match that for a few brief moments shines light into the darkness. The light brings warmth and sight, and you hold on tight until it burns itself out and you are once again surrounded by blackness. At some point, one of those matches illuminates the smallest amount of kindling material, which you carefully use to start a fire before the power of the match is gone. A hope stirs in your heart, which is at once both frightening and exciting, but you hesitate and forget to protect the small burgeoning flame from the unpredictable wind, and in an instant, it’s gone. But now your world has become even darker, for you were in the presence of the light that has once again been lost.

Time has no meaning in this place, and the hours and days pass without notice. There is no love, no hate, no laughter, and at some point, no tears, for you are being absorbed by the abyss. Your mind has lost the will to fight, for it sees no escape, and therefore no reason to try.

But when the mind retreats, the spirit awakens, for in it, lies our will to live, and it rails against the darkness. It desperately searches for the means to start and protect that little fire so that it can burn bright until the suns first rays arrive. As the flames leap and dance, what had just seemed flat and lifeless now shows it’s depth and dimension, and we begin to again see the beauty that surrounds us. The cold and dampness that had enshrouded us, is replaced with warmth, and the relief that comes from knowing the night is finally ending.

Soon the glow of the fire gives way to our new dawn, and the loving words of our friends and family can again be heard. We have found our way back to the light, and for a time, we see the true glory of the colors that are in Natures palette, we smell the rich aromas that come from this window or that garden, feel the light breezes that caress the skin, and hear the sweetness of the music that is life. Our senses seem reborn for we have been in darkness without them for far too long, and even though it almost overwhelms us, we pray that it never ends. We have survived. ∼

If you have a loved one that is suffering from depression, please do what you can to support them, and never give up hope.

The Darkness and The Light

Heather M Spencer

Mission Positive Film

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Learning Not To Take Life for Granted

Learning not to take life for granted, Life, Mission Positive Films, MPF, Heather M Spencer

Learning Not To Take Life For Granted

The need to write this post came from what has turned into a very difficult and emotional week, and it is dedicated to the Eder family, and to all those that are dealing with loss.

As is usually the case, we take life totally for granted until it drops a 10 ton block on our head. I have been blessed with having a long and special friendship with an incredible man, who has the strongest will to live of anyone I’ve ever known. He is by trade a neon tube bender, but is also very accomplished at stained glass, and recently, melted glass. He developed Crohn’s Disease as a teenager, and spent a good part of his life in operating rooms and hospitals. About 20 years ago, he had an especially bad flare up that put him at death’s door, and the drugs that were given to save him, unfortunately, left him without his fingers, toes, and hearing. Despite all the odds, within a years time he was back at work bending neon as beautifully as before, and shortly after that, started again working with stained glass. Years later, he was forced into an ostomy bag, but still kept his independence and continued to work, and create. Through all of it, he rarely complained, would seek help only if absolutely necessary, and talked about how much he loved his life, and how grateful he was to the medical teams, and his family and friends.

Last September, the doctors found a large tumor, and in October, removed his bladder hoping it would eliminate the cancer, and let him return to normal living despite now having to deal with 2 bags. As has always been typical, he took it all in stride, feeling great appreciation for the chance to continue his life and his art. But it was not meant to be, and by late December he was in radiation therapy.

