Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Ok.  So, I have felt for a while now that I need to update everyone. I have wanted to share my feelings and thoughts to others out there but because my thoughts and feelings change so frequently I can never complete a Blog draft that I feel content with. (I wrote my first draft in November… 3 months after Shawn passed away, since then I have deleted, added, and revised a lot) I also have hesitated because I was sure most people didn’t want to hear all my thoughts, especially the bad ones. But I have come to the conclusion that without sharing bits of the bad, you cannot appreciate the enormous amounts of good.   If you are interested in reading this very long and very thought out post, know that I have felt prompted to do this so if you feel the need to judge please keep those judgments to yourself.

 Writing has been a way for me to really understand what I’m feeling and to sort of empty my brain onto paper (no worries, I won’t empty it all out or we could be here for days).  That is one of the many reasons I am doing this, but more so, to perhaps help someone else out there struggling.  Helping someone else while I am struggling myself is something Big Shawn taught me and I believe it would strengthen our love and relationship through the veil.  Helping others would also make Shawn proud of me, which is something I strive to do every day.
Sorry for any of you out there that have been left hanging but most of you know that Shawn passed away August 15th  2011.  A little background on the days before August 15th, and really from his transplant on since that was the last time I updated the blog.  I am going to be brief on talking about a lot of this because it is personal, and deeply painful to think about.
After the transplant we stayed the rest of June and all of July in the hospital.  His counts actually did start to recover and he began making good blood cells but his body was so frail and since he was unable to walk or eat very well the doctors kept us there for some rehab.  Once they gave into us begging to go home it was the beginning of August by then; we were confident we could get Shawn feeling better at home before the birth of our son which was scheduled to be August 17th.  We were able to spend one night at home in our new apartment which brought a lot of strength and happiness to us both.
 The next day Shawn spiked a pretty high fever and we had to be readmitted to the hospital.  Sometimes I wondered why it was that we were only allowed one day at home before everything changed.   But I now know that the Lord had a hand in that, like so many other things he has.  After a few tests they told us that Shawn’s Leukemia had returned in spite of the transplant and that there was really nothing else they could do.  I won’t go into too much detail of my reaction after that news, I’m sure you can guess what went on. Pure and intense heartache, dreams shattered, happiness lost, despair, and fear for the future were just a few of the things that went through my mind.  Along with, will my husband ever meet our son here on earth? 
Soon after this Shawn and I had a brief discussion that I hold dear and will never forget.  One thing we determined was that if it was at all possible we wanted to have our son soon because the doctors did not know how fast the Leukemia would take his life.  We got in contact with my Nurse midwife, Machel Knowles, and she immediately began pulling strings at McKay Dee hospital and soon called to tell us that we could go to deliver that very night if that’s what we wanted.
So we did .  We drove from LDS hospital to Mckay Dee hospital. After settling in and getting our room arranged with two hospital beds next to each other (one for me and one for Shawn) , we delivered our beautiful son on August 5th 2011. He was just a few weeks earlier than his due date and perfectly healthy.  Some of you probably knew that we had decided to name our son Lucas so we could always remember the beautiful miracle he was while we were battling Leukemia.  Lucas Shawn Barnes.  Well I had other plans from then on.  Shawn agreed to letting me name our son after his amazing strong Daddy.  So we named him Shawn Lucas Barnes.   It took some getting used to but from then on it was “Big Shawn” and “Little Shawn”. 
Here are a few pics of that day.  Before this I had no idea the human heart could inhabit utter happiness and utter despair at the same time.   I can’t even describe to you all the feelings I had during the delivery and the events leading up to it.  But I do know that I was indescribably grateful that Big Shawn was there with me, holding my hand, on the second best day of our lives together.  Little Shawn came into this world in serene chaos, and completed our eternal family.

We got to spend 10 days together as a family in Shawn’s parents’ home.  Not only our family of three, but as you can imagine, we had both of our families near us almost at all times.  Everyone, including myself, was gaining life lessons from Big Shawn every second we were by his side. These lessons often didn’t  even require words. Shawn was able to give little Shawn a name and a blessing, which was absolutely beautiful. 

