Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Saying Goodbye...Again!! I Will Honkin Miss You, Lisa Kison!!

In a years time I have had to say goodbye to my father in law, a treasured great aunt, my mom, a wonderful young man with Down syndrome, numerous family/church friends...and of my best friends.

I don't know if I can put into words the friendship Lisa VandeBoom Kison and I shared.  We met each other through a mutual friend while I was in high school.  There are some people that walk into your life and you just know that you have an immediate connection.  For me...Lisa was one of those people.  When I first met Lisa she was outgoing, extremely funny, loud and yet there was a very quiet, personal, private side to Lisa. I loved her larger than life personality, the way she snorted when she laughed, her quick smile and even quicker wit and sense of humor.  When we were young we frequented all the favorite places in Ozaukee County, Weilers, Schooner Pub, Maxwells, Sundance, The Grand Avenue Saloon and we never missed a county fair or the summer picnic circuit...and don't even get me started on Fish Day. I could always locate Lisa in any crowd by her snorting laugh, her voice and her never ending supply of headbands or bandannas that she wore because she was Lisa's honkin hot...and she hated to sweat. Both her and I had other friends that joined our weekend adventures but through the years Lisa and I remained solid in our friendship.  When we were out it wasn't uncommon for someone to ask where the other was since people were so used to seeing us together.

Time has a way of changing people and yet Lisa made sure that our friendship was always solid.  Boyfriends entered our world and I remember Lisa having conversations with me that "yeah, yeah, yeah...a boyfriend is fine but you don't ever lose touch or stop hanging out with your friends, boyfriends can come and go, but your family and your true friends are the ones that are going to stick by you through anything." She was wise, she was never one to mince words and she always had my back.

I knew when I first met Lisa that she was a very private person...kinda the opposite of me at the time.  And our differences were many...Lisa never wanted to venture outside of Ozaukee County and I wanted to travel everywhere...Lisa loved the family's pig farm and I would just cringe as she would tell me that she would pick me up as soon as they were done castrating pigs...I don't know if I ever saw Lisa in a skirt or dress and I wore suits to work everyday...Lisa had a strong foundation of street smarts and common sense and I was a little more gullible...Lisa had shoulders like a line backer even without her 80's style shoulder pads and I was the weak, scrawny one...Lisa could do farm chores with the best of them and I would have been lucky if I could have picked up a hay bale and yet our differences didn't matter in the least.

When Lisa lost her mom at a young age she seemed to also lose her faith in God. I remember attending her mom's funeral and how sad and lost Lisa looked...never realizing that so many years later she would attend my mom's and I would look the same.

When I met Jeff, now my husband of almost 20 years...Lisa wasn't too keen on him.  She wasn't sure he was right for me, reliable enough and she told me in so many words that he had a lot of growing up to do and I think part of her worried that our friendship would change. But when she saw how happy I was with Jeff, as she watched us grow up together during our 11 or so years of dating...she knew I wasn't rushing into anything and Jeff won her over right along with me.  Over the years and the many twists and turns in our life together she has commented so often how lucky I am to have Jeff because he loves me, supports me and backs me in everything I do.

One of Lisa's biggest passions besides Terry, or Turd as she liked to call him, was taking care, loving and helping children, all children reach their full potential. A pretty amazing passion for a woman who never had children of her own, she loved and I mean loved and cared for other peoples children as if they were her own.  When I first hung out with Lisa she worked at a daycare and we forever had little children running up to us at fairs and picnics yelling "Miss Lisa, Miss Lisa". I would often tease her and begin calling her Miss Lisa myself. But you couldn't miss the excitement and how Lisa's eyes lit up each and every time she saw "one of her kids".  The daycare knew they had an amazing employee and so they promoted her to management.  Lisa's love of her job changed as she got further away from the children and had to deal more with paperwork and employees. It was at this time that I received a phone call from Lisa that I will never forget.  She said, "Hey Sue, I just wanted to let you know (at this point her voice cracked and I knew that something was very, very wrong) that I'm in the hospital because I had...(she stopped took a deep breath, and began to cry) a heart attack."  I was beyond stunned, my friend was only in her late 30' could she have a heart attack?  I told her I'm on my way, hung up and went to the hospital. We talked and cried and she finally opened up about her stress and worries regarding her job and how much she missed her daily interaction with kids.  I told her it was time to change jobs, plain and simple, because as usual I'm the one that flies by the seat of my pants and then there was logical, analytical Lisa who said "Oh, I can't rush into something like that...what about the money and my responsibility...I need to think it through."  My last comment was "Lisa, you have to do what is right for you but your health and happiness is so much more important than any job title...and I need you here."

