This blog is for Jim Marventano's family and friends to review his status and updates while he goes through treatment for Stage IV Colon Cancer. We can beat it together!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Do Not Weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

Thanks, Mark.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It happens at the strangest times

Well I thought I'd be a crying gelatinous blob by now. So far I'm okay. As I said yesterday I'm still in overdrive. I went to the bank this morning and sat down for my appointment, totally fine. But when it came time to hand the guy Jim's death certificate, I sort of blanked out. I could see that he was talking to me, but...that was about it. Everything he said for around 10 minutes was just gone.

I also had an interesting experience yesterday that I keep relaying in my head. When I called the insurance company to file a claim, the woman I spoke with on the phone told me that her husband had a one pound tumor removed two weeks ago. She said that they'd been informed that it was malignant. When I asked her if his cancer had metasticized, she said "what does metasticized mean?" What does metasticized mean? Oh boy. I told her to get a pen. I told her to buy a pad of paper and start writing down and asking questions. I told her to go buy There's No Place Like Hope. She started talking to me about his recommended treatment options and I realized that I wanted to keep talking to this woman. I'm not sure where I wanted to go with the conversation...but I wanted to help her. She started me on my way with the insurance company and I wished her the best of luck. I wish I could control every cancer scenario. I wish I could help people figure it all out that don't know to ask questions. I wish my efforts had been enough for Jim. I wish I wasn't calling the insurance company. I wish Jim was here.

People keep telling me that I'm so strong and I'm starting to wonder if I'm just in denial. I just sort of expect that he's going to come back soon. Like he went on a vacation. Even though I'm talking to the ashes, I'm just using them as a focal point until Jim gets back from his vacation. Just like when I had postpartum depression when I had Rachel and I wondered when we were going to be done babysitting. Denial, I guess.

It seems unnatural that I'm calm. Maybe this is the calm before the storm. Don't get me wrong - I'm still a mess. I'm just not a crying mess. If too many people talk to me at once, my brain shuts down. If someone asks me a question while I'm trying to complete something, my brain shuts down and I freak out. If someone asks me a series of questions my brain shuts down. If there's any kind of running background noise, my brain gets aggravated. I can't even listen to the radio in the car. It's just too much. I can only complete Annoying. And apparently my decision making skills have gone out the window. Today I couldn't even choose between hot or cold tea. We're talking TEA. Not like they're asking me to settle the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

Grief seems to be striking me at strange times. I thought I'd be most sad when I'm alone, running errands, reading, etc. Those were the times I was most sad about Jim's cancer. Better yet, those are the times I allowed myself to be sad about Jim's cancer. I assumed I'd be sad when I was alone, but I feel most sad with a group of people. I'm most sad at night. Turning out the light seems like a monumentally bad idea. Once the light is out, I'm so exhausted that most nights my head barely hits the pillow before I'm asleep. But that's because I stay up later than I should because I don't want to turn out the light. I'm sad when I have trouble with my tenses - I jump between present and past tense when talking about Jim. When I hear myself speak in the present tense, I immediately (and silently, thankfully ) tell myself "Present tense! You're not supposed to use present tense or people will think you can't let go!" But when I speak in the past tense, I immediately (and silently, thankfully) tell myself "Past tense! You're not supposed to use the past tense! It's too soon!" Um, are these the kinds of things my brain should be quibbling over? I think not.

I fear going to the grocery store. Every week I used to buy things special for Jim that I knew he liked. Not the same things, mind you. I used to buy Pringles one week, rootbeer another. His favorite cereal (Cracklin' Oat Bran). He loves/loved (argh!) plums. He liked cooked carrots, not raw. And he loved chips and salsa. And cheese in a jar. Yuck. Am I going to be one of those women that has a meltdown in Aisle 6 at the Piggly Wiggly and no one knows why?