Many of you have asked how I am doing.  This is one of the reasons I have wanted to blog.  But this question is not so easily answered.  Today was alright.  Yesterday was good.  And the day before that sucked.  The expression take it a day at a time has never been so real to me.  It is going on 9 months since Shawn passed away. And the cloud of fear, anger, depression, misery, and despair is starting to clear up.  Does this mean that I don’t cry or am not sad anymore? No.  Will it ever be that way? No. Does this mean that my life is back to normal? No.  Will it ever be? No.  This chapter in my life has forever changed me in so many ways.  I have been permanently changed and life will not ever be normal, because life isn’t normal. However this chapter in my life is just that.  A few months ago I would probably scream at you if that’s what you called Shawn, a chapter of my life.  But today I have accepted that.  Even though Shawn has changed me for the good and made me live life very differently he was not MY life.  I have to remind myself that very often because if Shawn was my life then what would make life worth living anymore?  So The Erin Book will have many chapters, and I will take what I have learned of love and life from Shawn and use it to finish my own book. 
People often ask me now if I’m back to work, which in my head sounds like they are asking “So, are things back to normal for you?” I think something people don’t realize is that my life doesn’t have a normal state to turn back to.  My normal life was thrown out the window about a year and 3 months ago when Shawn was diagnosed with leukemia.  When everyone goes back to their jobs, spouses, and running their kids around to various activities… Where am I?  I’m sitting at my parent’s home with my son trying to establish a new normal.   Normal life for me is missing Shawn. He was my normal, and now that he is gone, Little Shawn is becoming my normal.  If that makes any sense. That information is not vital for others to know, but perhaps it will be one day when you talk to others in grief.  Just know that it feels as though your world is in upheaval. It is hard to watch the normalcy of others’ lives around you continuing on without you.   Well, since I’m not here to tell you how depressing life can be, let me tell and show you what me and little Shawn have been up to.
First, we went to Hawaii with my parents and some good friends in October.  It was so wonderful, and very therapeutic to be in such a wonderful beautiful place with such wonderful beautiful people.  Ironically I think I felt closer to Shawn in Hawaii than I did at home.  It was almost as if we were both in heaven together. 

We also went to Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving to be with my sister and her family.  It was so fun.  And here are a few pictures of Little Shawn growing up.

