#thingsWeWillMissAboutSF – the joy of Framily. Lisa and Darin Rock!

{Original posting date – Fall 2018 — and so much has changed — but not the extraordinary nature of Lisa and Darin.} I’ve been sitting on this post since an evening of joyful chaos with a dog, a dad, a mom, and two extremely cute and ENERGETIC toddlers. I was both exhausted by osmosis and inspired by what I witnessed.

#thingswewillmissaboutsf #framily #unclekookoo

To say this vacation is long overdue is the understatement of our year and WOW- what a year this has been. I have (mostly) stopped being one of those worried well people who complain about how busy they are or how hard the year has been, and yes- this year has been challenging. Chris’ mom died, he helped the family through the hospice process and aftermath of that, my business is stumbling either towards a turn-around or failure, I have had some challenges running (a key part of my mental health) and we are eager to move into another chapter of our lives. Like Bay Area traffic, we have a lot going on and sometimes it feels like we are going nowhere fast.

We live in a stressful routine and are struggling to allow for the right balance and to keep true to the lessons we have learned over the years. So yes, it is a challenging year, but a good year. We have love. Chocolate.  Bacon. Each Other. Wine. We have the problems of the worried well. Developed-world problems. Luck us. I mention this because I have been thinking a lot about next year and our pending departure from the Bay Area and the sale of our California home. [We plan to sell in the spring.] For some time we were checking off a Bay Area bucket list- people to connect with, places to see, memories to savor. What we found is that as we were planning for the Providence departure, our Bay Area family rose to the occasion and helped us realize that though we might leave, we do not have to worry about coming back. Our Family, Friends, colleagues, the Terraces community, our dearest Marilee and her pinko posse, David and Bob, the most Fabulous Fr. Jim and many more have all journeyed with us this year and heard our story, witnessed our waffling and comforted us in our anxiety. We are lucky and loved.

Which brings me to these fine people: Lisa and Darin. In reflecting on the past few years and what have I found special and what I will miss, these two wonderful people rise to the top. I wanted to explain why. In short, these are the people we wish all people can be. They are kind, friendly, hospitable, hard-working, generous, curious, humble, focused and inspirational. Lisa has a dry sense of humor bolstered by her sharp mind. Darin has a giving and caring nature strengthened by his warm heart. That alone is enough to love them- and we feared- miss them. But they, like many others, reached out to us when we announced our plans to move and made a point to connect.  They wanted us to know we are special to them and it was a joy telling them the feeling is mutual. That is not the only reason why they top the list of the things we will miss about the Bay Area.

It’s their son James, or more accurately what they did for James that make these two special and worth telling my friends abound about the wonders of Lisa and Darin. James was adopted into their family as a newborn in a rush of excitement and exhilaration- just as we rounded the Holidays into a new year. We welcomed him into the extended family and at a month old he attended his first Ornament Exchange. Lisa and Darin had tried to conceive and the adoption process was arduous, so we all were smitten with James but more stoked for them. These are the parents every kid should have. How great would this be?!- a sweet couple now had a sweet baby boy!

What we did not know then was that James came into the world needing a good place to die.

Lisa and Darin gave him so much more than that. They wrapped him in unconditional love, care, and attention. Replaced dreams of futures together gave way to doctors appointments and hospice care. James came into the world with severe brain damage and no cognitive functions. He had just enough working brain to keep breathing and functioning, but none of the capacity to thrive alive. At that young age he manifested to us and the medical community like and normal newbie. We soon learned that his functional capacity was barely sufficient to keep him breathing, let alone mature to help fill the aspirations they and we/they had as the family lucky enough to have him choose. Imagine their horror. One day you have a new life, yours to nurture and immediately a part of your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. The next minute you learn your boy has months to live and will not likely see his first birthday. Such a shitty thing could not have happened to nicer people.

For all of us on the edges, the shock of it all just felt wrong. It still does.

Yet, such a horrible event could not have happened to more suited parents. Suited? We are proud to know Lisa and Darin. I’m writing this because some few years have passed and they now have two more children and a life of chaos that toddlers infuse therein. The story of James and the memory of that year fades- but what they did will always stand out for me. Suited: They took a deep breath, cried and then held and loved James until the day he died. The adoption agency offered a return -to steward James through hospice and end of life care. He would die. He could die in fine hospital medical care.  This need not be Darin and Lisa’s “problem.” Or he could die held in warm arms of love. “Send him back!!???” – We remember Lisa and Darin so clearly. “He’s our son. He chose us. We are not sending him back!”

James’ little soul was born into this world needing a safe, warm and loving place to die We are family with people who were able to pull that off with grace. Lucky, lucky us. They now honor the memory of their son through volunteer efforts to restore a neighborhood San Francisco park. It’s one where their dog and two toddlers now can play and where they can breathe deep and remember their son James. #thingswewillmissaboutsf

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