Friday, September 11, 2015

Happy Birthday Ney!

I wish our Rene the happiest of birthdays today! She is in heaven doing her good work there and getting to sit before the feet of God and relish in the joy of the heavenly life! How's that for a birthday gift??!!

If she were here, we would likely be grilling burgers and watching kids and puppies (and now pig and bunnies too) run around the yard at the Lepiane house, and teasing her with silly Over-the-hill jokes. There would be singing, cake and gifts to top off the evening, and most of all, there would be much laughter and many hugs. I hope that anyone who reads this post will take 5 minutes to smile and think of a Rene memory, and how she inspired you to find joy in your day.

A few of my favorite Rene memories:

1. Her "Hey Baby!" greeting when she opened her front door to meet us
2. The way that she help my babies like they were the most precious gems in the world
3. The way that she walked about young people and sought to encourage the growth and prosperity of young minds and lives
4. The way that she talked about her family and friends, as if they were her everything
5. Her beautiful hands
6. Her amazing craft closet which never ran out of the exact item we needed for crafting, at the exact moment we needed it
7. Her short jokes about Grandma Joyce
8. Her admiration for her mother
9. The way that she teased my Dad, Jay and Grandpas, and somehow made them blush and beam at the same time
10. That she REALLY listened, and that she saw my authentic heart, and that she encouraged me to suck the marrow out of this beautiful gift of earthly life

Notes of Encouragement:

I am encouraged today to stand tall and to embrace the adventure of life. I say adventure, because I believe that it is just that. I wasn't meant to meet status quo, but to see and do everything that is possible within my lifetime. To test the limits and boundaries of what feels "safe", because what lies beyond is where living begins! Our amazing pastor (P Bob) at Calvary Church Los Gatos recently reminded us about this, using a surfing analogy. There are those who forever see the waves, and even get in the water on their boards and bob, but how many ever stand on the end of a wave and let go to the freedom of trusting in the outcome. How many people ever get the liberty of unshackling themselves from binding and untrue expectations, and soaring to their true potential?

I think that Rene believed this. She was not herself a known adventure seeker in the Indiana Jones sense of the the term, but she had an uncanny knack of bringing out the adventurer in others, and encouraging them to pursue their dreams. I appreciate the gift that she gave me in being the person that God gave me to bring my life this perspective.

And now I encourage others to pursue your own personal version of adventure. To embrace your life and your opportunities. To see and do new things that bring you thrill. To find your clan and to  LOVE, beyond all other things.

Happy Birthday Rene!!!

Smiles for you

Today I remember you, i celebrate your wondrous spirit and honor the love that you shared with so many. Thank you for continuing to guide our family, watch over our children, and remind us of the beautiful world that God has given us. I love you Rene and miss your sweetness. -your "Jaybird"

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I dreamed...


I dreamed last night that you were still by some miracle, alive. I came home and you were up walking around, and SO HUNGRY! You wanted to sit down and talk and eat a bit of food. You were thin and sick, but had joy in your eyes to be alive. I felt so grateful to have one more day with you, to sit and chat and hold your hand, just to be together.

I miss you everyday, but in my dreams you are still alive in my life. I can hear your voice, I can smell your familiar smell, I can hold your hand, we can talk and hug and

I am glad that you are with God in heaven and know you are having a blast!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Two Years

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. - Galations 5:16-26

Today marks the second year after Rene passed from this earth. I remember that night like it was two minutes ago. It was a warm night and the family gathered around her to try and keep her comfortable for her last hours with us. There were not many smiles that night. The air felt heavy and tense with sadness. Sadness for Rene whose body looked so worn out and uncomfortable, sadness for each-other that she would be gone from our daily lives. Many of use had been up for the better part of four days by then, hoping that small acts would help her stay relatively pain-free for her last days. I remember watching the clock to be sure that I gave her medication precisely as described, her month/my grandma dabbing her lips with petroleum jelly to keep the cracks from getting too deep, my dad swabbing her mouth with ice to keep it cool and moist. I wanted to crawl in bed with her, but every touch seemed to hurt her, so I carefully laid my head next to her's so she could feel my breath and my heartbeat. I don't know if she was aware it was me, but I wanted her to feel the sense of life next to her so that she would feel warm and cared for. 