Now I don’t pretend to have the strongest testimony or to be so positive all the time, but there are a few things out there that have helped me.  And maybe it can help someone else, so I will share.
·         We are sent here to this earth for the purpose of being tested.  We hear many of these things I’m about to share all growing up in primary.  But for me, and many others, keeping this eternal knowledge and perspective helps me to find my motivation to continue.  Some days even strive and thrive.  “Tests and trials are given to all of us.  These mortal challenges allow us and our Heavenly Father to see whether we will exercise our agency to follow His Son.”(-Robert D. Hales, Waiting Upon the Lord, October 2011) I choose to follow His Son.
·         Sometimes I feel out-casted in ways.  People understandably don’t know what to say to me.  Well let me put you at ease.  I’m not going to punch you in the face or break down crying in front of you for something you say.  (Well, unless we are very close friends or close family, and if that’s the case, I will always appreciate your words and please just give me your shoulder to cry on.)  Haha, but if you are not one of these, say whatever you want… I don’t take offense very easy, trust me.   But please don’t avoid me, it’s just weird.  Advice someone gave my cousin once was to ask me, “How are you today?”, or even right now because it changes just that often. I thought that was excellent advice.  One more food-for-thought when perhaps talking to a grieving person…  It irritates me when people say to me “I don’t know how you’re doing it”.  It makes me think, “O I’m sorry, I didn’t know I had a choice! Are you telling me I can just ask to not deal with it and it will magically disappear and perhaps Shawn will reappear? Please do tell your all knowing secrets of how to do that!” Ha.  There you have it, life inside my head occasionally.  Don’t worry if you have said this to me, like I said I don’t take offense easily, I’m simply letting it be known.  When in doubt or at loss of words, hugs and silence can be the best words.
·         It is a choice whether or not I will follow Christ.  Obvious statement, right? Well not so for me.  As some of you can imagine, anger is a big part of grieving.  Anger at God for allowing or causing this to happen (neither of which are true).  My thoughts for a while were “Why would I turn to God and Christ when they are the ones who did this to me?”  I couldn’t blame my heartache on anyone except them.  I felt forced to follow Christ and hated it. Everything I was reading was telling me to turn to Christ if I wanted to heal.  Pray to get comfort.  Serve others and become more like Christ to feel better.  It made me so angry, so I didn’t do these things for a while.  That would show Them, right? Wrong.  I only became more miserable.  Anger consumed my thoughts.  To the point sometimes I hated hearing anyone talk about their testimonies… scoffed in my head at them…like ‘yeah easy for you to say…what have you been through?’  I subconsciously wanted the anger.  Because maybe that was easier than the sadness.  But I now know that I cannot heal without Christ.  Without the enabling power of the atonement as David A. Bednar says.  It truly gives me strength to change my circumstance.  I have a very wise friend and previous bishop tell me that if we can control our present, we can control our past, present, and future.  To me this means attitude.  I can choose to fall and be crushed by all of this or I can ensure a happy past, present, and future by trusting in the will of the Lord.  And I choose to be happy.
·         In grammar speaking - death is not an explanation point, merely a comma.  –Elder Maxwell
·         Even though God doesn’t always answer your prayers in the way you want, he always prepares you and gives you the strength and the things you need to endure what is ahead. 
·         The talk Tragedyor Destiny? By Spencer W. Kimball.  Read it, it’s amazing
·         The talk Trustin the Lord by Richard G Scott, given October 1995 general conference- also amazing.
·         This last general conference helped me as well.  So many I loved.  To name a few, I loved what Elder Holland said about envy, and that it is a sin.  He said “Envy is a mistake that just keeps on giving.  Obviously we suffer a little when misfortune befalls us. But envy requires us to suffer all good fortune that befalls everyone we know.  What a bright prospect that is.  Downing another quart of pickle juice anytime anyone around you has a happy moment.” (ElderHolland, April 2012).  This was especially good for me, it’s hard to not look at all the marriages around me and be angry that I don’t have my husband, it can drive you crazy if you let it.  So I’m working on not being envious. 
o   David Baxter, as a lot of you know, is our family Hero.  He gave me and Shawn blessings in the hospital and became a good support to us.  His talk to single mothers really inspired me. Read it.
o   I loved what Ronald A. Rasband said about not asking if someone needs help if you can see they are drowning, and just jumping in after them.  I have some amazing friends and family that did just that.  Although the saying “let me know if I can do anything” is well-meaning, it is rare someone drowning will be able to call out for help. 
·         Preach my Gospel has some good quotes on patience.  “Patience is the capacity to endure delay, trouble, opposition, or suffering without becoming angry, frustrated, or anxious.  It is the ability to do God’s will and accept His timing.  When you are patient, you hold up under pressure and are able to face adversity calmly and hopefully.  Patience is related to hope and faith - you must wait for the Lord’s promised blessings to be fulfilled.” Also, “Life is full of difficulties, some minor and others of a more serious nature.  There seems to be an unending supply of challenges for one and all.  Our problem is that we often expect instantaneous solutions to such challenges, forgetting that frequently the heavenly virtue of patience is required.” –President Thomas S. Monson.  These quotes rang so true to me when I was in the depths of despair, I just wanted time to get here already because they say, “in time it won’t hurt as bad, in time you will feel happy again, in time you will be happy for Shawn’s influence in your life instead of sad he isn’t here, in time in time in time.” Well I wanted time to hurry the heck up.  But this helped me to realize that the best way to go through things is to just go through them.  You can’t skip grief or rush through it to get to the other side.
·         All your losses shall be made up to you, provided you remain faithful. –Joseph Smith.  Well, you better believe I’m counting on that.
·         There are many people that help me get through the hard times, but two that I really would be lost without are little Shawn and my friend Tiffany Johansen.   She lost her husband recently as well.  Talking with her has been so beneficial for me, she might never understand my deep appreciation of our friendship.  And how could this little guy not brighten your day?

Little Shawn with Uncle Jared

Little Shawn with Grandpa
I could go on forever on things I have read or people I have talked to that have helped me. These are just a few of my favorites. I hope I have helped somebody out there with this post, or at least helped you all to know that- yeah, some days are hard, but I am choosing to follow and have Faith in Christ. In the end, isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?
Thanks for the many prayers, they have been felt.
Erin & Little Shawn


Emily Meyerhoffer said...

