January 30, 2006

Japanese Cemetary: note angel mailbox on right. Purpose: to send messages to Hide, a Japanese musician who died, was cremated, and is interred here.
Respect and Love for Those Who Have Died - Pui and Ian
Did you read the story I wrote about Pui (Puey) the young girl from Bangkok who died and whose funeral I attended? If not, see it in an earlier post. Ian, the heart broken husband she left behind has had a star named after her. The star is now called Pui. Ian sent a copy of the certificate.
I found a new friend in Yokosuka. Her name is Toshiko-san. She has taken me shopping and sightseeing, taught me many things about life in Japan and life in general, and has taken me to the cemetery where she has a family plot with a stone and small flower gardens she designed herself. The cemetery is on a hill overlooking the ocean. People are not buried here. Their cremains are placed in special vaults under the marbol on the plots. Hide (pronounded He day) the musician has a large plot and monuments here where his cremains are. His group was called XJapan. There are lots of flowers from fans. Most of the plots and monuments are well taken care of.
While in the cemetery we saw the mother of a man, who died at 27, come and sit on the monument on his plot and eat lunch. I was told that she comes throughout the year, hot or cold, and sits on his monument and eats her lunch.
A young man and woman came with two huge bouquets of orchids to place in vases on the family plot which was large with marble benches and seats. There were many kinds of orchids in the bouquets including blue checkered orchids. I have never before seen a blue checkered orchid.Some monuments have a slot for the card of visitors. The Japanese seem to respect and care for the resting places of their deceased family members and friends.
My friend Toshiko even planted flowers and placed a collection of stone owls on the monument stone of a 12 year old boy. He is no relation to her and she did not know him, but she has a stong feeling for him and his family.We visited the monument of the son of her friend Kuruda san too.
In this cemetery there are some large plots owned by groups such as churches where members can have their ashes together after death. Some plots are owned by business associates or a village. Some monuments have names in white for the dead and red for the living members. It is a very interesting and beautiful cemetery. Since my son Mr. Mark has cancer, I think more about dying and more about living too.

January 28, 2006

The Rollercoster Ride of Life and Cancer Continues
Mr. Mark met with his chemotherapy doctor and the lady radiologist recently and a heated discussion occurred over whether Mark should have radiofrequency ablation (RFA) for his liver tumors or not. Mark's primary physician: his chemo doctor says: "No RFA, Just chemo...more chemo until it doesn't help anymore" . The lady radiologist had suggested RAF would reduce the tumor load on the chemotherapy. We were excited about this idea, but for now the idea is vetoed. I think about finding a way to get cyberknife for Mark in the USA at a reasonable price, if it will help him, but not the $50,000 plus for those not on medicare. Mark is currently discouraged and admits it. He wonders if he just stays alive in order to wait out the two years to get on Medicare so he can die under Medicare when he really wants to get well and go back to work helping people as a respiratory therapist in the hospital.
Keeping Cheered Up - Kuhn Petey bird, some money his sister and I put in his bank account, and cards from people keep him cheered up and he keeps his sense of humor. He got a laugh out of a hat that jin, who helps take care of him, was knitting for me. Mark described the hat in an e-mail as being of green flourescent yarn and suitable for an alien baby. He told Jin to save it in case they run into any aliens.
Things are up and down and sometimes crazy. For example, on the way to the hospital to see the chemo doctor, Mr. Mark's taxi crashed into a truck and the taxi door would not open so Mr. Mark kicked it open, jumped out and got another taxi and continued on to the hospital to see the chemo doc and told me: "Wouldn't that be something to be killed in a taxi accident on the way to see the cancer doc?" But Mr. Mark was not killed and the roller coaster ride of life and cancer continues.
My best to you, Miss Betty the Mom

January 20, 2006

Mark Wearing Alien Baby Hat and Trying to look like an alien

Jin -Knitter of Alien Baby Hats

More on the Alien Baby Hat and Mark Creates the Perfect Caesar Salad
In an earlier blog, Mr. Mark shared that his friend Jin was knitting a neon green ski type hat that he claimed looked like it was suited for an alien baby and he told Jin to keep it in case they saw some aliens. Mark has chills at times and wears a ski hat and wraps up in a blanket on the balcony in the hot Bangkok sun to counteract the chills. He has taken to wearing the Alien Baby Hat and decided he likes it. He has suggested that Stephanie and I get one too in the same color and if we ever get to go skiing again like we used to that we will be able to spot each other easier on the slopes. The visability distance of this hat, according to Mark, is in the 100 yard range. He claims that if you are caught in an avalanche, the hat might stick up out of the snow and be visable by a passing helicopter. This hat is a potential life-saver.