This week, I took him to his follow up appointment, and on the way there, he said, ” I’m desperate for more time “. I knew he would go to any lengths possible to make that happen, and despite the weakness in his body, he was prepared to endure the chemotherapy that we assumed was the next step. Instead of hearing about what the treatment schedule would be though, he was lovingly told by his very emotional doctor, that medicine had reached its limit, and they had no means to kill the beast inside him. The guess was 6 months to a year. As all three of us wept, he kept hoping that there was some way, some miracle still left, and then as hope faded, acceptance started taking root. On the way home we talked about him actually receiving the time he had so fiercely wanted, even though it was far short of what he had in mind. For unlike those that die suddenly, he would be able to do what he felt needed to be done, and say the things that needed to be said.  When he commented that he didn’t want to leave me, it struck me that just because he knew what was coming, didn’t mean that at any given moment, something could happen that would put me there first. At that point, we made a pact that the first one to go, would try and reach out from the other side.  The conversation then turned to the importance of living one moment, and one day at a time, and that it was just as important for me to do, as it was for him, because again, no one knows the number of days in their lives. To assume that you have an unlimited amount of tomorrows, is a fools errand, so wasting any day, is a loss we can’t afford. His final thought that day was ” Why does it take something like this to realize how precious it all is ? It’s so short.”

Life, something so treasured that we hold onto it with every fiber of our being, and not just our own, but that of every person or creature that matter to us. Hospitals, doctors offices, and vet clinics are all filled with people trying to extend or preserve it. The loss of life, though inevitable, is for most of us, our greatest fear, or our greatest sorrow.

If we first look at the fear of our own death, we know that it is primarily based on not knowing what’s behind the door. Some believe that paradise awaits, some expect to return in another form, and some see it as nothingness, but no matter how strong the faith, the truth is not revealed until the time actually comes. Part of that fear is also what we see as the loss of all that has become important; family, friends, career, and the lists of could’ves, should’ves and would’ves that we continually put off until “tomorrow”. It is the consideration of death that awakens our ability to see the intense beauty of life, and the thought of being torn away from that, becomes almost unbearable.

The loss of a loved one brings its own set of fears, whether or not they are an active part of our lives. It’s the thought of not being able to see them, hear them, or touch them that rips through our hearts. When we dwell on all the experiences we’ll miss, the stories that won’t be told, the laughter and tears that won’t be shared, we sometimes forget what’s best for them. Life extended is not always a good thing, and there will come a point when allowing our loved ones to leave, is more merciful than trying to make them stay. Letting go though, is one of the hardest things we face, and the emptiness that accompanies it, can last a lifetime.

How then do we deal with the fear, and desolation of death ? Our power over death lies in our ability to embrace life. Our only choice is to recognize the incredible gift that we have been given before we stand at that door. We need to embrace the well worn adage ” Live like there’s no tomorrow “, because at some point, there won’t be one. Don’t let words of love or friendship go unsaid, or opportunities pass. Let laughter shake you from your toes, and tears flow until they wash away the pain. Remember that life is a roller coaster, with the ups and downs working together to create the experience, and resist the impulse to let small irritations intrude into your happiness, because in the end, we won’t remember who didn’t take out the trash or forgot to pick up the cleaning, we’ll only remember the sun on our face, the song in our heart, and the love exchanged.

For me, this says it all

Life’s Journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting              ” What a Ride ! ”                      ( from an unknown source)

Heather M Spencer

Mission Positive Films

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Not Being Home for Christmas – Remembrances of Celebrating Abroad

Home for Christmas, Mission Positive Films, MPF, Heather M Spencer

Not Being Home for Christmas – Remembrances of Celebrating Abroad

Being home for Christmas can’t be beat, but there is something to be said about experiencing the holidays in other places as well. Don and I had a last minute opportunity this year to spend Christmas week in Whistler, BC, so instead of shorts and slippers, we were tromping around in puffy mounds of newly fallen snow, and though living in Hawaii is a blessing, a white Christmas is a dream come true. There’s just something about twinkling lights and snow covered trees that turns your thoughts to flying reindeer and portly men in red suits.

Most of our traveling has been during this time of year, which was entirely due to the nature of our business. In the early years we were working ridiculously long and stressful hours, and had come to a point where we knew we needed to do something to decompress. We had two choices, either to check ourselves into the “ funny farm“, or go on vacation. Since it was considerably cheaper to travel, it was pretty much a no brainer. The only time we could afford to be away from the business was the last 2 weeks of the year, so it quickly became a tradition to shut the business down during that period every year, and head out on an adventure. The customer base came to expect it, and planned accordingly, and our employees were home for Christmas with their families, so it actually worked out quite well.