Thank you for writing this Erin. I think about you and Little Shawn all the time and wonder how you are doing. I have always thought that you and Shawn and the love you have for each other was so awesome. You were, and are so lucky to have each other as a part of your life, and Little Shawn is so incredibly blessed to have you two as his parents. He is so precious! I hope you continue to feel a little bit better as time goes on. Thank you so much for your example!

Sara Bosler Castro said...

What a beautifully honest post. Thank you for sharing, Erin. I'm sure it's not an easy thing to write about but I'm glad you have an outlet for your thoughts and feelings. I don't know if anyone can read this and not feel uplifted by what you said. You're such a strong woman, an inspiring wife, and a loving mother. I wish all the happiness in the world for you and Little Shawn.

Nana said...

Oh Erin~My heart is overflowing with love and gratitude for you and your wise example. It has been ten years for me now and as I read your beautiful words, tears literally streamed down my face. Those feelings are still so intense. I am forever in your corner. I love you and am so proud of you! Thanks for sharing. Heart to heart~Gwyn Larsen Schmidt

Mike and Kristin said...

You are an incredible example, Erin! Thanks so much for your testimony and your strength. Mike and I think of you and your family often and you are in our prayers. :) So many people are so lucky to know you and to learn from you. Thank you again!

Haley and Brock Rose said...

Erin you are amazing. I love you so much and I know many others love you too. I think I cried through your whole post but it was a much needed perspective for me and I want to thank you for taking the time to put your thoughts into words, you've helped me more than you know. Baby Shawn is so handsome and getting so big! Next time we are in Utah we need to do a play date with the boys! I love you and always will! - Haley :)

Christa said...

I sincerely appreciate your thoughts Erin. My heart goes out to you constantly, and am so grateful for your testimony. With much tribulation comes much strength and many blessings. I can only imagine what Heavenly Father has in store for you and your eternal family.

Keepita said...

Wow. Amazing. Thank you so much for posting! I dont know you that well but you truly are an inspiration. Know that your testimony is making a difference to friends and strangers alike.
- Matt Secrist

hEaThEr'S bLoG:) said...

Erin, thank you for posting that! I have wondered how you are doing and I'm sure that was so hard to write but know that you are an inspiration to many people!

{Carli} said...

Your just so amazing! Love ya Erin! Thanks for being you!

JeniandAustinHoffmann said...

I love you Erin! I love this post so much. I was so sad when you weren't at the girls night last month. We need to get together again soon. Little Shawn is getting so big! I think of you all the time, and am so glad you wrote this post.

Love ya,

Alyson said...

This is beautiful, Erin! 3 years ago when I was just starting the uphill climb from the depths of depression and was starting to accept my infertility, I tried to write a blog post sharing a lot of these same feelings and sentiments. There was no way I could ever be as eloquent as you have been. When I started reading this it immediately reminded me of the scripture that saved me and was literally the life vest Christ threw to me to keep me from breaking down and crying on the floor of the shower for the millionth time! Mosiah 24 is about Alma's people being enslaved to Amulon. The Lord promises the people he will make their burdens light, which he did. I thought it was interesting that He wouldn't take them away, but He did make them light. In verse 14 I had my Ah Ha moment when Christ tells them He does it so that they can eventually testify that Christ is with his people in all their afflictions. As soon as I read that my mind flashed back to those times I had fallen to my knees in the bitter depths of dispare and even the times I turned my back on Him and was angry and I knew for certain that he had always been there and it was my responsibility to now testify of that. Infertility was still hard, and it changed day by day as well. But I always knew in the back of my mind that Christ was with me. Even during my blog rants and tirades about everyone having a baby but me! He is so patient with us, it's amazing!

Congratulations to you on being where you are - in your present, feeling and accepting, and living life as it comes. I know the Lord will continue to be with you, as He always has been.

Susanne Holland Spicker said...

I was deeply touched by your wise and inspired words. Thank you for posting. Putting things down in words has always helped me as well, and I appreciate so much you sharing such heartfelt, personal feelings. We never know who we help by our example and by how we cope with our trials and tribulations--thank you for strengthening me--you have blessed my life. May you be richly blessed as you continue your "Erin Book." I love you.