Over time Lisa chose to change jobs and she began as an aide for children with special needs in the Grafton school district.  She LOVED this job, she LOVED the children she worked with. Yesterday her sister Lori told us a story about a conversation she and Lisa had. She asked Lisa if it was tough or discouraging when you work on something over and over or the child doesn't progress very quickly. And Lisa answered as if she were a mom of a child with special needs, she said, "Lori, you can't imagine how exciting and encouraging it is to see a child you have worked with come out of the bathroom with his pants up and zippered and you are both yelling "We did it." Lisa learned the life lesson that Sam strives to teach each and every day, never take a moment, an accomplishment (no matter how small) for granted. Every success is to be celebrated! We are all unique and it isn't about the level or the quantity of our accomplishments but instead acknowledging the individual for their individual success...for their individual accomplishments.

Life is funny and God is good...really, really good.  A short time after Lisa started her new career I gave birth to my 3rd child Sam.  Sam came into this world with quite a few special needs, Down syndrome, a brain injury, hearing loss, aphasia, apraxia and a whole host of respiratory/immune system issues.  Not the road I had planned on but the path God had prepared me for.  I was already volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House and Make A Wish and my best friend just happened to be an aide for special needs children and the house that Jeff and I built for our family was semi-handicap accessible.  My journey with Sam has been filled with twists and turns and at every one Lisa was there to talk with, brainstorm with and sometimes to just listen.  We learned from each other, she taught me the school perspective and I taught her the parent perspective and together we loved, laughed and shared our many experiences.

No matter how crazy my life got she always checked in with me.  If we had gone too long between dinners she sent me a card. Oh, and that's another thing you should know about Lisa, she was the Queen of Hallmark.  I always hoped she had stock in the company.  She never missed a birthday, anniversary, holiday or reminder that it was time to get together...EVER.  She was known for sending cards with sparkly stuff that would fall out of them so I began to open my cards slower and shake them a bit before I took them out of the envelope. She always made me laugh and smile with her choice of cards and comments and she often signed her name with a heart. As usual I was the opposite, forgetting birthdays, holidays...terrible about sending out cards which would normally cause a person to stop reciprocating but that never happened with Lisa.  She knew my life, my schedule, my tendency to fly by the seat of my pants and she continued to always send me a card on every single holiday, event, birthday and sometimes just because she wanted to.

When Lisa met Terry I could tell there was something special about this guy.  It always made me chuckle when she would tell me stories about "Turd", honestly of all the nicknames in the world??? She loved her Turd, he made her happy, he made her feel safe and he made her laugh and smile.  Granted they had their disagreements, just like any marriage, but they never yelled at each other...of course Lisa never had to yell at you to let you know she wasn't happy with you.  She just sorta had this look...I would describe it as a small squint of the eyes and her mouth closed and straight across, jaw kinda clenched...that spoke volumes.  Turd was her world and their special place was Door County...yeah...he finally got her to leave Ozaukee County.

Over the years and through many of my life challenges Lisa would ask me how I stayed strong, how I didn't give up and I told her it was my faith.  Some of the things in my life were more than I could handle and I had to give them to God to deal with.  When Turd was diagnosed with cancer Lisa learned first hand that work, family and this new twist in their journey was more than she could handle and she began to find comfort going to Holy Hill, praying and re-establishing her faith. Our dinner talks often included conversations about God, faith and the effects of our life here on earth. I was comforted knowing that my friend had found her faith again.

Lisa LOVED her family, her sister, her brothers, her dad (she still desperately missed her mom) but especially her nieces and nephews and the now growing extended family. Our dinner conversations always included an update on the family, sometimes pictures but always, always wonderful stories. Honestly, I had a hard time keeping track of such an extensive and wonderful family but each time I would look confused she would simply go through the family tree for me again telling me who was married to whom and their children and who they married and their children until she thought I had it all straight....right!! Her face lit up when she talked about her nieces and nephews and their growing families.  She was so proud of all of you and she loved each and everyone of you with her whole heart.

Lisa thought my road trips were crazy...of course Lisa thought a lot of things I did were crazy...go figure.  I would tell her about my next adventure and she would start with "Oh, for the crumb sake..." and then she would go on from there. We would always have dinner when I got back so she could relive the adventure with me and we were planning to get together this week to talk about my North Carolina road trip and plan our trip to Door County. It was during one of my road trips, this one to California that I learned that Terry had passed away.  I broke off from my family and told them I needed to call Lisa, I sat on the rocks talking and listening as my tears blended with the Pacific Ocean.  My heart hurt so bad for my dear friend and I felt so out of place not being there to comfort her.  But when I returned we went out to dinner and tried to talk but I knew she was hurting so bad.  We left the restaurant and headed to the Upper Lake Park in Port Washington and sat on the bench overlooking Lake, the box of Kleenex and Lisa.  We talked, cried, hugged, cried some more and pretty much emptied the box.