Am I ever going to be normal again? (Or, at least, as "normal" as I was before?) Am I ever going to quit overthinking everything? If I cry, will it help, or will it just make me feel worse? When I look at pictures of Jim, I feel sad, but mostly, I feel happy. I feel happy for the times we shared and for the solid documentation that we had a heck of a lot of fun together and did a lot of cool stuff.

I feel guilt. Guilt that he didn't make it. Guilt that I am also a little happy for him - that he's no longer suffering. Guilt that I'm messing up the tenses. Guilt that I feel happy when I look at pictures of Jim. Everything seems to be so contradictory in my head right now.

I read a book on grief that talked about people shedding buckets and buckets of tears. I looked through the book and the quiz at the end. I match all of the symptoms, except crying and anger. I guess I have enough to think about without worrying whether or not I'm grieving the "right" way. I guess it will come to me as it happens. Whether I'm alone or in a group, whether it's day or night, and whether I'm using the present or past tense.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Getting By

It's been a week since Jim passed away. We had a lovely memorial service on Saturday. I was paranoid that no one would come, but of course, lots of people came. It's Jim. Throughout our marriage I would freak out whenever we had a party, thinking that no one would come. Jim would always tell me that it was our last party because I was such a pain in the rear-end. Inevitably people would show up and I'd calm down. But of course Jim knew people would show. Who wouldn't want to hang out with Jim?

We are preparing for the trip to Rochester. Jim and Janet, Judi and Mark and Jim's Aunt Sue left this morning. I started making the hard phone calls this afternoon. I have been in high gear for so long that it's all I know how to do anymore. I think some people/companies were surprised to hear from me so early...but I can't think of anything else to do right now. I'm sort of afraid to shift into a lower gear. I spent the entire last year making lists, getting questions together, researching treatments, picking up medications, cooking organic foods...I was running a lot of jobs. Now I have one job: to take care of my kids. But I'm in overdrive and I'm having a hard time focusing on anything. Right now other people are caring for my kids and I'm trying to find my scattered brain. I'm hoping that after the service in Rochester I'll be able to take a deep breath, breathe, and grieve for real. For the past week I haven't truly grieved - I've been shoveling things out of the way so that we can get to the next event.

I am looking forward to going to Rochester. I think a lot of people from Jim's high school will be there and I'll be so happy and thankful to meet so many of them. I am looking forward to a 12 hour drive with my parents. Time to talk, time to wind down, time to eat licorice and Snickers, drink Diet Coke and spend some time forced into doing...nothing.

I've been talking to Jim's urn. I know that might seem weird or silly, especially since that's not Jim. But I just need something right now. I've been asking him to come visit me - maybe it won't happen, maybe it will. Maybe he's already helping give me grace to get through every day - Jim-style - without meltdowns or drama (Kate-style!).

I'm going to try and hack it on my own next week. I'm scared but I'm also looking forward to it. I think that's best for my kids. And I can't put off being on my own forever. It's sort of like pulling off a band-aid. Going it on my own and forcing myself to do things will be better for me in the long run, rather than slowly weaning myself from the care of family. Besides, I can always call in the troops and ask for help when I need it. And I've got some pretty awesome neighbors that are fierce protectors. If we stumble, we most certainly will not fall.

And I'm going to keep writing the blog. I don't know if people will continue to read, but I need it right now. Thanks for reading and for your caring. I'll post about the service after next weekend.

Love to all. I'm off to wind down and watch the end of Dancing with the Stars. At least you can rest assured that we haven't upgraded our TV viewing choices here at the Marventano household...but hey, at least I'm not watching COPS.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Hi folks-

We've had some frequently asked questions, so I thought I'd address them here.

1. Memorial checks - please make them payable to Kate Marventano, noting on the memo that it's for Jim's Memorial Fund. I will be dividing the money and I will announce on the blog where the money is going, so that you all know I won't be purchasing myself a nice pair of Manolo Blahniks with your generous gifts. Please send checks to our home. If you need our address, please contact Judi Kling or Susan Senti.