As we were playing in the snow the last few days, we started reminiscing about a few of the really special Christmas’s we’ve had the good fortune to experience, and thought it might be fun to share them. So, if you’re up for a little more holiday fluff, here you go.

Our first far away from home Christmas came as a bit of a surprise. We had spent a little time with a couple that loved to travel, and had learned the in’s and out’s of TWA’s very generous Frequent Flyer program. They both had a 2 for 1 coupon that had to be used by the end of the year, and were looking for two people willing to share the cost to Frankfurt. Needless to say, that was an offer we couldn’t refuse, so we were quickly on our way to Zermatt, Switzerland, Munich, Germany, and Salzburg, Austria, which is where we would be over Christmas. This was back before the Internet, so finding special places to stay was considerably more difficult than it is now, but that was right up Don’s alley. He scoured through travel magazines, searching for those hidden gems, and almost always found them. In Salzburg he had discovered a 19th century mansion that had been converted to a B & B by a local family. We arrived on December 24th, and were escorted to a large ornate room that had a bed as soft as a cloud, and an even larger bathroom with a claw foot bathtub. We were also invited to have dinner with the family as they celebrated on the Eve of Christmas rather than the day. To our amazement, dinner consisted of a 7-course meal with the appropriate spirits between courses, followed by the lighting of the Christmas Trees’ real candles, and the giving of gifts. We were completely overwhelmed, and any loneliness we had been feeling being away from home, was replaced with a sense of gratitude, and the contentment that comes with new found friendships. It was an experience that we’ll never forget.

The next notable Christmas trip was to Italy, and specifically Florence. We arrived in Florence mid-afternoon on the 24th, and had the most incredible lunch you could ever imagine. We then took to the city streets to enjoy the last minute hubbub of holiday shopping, which ended promptly at 6pm. The next morning we had a small continental breakfast at our modest hotel, and excitedly headed out to experience this beautiful city on Christmas. We quickly discovered we were apparently not in Florence, we were in Florenceville, because the streets were bare, and other than an occasional Gypsy, the city seemed abandoned. All doors to stores, restaurants, museums, and even the Duomo were locked tight. As the day wore on and our hunger increased, we looked everywhere for someone serving food, and fortunately fell on a little gelato shop that opened for about 2 hours in the afternoon. Fabulous gelato, by the way, not the best for satisfying a lunch and dinner meal, but it was Christmas, so we knew we could hold out for a day. The next morning after our little breakfast, we headed out again with all the excitement of a dream delayed, and uh oh, we were still in Florenceville. Different day, same deal, nada. At the appropriate time, we headed back to our gelato shop in hopes that we could again count on them to help assuage the hunger pangs, and thankfully they were there. Waking the next morning felt a little like the movie Groundhog Day as we had no idea what was in store, and so for the 3rd day in a row, we crossed our fingers and carefully stepped outside our little hotel hoping we would have finally found our way out of Florenceville. No such luck, and we were scheduled to depart on the train to Venice later that afternoon. Extremely disappointed and with nothing else to do, we walked the streets, as we had the previous days, imagining what wonders lay behind all the locked doors. As it got closer to mid-day, we noticed stirrings in the city, we heard voices, then saw faces, and before long, Florence appeared in all her glory. We had made it back to the light, and with a few hours of discovery left before we had to leave. The first stop was the museum that held Michelangelo’s David (wow was that worth the wait ), and then just enough time for a quick visit to The Uffizi. As we waved goodbye from the train that afternoon, we promised our stomachs that we’d take much better care of them in the future.