Mr Mark's days are tough most of the time. He says he can take it if he has a good meal once in awhile and cards and letters. Mr. Mark claims to have made the perfect Caesar Salad this week, making the dressing from fresh ingredients. He also fixed one of the briskets I took him in my suitcase this last trip over and claims this helps his quality of life too . He will have another round of chemotherapy on Monday.

January 16, 2006

"Kuhn Petey" Staying With Mr. Mark as his Pet

Last Thursday, the day before I was to leave Bangkok for Japan, was a day of good luck all day long. Mark got the good news posted below, he got waited on right away twice in the grocery store when other people were in long lines which strangely enough caused him to be very happy and excited, and a parakeet appeared on my window sill after dark. I was in my room/office doing some computer work and decided to rest my eyes by looking out the window at the traffic. Usually I look straight out never pulling the curtain out away from the window, but this time I pulled the left curtain away from the window for some strange reason and I was looking at a blue parakeet admiring his reflection in the window. It was a little tricky, but he was brought in and spent the night on the inside window sill waiting for his cage to be purchased. Mark named him Petey after a bird his grandmother had for years. Mark is now caring for Mr. Petey (Kuhn Petey). Note: Men and women alike are addressed as "Kuhn" rather than having a Mr., Miss, and Mrs. as in English. The men say a slightly different greeting than the women, saying Sawadee Cup whereas the women say Sawadee Kah.Possibly birds have a different form of address but we are sticking with Kuhn Petey. Mr. Mark gives Mr. Petey his bath and covers his cage for his nap and at bedtime. It is good for someone who is very ill and getting so much care everyday to have something to care for. Mark wanted a little dog (Chihuahua), but Mr. Petey, a small miracle bird, dropped in to be Mr. Mark's houseguest/pet and is now under his care.

January 12, 2006

Great News Follows Depressing News
Mark received chemotherapy three days this week, staying overnight in the hospital the first day of chemotherapy. He asked his chemo doctor how long he would have to have chemotherapy. Answer: "Indefinately until the cancer eventually takes over some time." Wow...spending all this money and Mark being really sick from the chemo and weak and having so many strange side effects, as well as pain and doing this indefinately. It was not exhilerating news.
Even so, Mark looked the picture of health getting his chemo. He has pink complexion and is alert and well dressed. He has gained weight while I am here. He is cheerful, jokes with the nurses, and on the second day of chemo was exercising in the hall with his IV stand in tow. He was doing stretches including bending over and palms to the floor.

Yesterday during the third day of chemo Mark ran into his lady doctor who did his radiation and was asking her about cyber knife and other options and she told him she would go over his options with him if he would make an appointment. He made an appointment for today. She went over all his records with us. We will get copies tomorrow. The Cat scan report from the hospital on Saipan said something about a small lesion in the lung. There was not a lung lesion in subsequent Cat scans in Thailand. The endoscopy done recently actually shows the Gastro esophogeal tumor gone..not there. There are five lesions in the liver all about 2.5 cm each....and a few very small ones. Unless something changes, a radiofrequency may be a possibility on the ones under 3, though we worry the doctor will only be willing to RF one or two of them at a time; this is major surgery.

January 08, 2006

Young monks by the refrigerated casket of Pui
Pui's young friends and "The Mom" By Pui's casket (colorful box)