2. All are welcome to our home after the service; however, I do not have a designated "play area" (the basement isn't done, although Jim Sr. has been working fast and furious). Rachel and Jake will not be here at the house.

3. There are several hotels in the Sheboygan area, including a Holiday Inn Express, Sleep Inn, Blue Harbor Resort, The American Club, and The Inn on Woodlake.

4. Everyone is welcome at one or both of the services. We opted to have two services for convenience sake, not because we feel that anyone should be attending one service or another. I am planning to attend both services, as are Jim Sr. and Janet, Judi and Mark, and my parents.

5. I am still not answering the phone and I only check voicemail once a day.

6. We are doing okay. We are getting by. We are busying ourselves with plans, arrangements and finishing up last minute things before both services.

I am deeply saddened by this loss for all of us, but I take comfort in knowing that Jim is happier now. The last year was most certainly not the way that Jim wanted to live. Although it was a tough time, we got to say goodbye and I believe he was ready to go.

Thanks again for all your prayers and support. I cannot say it enough. And most likely, when I see you and I studder out half a sentence, I'm trying to thank you for your grace and goodwill.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Saying Goodbye

Yesterday (Monday) I'd composed a different blog to post. I never posted what I'd what written. I'm sorry to say that my beloved Jim passed yesterday at 4:00 pm. Thusly, I will draw from my previous blog and add what applies today. It's amazing how fast things can change, isn't it?

For the last several days, I haven't been praying for our miracle. I'd stopped asking people to pray for a miracle and to pray for peace for Jim instead. I'd been praying that he'd be pain-free and that he wouldn't suffer any longer. I prayed that he would have an easy transition to heaven and that he'd know that the kids and I would be okay, so that he would know it's okay to go. It seems that for once, my prayers were answered.

Jim passed away in his sleep, exactly as he'd wanted. He passed with me, his parents, and my parents there, holding his hands and supporting his transition. Jim passed gracefully and quietly, and he was pain-free. Jim happily shed his bulky body in favor of a light and happy soul. Jim does nothing half way. He never cuts corners. So I believe that because he could not stay here with us, he took the wheel and drove himself in the direction he wants - toward health, happiness, and the woodworking workshop of his dreams.

Your prayers are so appreciated. Thank you for all of your kind gestures and sincere condolences. We will continually update the blog as things go on, as this is our most direct (and accurate) method of conveying information.

We will be having two memorial services for Jim. The dates and locations are as follows:

Saturday, September 22, 2007
Word of Grace Community Church
Sheboygan Falls, WI
For directions:
Visiting hours are from 12pm - 2pm. Refreshments will be served.
Memorial service at 2:00pm.
Pizza party (Jim's favorite food) and reception to follow at our home.

Saturday, September 29, 2007
John Calvin Presbyterian Church
Henrietta, NY
For directions:
Visiting hours are from 12pm - 2pm. Refreshments will be served.
Memorial service at 2:00pm.
Reception to follow at Wildwood Country Club.

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to our memorial fund in Jim's name. Thank you so very much for your prayers and support.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Today is a double anniversary for us. The first is a happy anniversary - September 13, 2005 is when we moved into our house here in Kohler. We were so excited. We didn't have any furniture here yet. We left Rachel with my parents, packed up a futon and blankets, and we came down to wait for the movers. We were kid free and furniture free - boy was it a fun night. We figured out something to do. And now we have Jake.

September 13, 2006 is the day that Jim was diagnosed with cancer. We couldn't believe it when they told us. Right up until they spelled it out for us, we never once imagined cancer. We really didn't have any reason to, and I don't think any doctor would have guessed it either. We were stunned. And it felt like we got everything we ever wanted, but we only got it for one year.

Too bad cancer - we still have everything. We still have love, family, friendship, and each other. I hate you cancer. I HATE YOU. But I would rather eat my foot than let you win. You don't get to beat us. We beat you because we still have it all and even after Jim's gone, we'll STILL have it all because of the person that Jim is - he will live forever.