Jill said...

i know you don't know me well but i am friends with brady and melis. i have followed your terrible past and have wondered how you are dealing with it. i found your post very interesting. i think it's good when you have to questioned your testimony. i think it only brings more solidification of the truthfulness of the gospel. i'm glad you have given yourself time to questions things. just from reading your post i see how incredibly smart and wise you are. i know that you will definitely be passing that wonderful trait down to your son. i don't think you should ever close that chapter of your life because it made you who you are. you are such a beautiful person in and out. i admire your strength. i loved what you said about asking how you are doing TODAY. i hope to take your knowledge and be able to be a good friend to someone "drowning" in their sorrow. i know things will get better but probably not for awhile. i'm glad you still cry and haven't forgotten your beloved husband. i still get saddened when i think of my friend that passed away a month before my wedding and i've been married 8 1/2 years. i think the lord and our savior are so proud of you. when you get to be in their presence again i know they will say, "well done my faithful servant." i wish you continued strength to get through the heartache. you are stronger than you think. much love.

Leighann Johnson said...

I know you don't know me, but i stumbled across your blog today. Your story has touched me. I want to express my gratitude to you for sharing. You must be such a special person. The thought that comes to me is that God won't give us anything we can't handle. Wow, The strength that you have been blessed with, and the comfort you have received is remarkable. I wish a lot of happiness for you and your sweet son in life.

Carly said...

erin, i don't know if you remember me from way back in the days of high school spanish, but i just wanted to say thank you for being so brave to share your story. i have thought of you and your family often and said dozens of prayers since hearing about the passing of your husband. what an incredible woman you are. thank you for setting an example for the rest of us to look up to.

Aly said...

Hi Erin! You don't know me, but I still wanted to leave a comment on your blog. I heard about you from your cousin Andria Hansen, who I used to work with at a dental office in Brigham City. When Andria told me about you, I was really hoping you had a blog I could follow. To tell you the truth though, Andria was hesitant to tell me your story because she thought it would upset me too much since we have a similar story. I looked at older posts on your blog and noticed that your husband and my husband were diagnosed with cancer on the same horrible day in January of 2011. We found out I was pregnant a few months after he was diagnosed and now have a beautiful 4 1/2 month old baby boy named Luke.

I debated on leaving a comment since we don't know each other, but I have been thinking about it for awhile and couldn't not tell you how touched I was by this post. I'm sure it was so incredibly hard to write down all your feelings for the world to see, but I just had to tell you that this post gave me inspiration and comfort. Thank you for all the references to all the things you have read that have given you comfort. I will for sure be looking them up!
I hope that you and your sweet baby are doing good and that you continue to heal and get the comfort you deserve. Thanks again for posting :)

Alyson Wyatt

Ali said...

Hi Erin,

I've been following your blog for about a year, and have shared in some of your sorrow at the loss of such an incredible man. Shawn (Elder Barnes to me) served as a missionary in our ward area for quite a while, and made such an impression on our family. We loved hearing stories about his life, and were excited to get your wedding invitation in the mail. My heart was broken when I found out he was struggling with cancer, and I literally cried for days when I heard he passed away. Although you already know of the impact he made on the world, I want to add my name to the many people who were touched by your eternal husband. As I sat through the Kansas City temple dedication this past weekend, I felt his presence. I know he was sharing in the joy that was felt as we welcome a temple to our area. Thank you for encouraging him to serve a mission, even though it meant 2 years that he had to spend away from you. He blessed so many lives during his time here. I love to see all the pictures of your sweet baby Shawn. Thank you for your honesty in dealing with such a tragedy. Although you probably never wanted to be an example of strength in trials, you are giving hope and courage to so many.

Love from Missouri,

Ali Ellefsen

Brenna said...

Hi Erin,

You don't know me but I work at Myers Mortuary. I took the phone call from your dad the night Shawn passed away, and my husband came to pick up his body.

I get a lot of those phone calls I honestly don't remember most of them, but I've always remembered that call. Since the call came from your dad I knew that this young man had a wife and that made me cry. When my husband came home and told me that you had a brand new baby, my heart broke for you.

I have never forgotten you and I often pray that you and your baby are doing well. You are an amazing woman.

I just wanted to let you know that even though nine months have passed, you are not forgotten and I'm sure there are many more people like me who continue to pray for you.

Brenna Dearden