Back in August we were preparing for a visit from my Brother and Sister-in-law. Tom and Julie had to cancel their trip because Tom's health took a turn for the worse. With that call a shadow came over our family that still hasn't completely lifted. Tom and Mike are brothers separated by 18 years, their parents passed in 2001 and 2002. Since then the bond has only strengthened between brothers and sisters-in-law. Since Tom and Julie's children are grown they had already left that busy stage of parenthood that we are fully immersed in. You know the stage, the one that keeps you busy running to sports, clubs, lessons and seems to leave little time for anyone else unless it's a holiday. Add to that our life as a military family, and it was a formula for even greater separation. However, we were all determined not to allow that. By the grace of God we remained in Kentucky for 3 duty stations, and then spent 4 years in the commonwealth of VA. An easy distance for a family that enjoys road trips and spending time together. We made frequent trips to Louisville, monthly when at Fort Campbell and weekly it seemed when we were at Knox. Living in Virginia slowed our visits back, but Tom and Julie were willing and able to come our way too. This allowed us time to spend with one another and they were as bonded to our children as if they'd been their grandparents.
Tom had been diagnosed with cancer before we made the big move and had already beaten a brain surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible before we left. However, cancer of his kind, usually gets the final word. We received a red cross message requesting our presence and by the Grace of God and the kindness of my husband's unit, our entire family was sent home for a two week visit. This visit was an amazing gift both to us and to Tom and Julie. We stayed in their home and had two weeks of memory making and yummy food, trying to eat at all our favorite places together. We had a Hieb family reunion, visits with Murphy cousins, a daytrip to the Ark, and a trip to Lake Wawasee in Indiana. This is a location that the Hieb family had vacationed annually for over 100 years. Mike and his parents even lived and worked there one summer when Mike was a teenager. To get to visit and relive memories there was a gift we'll cherish for the rest of our lives. Our last night in town Tom had a seizure in a local restaurant. He proceeded to have several more through that night. We stepped onto our flights the next morning, knowing we would not see one another again outside of a video call. Tom's health continued to decline and on December 2 he saw his Savior face to face and was reunited with loved ones.
Mike was able to blessedly return home again to be present for his only sibling's memorial and be there with Julie, Erin and Dan. He brought home tokens of Tom's life for our children to keep with them. Encouraged by the cold and dreariness that is winter in Daegu (yet still milder that what we were warned of) Mike and I have wrapped ourselves in something of a cocoon these last few months. But God is gracious and has sent new friends and activities that prevent us from withdrawing completely or wallowing as I sometimes want to do. Now He has told me it's time to write about these experiences again, and so I will.
|Incheon International Airport, we were much earlier than we needed to be.|
|Japan has one of the best airports!|
|Later than expected, but we made it to Louisville! With all our luggage.|
|Bonus! We got to attend my brother's wedding!|
|We got to see Mike and Tom's cousin and his wife with two of their grandkids.|
|This is more like it.|
|Lunch stop on our way to the Ark!|
|Well worth the visit, but that's a post for another day :).|
|Road Trip to Lake Wawassee! All 8 in one van!|
|The Hulk and his panda crew.|
|Trying out our Korean facemasks (they are awesome)|
|Boating has long been a part of this families life.|
|Trying a new to us Seafood place at Wawasee|
|A trip to Wawasee isn't complete without Schopoff's|
|Another yummy meal :)|
|Big Family reunion. Almost all the Hieb children, grandchildren and a few greats.|
|Last night in Louisville.|