It's an emotional day for me. Janet and I are reading a couple of books on death. The books all mention that people can indicate that it is close to their time to go. They tell some sort of a story that includes a journey, finishing something, arriving at a destination...that kind of thing. The book my mom and dad sent, called Final Gifts, gives fairly specific instructions on how to talk to someone who is dying, because often times they are trying to communicate something and family members just blow it off thinking the patient is over medicated or having hallucinations.

Well, last night at 2:30 am he said something to me. He was buzzing his chair up and down (I gave him about 5 minutes of constant buzzing) and I finally asked him if he was okay.
Jim: Yes, I'm fine - why?
me: Well, you seem uncomfortable.

Jim: I'm not uncomfortable, I'm trying to finish something.
me: Finish what? {Rising panic}{Mental note, Kate - don't blow off what he says because there might be a hidden message}

Jim: I need to finish my jokes.
me: What jokes? Who are you going to tell them to?

Jim: I don't know...but I like an audience.

By this time I'm pretty much upset. I sat with him and cried. He does like an audience. He tells great jokes. And as a kid, he loved to put on magic shows and tell jokes for his family and friends. The first person I thought of was his pastor as a kid, Jack. Jim used to tell Jack so many jokes that Jack actually mentioned it during our wedding ceremony. And better yet, Jack told Jim a joke. During the ceremony. Pretty cool.

I don't know what this whole conversation meant. Maybe it meant nothing. Maybe it was ramblings from a guy who is really, really tired. This morning I talked to my friends Susan and Judy about it and Judy pointed out that we read What to Expect When You're Expecting with a grain of salt. She's right. Maybe I'm getting too literal at this point and over thinking things. {No, not you, Kate, you're completely rational and would never over think anything...}

I'm teary and emotional today. We're all tired - Janet's been working with Jake and the house 24/7; Jim Sr. has nearly completed the basement in record time; and I'm flapping around barely able to remember my name, trying to figure out if I'm emotionally scarring Rachel for life. It's nonstop fun here. But at the same time, we are having happy moments. It's just harder to absorb them on a day like today.

Two anniversaries today, and Jim's working on his jokes performance. I have no idea what this all means. We could have months, weeks, or days left with Jim. But if he's dreaming of and talking about jokes, I'm good with that. Jim will always have an audience that loves and adores him.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Magnificent Six

Okay, my title there is a cheesy take on The Magnificent Seven (which, by the way, I believe is a Western take on The Seven Samurai, and if you haven't seen that movie, shame on you). BUT - if ever there was a more magnificent gathering of six men, I'd like to see it.
This past weekend, David, Joel, Keith, Mark and Scott all came out to see Jim. I think I listed the guys in chronological order - he's known David since Kindergarten. These are Jim's guys. Over the years, Jim has made multitudes of friends and acquaintances, but the fact of the matter is that nothing compares to the friendships he's forged with these five guys. These guys have history, and a lot of it.

Mark and his wife Terri, who is a good friend of mine, got to see Jim on Friday. But Friday was an unusually bad day, and thusly they had to watch Jim suffer through some pretty intense pain. It was the first time in a year that I've become frustrated with "the system". I asked for meds at 7:50 am, and I wasn't able to pick them up until 6:00 pm. That's too long for someone in hospice to have to wait for pain relief. And he couldn't swallow pills so I had to get him something new - I couldn't use the pain meds we already have. I'm accustomed to working with The Vince - I ask for what I want, they give it to me. Immediately. This hospice program is new, and we're new to hospice. I had to stand in line and wait, probably like all the other caregivers do for people who aren't Jim. But this is Jim we're talking about. Everyone loves Jim. And I never have to stand in line because of it. Any way, Friday was tough and I asked Mark and Terri to over-prep the guys for their arrival on Saturday because I was worried that Saturday was going to be another bad day.