Wake and Cremation of Pui, Buri-Ram, Thailand about One Hour From Country of Laos.
On the 5th and 6th of January we went to the ceremonies for Pui our young friend who died. We went to her parent's home in Buri-Ram. I rented a vehicle to take us and we stayed at the beautiful home of friends of Jin's just down the street from Pui's parent's home. At the parent's home, the body was in a colorful and elaborately decorated refrigerated box which was on a platform in front of the house against a wall of the house. It was surrounded by huge arrangements of flowers sent from England, Europe and Thailand. Three huge portraits were displayed: one of the beautiful Pui and two of Pui and Ian on their wedding six months ago. The street in front of the home was blocked off and two huge awnings covered the street in front of the home. A loud speaker played music and chants by priests. Food and drink was served nearly all day and night. Huge kettles of Thai food was cooked outside. Tables were set up on mats in front of the house but were taken down when monks came for various scheduled ceremonies. At one time 17 monks were chanting in front of the mourners. On the second day we were there, the monks talked and chanted from early morning until about two pm and then the refrigerated box with the body was loaded onto a truck and a woven palm rope tied to the truck with a huge ball of string tied onto that. The mourners all ceremoniously pulled the truck holding onto the string. Our friend Ian, husband of the deceased carried her portrait and the string draped over his shoulder. We held to the string walking the long distance to the Budhist temple. There were more ceremonies, more chants, more talks. Each person in the large group of mourners who asked to be put on a list and who gave an envelope of money went up the steps to where the box with the body inside was displayed along with the beautiful flower displays. We each caried a robe for the monks and the envelope of money up the stairs, lit insense, and knocked on the box with the body. We went back down. Three times during the afternoon we went back up the stairs and said goodby, the last time the beautiful box was gone and a plain white box with the top open to view the body was there just outside the open crematorium door. I was holding the widower who had his back to the crematorium door, crying, unable to look upon the body of his beloved. We were at ground level and I was facing the crematorium up above. All the cloth things in the casket were being thrown out of the box which was then pushed into the crematorium. A man started putting wires together and then stepped back. Sparks flew and wooden pieces we had each carried up in one ceremony had been put in the box. These caught fire and the flames were quite visable. The door was not closed. Coins wrapped in gold paper were thrown to the crowd. Candies were thrown to the crowd. We next went to the home for more food, drink, and chanting and ceremonies...more insense, people walking around a carved pole three times, and other ceremonies. This will go on for sometime, but we eventually have to leave. The ashes will remain at the parent's home for 100 days and then go to a small Budha house at the temple with maybe a few ashes remaining with the parents. The ashes will be brought out each April and flower water sprinkled on them and they will be honored in ceremonies.

January 04, 2006

Adventures of Mark Richardson

Adventures of Mark Richardson

Unexpected Death of One of Mark's Young Friends and Mark Bakes Cookies

Mark and I started our day thinking about making cookies, but we got a call that Pui, a young friend we had visited in the hospital last week was expected to die soon. When we saw her last week, she knew us, greeted us, talked to us, and was expected to go home in a few days. Two days ago I could not find her in the hospital and thought she had gone home, but instead she was taken to ICU.

After the call came, Mark and I jumped in a cab to go see Pui, our Thai friend expected to die. This young Thai girl had married friend Ian six months ago and moved to Switzerland. She had recently come back to Thailand to visit her family. She became ill and was hospitalized. It was very sad when we arrived at ICU. The ICU room was filled with Thai people from the small village she was from including her mother and father and her husband, Ian who is from England, but lives and currently works in Switzerland. We all cried and said our goodbyes. When I said mine I saw she had money in each hand. She was unresponsive and she was having difficulty breathing. She was on a respirator. It could not be removed. I learned that this is not an option in a Thai hospital. Once on the respirator there is no pulling the plug, however the parenteral nutrition and medication could be withheld. Pui had been coded earlier and that could be with held. As a respiratory therapist Mark was very interested in figuring out what was going on. he talked with the doctor and nurse in charge and looked at the medications and the EKG strips and he studied the ventilator settings which were off a bit in his mind, but it didn't really matter since Pui was dying. When Mark and I left and were waiting outside for a cab, I asked friend Jin about the money in Pui's hands. I learned that this money is for Pui to spend for herself when she gets to Paradise. When she is cremated at the temple in her village, the money will be burned also. The Thai people firmly believe she will have that money when she arrives in Paradise and that she needs it. I thought to go back again tonight and put some money in her hands, but I'm not sure I will get that chance now.
Mark and I came home to make cookies and finish cooking a gallon of spaghetti sauce that we are making. Ian and maybe others will come for supper.
We had just finished baking the cookies when we received a call that friend Pui had died. Our golden girl, who always had a really big smile, who could eat crispy fried bugs, who was able to charm everyone she met, and who seemed to have the world by the tail, was gone.

Pui's unexpected death brought home to Mark that he will not necessarily die before me or before all his friends even though he has cancer and it has metastacized to his liver.