It was hard to pick just 3 special Christmas’s, out of a lot of years of travel, but this last one definitely had to make the cut. Don has always been an adventurer, and had decided that he wanted to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Originally, I had no intention of going with him, but as he started finalizing his plans, I started worrying about the potential dangers of him going alone, and so I reluctantly signed on. Getting there was a story in itself, and included, planes, city buses, tour buses, and jeeps. When we finally arrived at the small hotel run by the tour company we had commissioned, we were more than a little concerned with what we had gotten ourselves into. We had one night in the hotel, and then were scheduled to begin the climb first thing the next morning. During the day, it looked like just an old, worn building with sparse furnishings, but at night, hoo boy, there were bugs everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Big bugs, little bugs, flying bugs, crawling bugs, and bugs in every color imaginable. Needless to say, sleep didn’t come easy. Thankful for the morning, we were packed and ready to hit the mountain at the scheduled time, and then we waited, and waited and waited. The man that would end up being our guide came into the company office mid morning in a 3 piece suit and dress shoes, obviously there to collect his pay from a previous trip. As the owner pulled him aside for a quick chat, it soon became evident she was twisting his arm into leading us up the mountain, and she wasn’t taking no for an answer. A few minutes later, we were in the jeep with this unfortunate overly dressed man, headed for the local market to pick up the food we’d need for our 5 day climb. We finally reached our starting point well after lunch, and in the pouring rain. It was just a little after dark when we arrived at the first campsite, drenched, cold and starving. Our first dinner consisted of a butter sandwich, watered down broth, and the smallest chicken leg on the face of the planet. The next 4 days included dysentery, kidney issues, major hunger, and really lousy weather, but Don was able to summit, and I made it to the highest camp, so despite everything, we considered the climb a success. When we reached the end of the trail, it was Christmas Day, and the sun had finally come out. There was a small village close by and the children were all dressed in their best clothes for Church, the boys in suits and ties, and the girls in dresses. It was an amazing site to see in an area so remote and so poor. As is customary, we gave away the extra’s we wouldn’t need such as toilet paper, soap, and pens (which we brought especially for the children), and felt like we were giving Santa a hand. It was such a marvelous way to celebrate Christmas, and though I wouldn’t want to repeat the experience, I also wouldn’t take anything for it.

Though traveling, especially during the holidays, can be unpredictable, it can also be extremely rewarding. Christmas seems to bring out the best in all of us, and that opens the door for some really special encounters. Maybe next year we’ll stay home for Christmas, but then again, probably not.

Heather M. Spencer

Mission Positive Films

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A Love Letter To My Mother on Thanksgiving

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A Love Letter To My Mother On Thanksgiving

A Love Letter To My Mother

When I was growing up, my mother struck the perfect balance between disciplinarian and cheerleader. I knew I couldn’t get away with anything, but I also knew she would support whatever dream I wanted to chase. To her, nothing was impossible as long as you put the effort in, and she proved that to me more than once. On my high school graduation, she gave me an incredibly unexpected and beautiful gift, she released her parental control. She started viewing me as an adult rather than a child, and allowed me to make my own choices without her judgement. Before long, we became great friends, and when her marriage ended, we became roommates. I know that probably sounds very strange, but at that time she was in her late thirties, trim, athletic, and with more energy than folks half her age, including me. She ran circles around me, including biking, swimming, and partying, and we double dated on a number of occasions.

Throughout her life, she retained an almost childlike innocence despite facing challenges that would have hardened most of us. She believed in the goodness of people, and though that bit her more than once, she remained true to her faith. Holidays, adventures, and a child’s laughter, caused the same light of excitement to shine in her eyes at 60, as it had at 6. Her greatest attribute though was her generosity. If someone complimented her on something she had, she would offer it as a gift. If she were down to her last bit of food and someone complained of hunger, she would give it to them without a second thought. I’ve never met anyone else that had such an abundance for giving, with no thought of gain or position, just trying to help when she saw a need.