When the guys got here they seemed a bit apprehensive. Probably because I basically had Mark and Terri scare the hell out of them. It's hard to prepare people that haven't been watching the day-to-day activities. But Saturday was a better day for Jim and he was so happy to see everyone. Each guy brought his own special quality to the weekend. Without getting too syrupy, it was thrilling and devastating all in the same 48 hour period. It was so exciting when they got here. It was so depressing to know that it was such a great group, gathered for the wrong reason. I felt a serious sense of loss when they all left. Some of the guys are Jim's friends - not mine. I felt sad knowing that I won't be seeing some of them again. The guys spent some time all together, but then everyone also got to spend a little time alone with Jim, which is highly prized at this point because he's so tired.
Pictured from left to right: (the back of Rachel's head...) Keith, David, Joel, Scott, Mark and Jim.

David brought gifts for the kids and tons of really funny (and ever so slightly embarrassing) pictures. Jim loved looking through a photo album that I believe David's Dad put together - it's the original form of scrapbooking - pictures, and typed captions. None of this frilly s$%t. Man scrapbooking! He had pictures and stories galore, including a story about when he accidentally smashed through a glass door while chasing Jim. And that was the first story he told. David's got a sharp wit and story-telling is something of an art in his case.

Joel brought pictures of his family (we haven't seen them in several years) which was neat. His kids colored pictures and sent gifts to Rachel and Jake. And then, he'd made the most awesome video. Back in 1989 Jim and a bunch of friends (including David and Keith) went camping in Great Bend, Ontario, Canada. Unfortunately for their current egos, someone brought a video camera. Joel had the video converted to DVD, and then he edited the DVD to make a music video that shortened the painful original video down to one song. But of course, we all also got to see the original video which, among other embarrassing things like candy necklaces, jean-short-overalls and bandannas, featured an unusually long performance of the guys acting like Bob and Doug Mackenzie. When in Canada...

Keith brought pictures from their many experiences over the years, including the several years that we lived in Atlanta - we lived around 2 miles from Keith for the 6 years we were there. Some of Keith, David and Joel's pictures also invoked conversation about everyone's 80's "uniform" - the getups they all wore while cruising for chicks. Let me tell you that in all the pictures and videos, they were primarily with each other - no women to be found anywhere. But I digress.

Mark brought Jim a beautiful cross and he made a slide show of cool pictures from over the years. They also brought gifts for the kids, including a disgusting game called "What's In Ned's Head?" that is apparently very popular with four-year-old boys. The objective of the game is to take a card, reach into Ned's head, feel around, and draw out the gross object. Rachel wasn't sure about reaching into Ned's head to feel around for a plastic pile of bird poop with a worm in it, but she did well and then she pestered us to play it with her for the rest of the weekend. Terri came to take care of me and the kids, which was a huge treat for me. Although she's pregnant so I drank all my wine alone. Even if she had wanted some she probably wouldn't have been able to get it out of my kung-fu grip.

And Scott - the gentle soul and glue of the group, brought Jim a beautiful picture that he'd made and had framed. It was a picture of Scott, Keith, Mark and Jim, all out fishing together. Scott converted the picture to a watercolor. It is truly beautiful. As the original picture is one of Jim's favorites, the watercolor will now hang in our bedroom. Scott also got to drink some wine but he's bigger than me so I didn't argue. ;) While watching the video Joel made, Scott began to realize where several articles of his clothing had gone during college. Good one, Keith.

It was a weekend of merriment and sadness. Jim was so touched that all the guys went out of their way to see him. It lifted his spirits and he had a good weekend. It was so hard to say goodbye. As the cancer has progressed and we started planning with the guys, I've found myself working toward this weekend and not looking much past it. I've been planning and hoping and doing everything in terms of "we just have to push through until the guys get here". After the guys left there was such a sense of finality and letdown that it seemed as hard for me as it was for Jim.