Lisa was so lost and lonely without Turd.  She had good days and bad but not a one went by without her missing her soul mate.  We tried to help each other, me with the multiple deaths in my family and her with Turd.  One day she got a call that one of her students was very ill and in the hospital.  Lisa shared stories but not names however this young man was well known to me because he had Down syndrome and his mom was one of the first people Lisa hooked me up with after I gave birth to Sam. Lisa loved all the children she worked with but Peter and his family adopted Lisa as part of their family. Peter could be stubborn, he liked to pull fire alarms but he loved "KKKiiissssooonnn"! Another thing about Lisa that I really admired was her level of expectations and the way she made sure her kids with special needs were held accountable for their actions. As a mom of a child with special needs I can tell you from first hand experience that Sam likes to play the Down syndrome card at times.  I will ask him to do something and he will act like he didn't hear me, doesn't understand me or doesn't think I am speaking English.  And then I add an incentive, maybe some grapes or a couple of chips and whamo that task is done in a heart beat. I promise you these kids are much, much smarter than we all think. Peter liked Lisa and he listened to her...he would test his boundaries and Lisa would make sure he knew exactly what they were.  Lisa enjoyed Peter for being Peter, nothing else mattered.  She went to his Challenger games and she even cared for him at times outside of school. She really enjoyed all her time with Peter and the Grams family.  Lisa had gone to see Peter in the hospital but she was upset that she wasn't there when he passed away, she was taking care of her Dad at that point. Lisa had a caretakers soul, she took care of her family, her friends, her students often times much more than she would take care of herself. Lisa didn't just visit you, she spent 3 hours with you or an entire afternoon with you.  Lori explained to Lisa that she wasn't supposed to be there then and she should go to the family because they probably needed her now, so she did and she was so happy that she did. Peter's funeral service was beautiful, touching and uplifting, but I knew that Lisa was now missing Terry and Peter.

Last week was Lisa's 52nd birthday and the 1st year anniversary of Terry's death.  I knew this was going to be a hard time for her and I was going to be on yet another road trip. Before I left I sent her a dozen purple roses, Lisa's favorite color. On the card I said "I know this birthday is going to be a tough one, deep purple roses are a sign of enduring love and I know Turd would want you to have these." We texted back and forth all week long as she traveled to Door County and I to North Carolina. On Monday when I got home, as usual, a thank you card was waiting for me.  Monday was a great day and then on Tuesday Jeff called me in the morning and asked if I was sitting down, never a good sign.  I did and he told me that one of his workers had been called home because his Aunt died and when he said his name I knew that he was talking about Lisa. Lisa's niece and sister called to tell me what happened and I knew that although the coroner was sure she died of a massive heart attack or stroke...I knew she died of a broken heart.

That first day of getting news like that is always the toughest, I went to her sister's house and helped in any way I could. We cried, we hugged and we cried some more.  By the time I came home last night my entire face hurt but nothing hurt more than my heart and the realization that I lost my best friend.

But today when I woke up I knew that Lisa was at peace, she was with Terry and Peter, she was filling in my mom, Jay and Annie on everything and again!  I will miss my friend each and every day but I will be comforted in the knowledge that she is back with the ones she loved and missed while she was here on earth.  I can say "Goodbye" because I know it means "God be with you" but I will look forward to the day that we meet again and in my mind I picture Lisa happy, laughing, her arm around Terry and holding hands with Peter.

Lisa, you were one in a million, my friend, my sister from another mother, my cheerleader, my sounding board.  We learned, loved and changed each other by our commitment to be friends forever. I will miss everything about you and not a day will go by that I won't stop and think of you...and smile. I LOVE YOU, MY FRIEND and I was blessed to be your friend.


  1. Sue - Although we live in the same community, we dont know each other - however thanks to the great WWW....I stumbled across this blog entry - This was the sweetest most heartfelt Post I have ever read Everyone should have a friend like you Lisa was lucky to have you - Blessings to you and your family - Chris K

  2. I agree with Chris K. It was beautiful!

  3. Oh Sue, What a beautiful tribute for a beautiful person. My husband and I have known Lisa and Turd for years, the words you put in "black and white" which were spoken from your heart, fit them so well. Lisa worked with my son at the day care almost 30 years ago. It was always so great knowing she was there looking out for my little guy. I also work in special education, so I know how attached you get to "our" kids. When you lose one like I did 3 years ago it is like losing one of your own. I saw Lisa in the beginning of June and she told me, "It's just so hard!". So when I heard she had a heart attack, I also knew it was from a broken heart. Thank you for sharing your special friendship. I am sure you now have a special Guardian Angel. Jill M.

  4. Oh Sue, I am sorry for your pain, again. Jeanne.

  5. Lisa, I have missed you for 5 months and a day does not go by that I don't think about you. As I go through my challenges now I want you to know that each and every day, numerous times during the day I look at the plaque you gave me or I touch it for added support and I think of you. I guess you knew exactly what I needed. I am doing what that plaque says "Trust in the Lord with all your heart" Amen!!