In her early seventies, she was diagnosed with both Lung Cancer and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. After having a portion of her left lung removed, she battled the lymphoma holistically, and had 5 relatively good years. A bad fall and a three week hospital stay changed that, and the cancer took hold in the fall of 2009. Something else had changed as well, the light that I had seen in her eyes for all those years, was dimming, but I refused to accept it. I felt that I could will her to fight, and to live. I begged, pleaded, lectured, cried, and stormed. I tried every trick I had learned in all my time with her, to get that flame burning again, and I kept trying until the day before she passed.

What I didn’t realize until it was too late, is that I wasted my last days with her. I should have recognized and accepted what was coming, and cherished every moment , instead of trying to hang on to something that would never materialize. I was so consumed with buying time, that I lost what little I had. Worse than that though, is in pushing so hard for her to live, I didn’t make it easier for her to die.

It’s been almost 6 years now since she left, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. Sometimes I laugh and sometimes I cry, but always I miss her beautiful soul. Oh, if we could only turn back the clock and change some of our choices, but we can’t, we have to move forward and hopefully, use our experiences to better handle what lies ahead. So this is my Love Letter to my Mother on Thanksgiving.

 

Dearest Mom,

Thank you for all you have done, and all you’ve been. Thank you for your love, understanding, and support. You taught me what’s truly important, not by word, but by example. Your strength, humor, tolerance, and love of life will remain always in my mind and in my heart. My love and respect for you continues to grow each day, and I will try always to live up to the potential you saw in me.

Until we meet again,

Your daughter and your friend,

 

For those that have chosen to read this, should you find yourself facing a similar situation, I hope this story will be of help.

 

A Love Letter to My Mother

Heather M Spencer

Mission Positive Films

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Cancer Never Ends

This past month has seen some reality checks when it comes to the ongoing fight to endure the battle with cancer.  On Sept. 12, I lost my uncle that raised me when my father and mother had their own challenges.  Ironically, he was my father’s identical twin and just like twins, he died from the same cancer that took my father 5 years ago.

The funeral was both a reunion and one of the more difficult emotional times of my life.  But as a family, we made it through.

Once back in Hawaii and looking to return some normal routine of family life, training for endurance events and work, I was slapped with another reality check.  My radiation therapy to my face 5 years ago had caused some damage to the nerve in a tooth.  These things happen despite everyone best efforts.  I’m surprised it took so long to present.  So, I had a wonderful root canal performed to take care of the never ending side effects of the treatment.

I almost forgot the topical chemo for basal cell and many stitches from a little cyst on my back.  These didn’t slow me down although they did keep me from swimming for a while.  I didn’t want to be easy shark bait.

So, as I continue to look for the normalcy in life, I’m once again reminded of the never ending battle.  Last week, I awoke to a chubby upper lip.  I guess if I wanted to look like one of the reality TV stars with their big lips, I would have been pleased.  On the contrary, I knew there was something up.  Now, the swelling is into my cheeks, upper and lower lips and eye lids.  I look so cute.  It’s likely lymphedema due once again to the life long side effects from my treatment.  My system was damaged permanently, so this is what I must manage.  I’m working to isolate the trigger which is eluding us at the moment.  But, I do look rather interesting.

So, one would assume that these events would allow for a lull in my attitude.  Actually, just the opposite.  I feel better than ever and more motivated that ever.  Date nights with my wife, beach time with the boys, camping with my older son and training for long hours smelling the lilikoi, mountain apples and white ginger along the lovely Hawaiian trails that always brings a smile to my heart.  With life we can either succumb to the events that we are faced with, or continue to live the journey.  It may not always be pleasant, but that’s life.  Live while there is life to live, and save the complaining for when the living is done.  Because of these challenges, I go out of my way to help others, especially those that can actually help themselves.  Sounds strange, but in a circular logic, I am showing them that because of my challenges, I am still able to do more than you without complaining and with a smile.  What’s your excuse?  I can’t find one.

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