In all my life I can never hope to be as well liked or as popular as Jim. But these friendships are not based on popularity. This is friendship and devotion at it's finest. These are good, good men. They lead exceptional lives and they care about other people. And they care about Jim. They dropped everything and flew from all over North America to spend a weekend with someone they love. Although I came into the picture so late in their friendships, I am eternally grateful to these five guys for their unending support, for their faithfulness to Jim, and for their commitment to the true meaning of friendship.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Ojibwa the Great

Friends - Jim's Musky Marauder fishing name is "Ojibwa Jim". My younger brother Kevin sent Jim a beautiful poem that I thought I would share. It certainly expresses the way I feel, and I'm sure many of you will agree that it truly characterizes the Jim we all know and love.


Have you ever met a man, you can’t believe is real?
One who cooks, hunts, and a family man that heals?
Did I ever believe a guy such as this,
Would carry my sister from trauma to bliss?
Well I have, and am proud to say so,
He’s there through the times, whether high or so low
So many talents, and smiles he has brought,
On Christmas mornings and the rest of the lot,
Who would have thought a man such as this,
Could teach a stubborn family the true meaning of bliss?
An inspiration, a teacher, a father and more
One who looks past being rich or so poor,
A man who respects and who is in touch with nature,
Takes care of his kids, Palmer and Major.

You have always been an inspiration to me,
You taught me true values and how to see,
To respect my parents, family and love,
For this I am grateful and will always speak of,
The lessons you teach me are forever engraved,
For my dearest sweet brother who always behaved,
You’ve always seemed too good to be true
Please know my brother I’ll always love you
To look at your life and see what you’ve done
You accomplished more than most fathers and sons,
You bring smiles and will continue to so
You're Ojibwa The Great, and this we all know,
As I fish on Forest, I will speak to you daily,
And we’ll laugh about old times, and how things were so crazy,
When we catch the big fish time and time again,
I will be holding the hand of my brother and friend,
At least this way we’ll both be guaranteed,
Endless lives together between worlds we can’t see,
But what does it matter? Because our friendship exists,
I’ll see you forever in the lake and the mist.
You’ve touched all our lives, and yes this is fate,
There’s no question why you’re Ojibwa The Great.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Project...and I promise it won't be a headless angel

My friend Amy made a marvelous suggestion to me tonight that I thought I would pass on and share with everyone.

Rachel and Jake are still very young, and although I believe both of them will have great memories of their father, it would be wonderful if they had accounts of how truly amazing Jim is, and what kind of a person he is - stories that they can read in the future and fill in a picture of their father.

If you have a story or a memory of Jim, whether it be happy or funny or just something Jim did or said that you found touching, please feel free to share it. I'll be making a book for each of the kids. You can either email the stories to, or mail them directly to our house.

Recently we've heard from a number of Jim's childhood/middle school/highschool friends. Now, I'm quite certain that Jim was an absolute angel, and that there's not much to tell, BUT, just in case, I'd like to hear stories from ALL times in Jim's life, so feel free to send anything, including funny pictures, stories, etc. Jim got a couple of hilarious pictures (and a rather descriptive note), as well as an old RH Comets sticker in the mail today. I cannot tell you what that meant to him. It's good to see him laugh. We've gotten notes from a few people who were younger than Jim in highschool, and they've mentioned how good it made them feel that Jim "looked out" for them when they were freshmen at school. That's classic Jim - he takes care of everyone around him.

A few people have also written Jim very heartfelt notes telling him how much he's touched their lives. If any of you are interested in writing that kind of note, I'd love to include those in the books as well.

I thank you again for all the cards, phone calls and emails. If you have something that you'd like to share about Jim, we'd love to hear from you! It will make a wonderful gift for the kids and I think the outpouring of love and friendship we've received is a true testimonial to the kind of person that Jim is. And I promise not to let this one be a headless angel. I figure I have a few year before the kids start reading anyway. ;)