Towards the very end, it seemed that everyone in the house could sense that she was ready to depart. The gentle hospice nurse had prepared us to be ready. Someone opened the doors, allowing Rene to feel the breezes from heaven on her skin (a feeling that is truly a gift, upon reflection). Others bowed their heads in prayer while one or two seemed to hum a song. Someone lashed out in anger and had to run off and hide, away from the stress of the moment. I broke away, having to get out into the air and take a breath. I walked outside and down the driveway. I found a cool spot in a dark corner and buried my hands in my lap, sobbing. I called my husband to cry together. It was then that I felt a cool breeze, which was followed by someone gathering my to come inside. She was gone from her body, much like the way she was born to it. In a moment. I imagined her lifting away from her body, from her room. I know she was ready, more than ready. I don't even picture her looking back because she knew where she was going and that there was nothing left of her body to support her amazing spirit. I lay next to her body, knowing that I could no longer hurt her, but somehow finding comfort in holding her. I knew her spirit was gone, but I laid there for what could have been minutes but what felt like an hour.

It was late then, and we were all numb. Numb from loss, numb to ourselves and each other. We are still numb I think. It has been two years, but it felt like two minutes ago. We are changed now, forever. Be it grief or sadness, be it that we lost the glue that help us together. We are cracked like an old tea cup that cannot be repaired. We added more grief upon grief, and the layers are too many to count. How did one women hold so many people together in that way? How were we so fragile that we cracked without her? 

I am reminded today of the fruits of the spirit. Why are we given them as a guide? Because they are the glue that we must continue to use to keep us together. The sins of the flesh are powerful. Anger, grief-stricken behavior. It makes us human. We are lovely for being human. It is when we choose to be godly, when we choose forgiveness over grudge, when we choose love over hate or even laziness, when we choose humility over ambition, that we are closer to God. Closer to that breeze that carried Rene away that warm night two years ago. I know I fail every day at this, and I am disappointed when I do. But I keep Rene's picture in my kitchen as a reminder to choose these fruits of my spirit, when I am tempted to behave poorly. I remind my children to make "good choices", to have a "kind heart", to "try their best", because this is what Christ would have us do. This is what Rene knew, and what she taught us all. She was humble to know that she would always fall short, as would all humankind. She was wise enough to know that we should keep trying and that we are forgiven. We are forgiven. We forgive.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. I will go on. I choose to. I will fail every day, and I will succeed every day. I am reminded to be humble, to love. The spread this to my children so that they will love. Rene is my compass, my reminder. Her memory keeps me honest, helps me right my wrongs, and move forward. I cannot go around life, I must go through it. That is the gift after all. 

Two years. 

I love you Rene. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Missing Rene

Every day that gets closer to August 8 weighs heavier on my heart. I am deeply sad, but I also know that I need to push that energy outwards. I am grateful for your photo in my kitchen that reminds me every day to get up, and take on the day. I am grateful that you remind to focus on the positive, to "Get over it, baby!" and to do my best every day. Because of you, I tell me children each morning to "have fun, work hard, and do your best". I don't hope that they are the smartest, the prettiest, the strongest. I hope that they try their hardest, that they stretch their abilities as far as they can, and that they savor every emotion, every smell, every image that they can each day. I loved that about your life. Your ability to find the rich flavor in the simplest of moments, in each person that you crossed paths with. Thank you for teaching me, and leaving me with your wisdom as your legacy. I miss you.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Happy Birthday Rene!

Happy Birthday dear Rene. We made chocolate cupcakes in your honor today and sang "Happy Birthday". Cooper even sang it again himself! It was a joyful day and we celebrated the wonderful life that you lead. We carry you with us every day!

The kids and I went to the farmer's market quite early today. I wanted to let Jay sleep in given that he has let me sleep in just about the last 3 months in a row! We snuck out and went for coffee and fresh flowers, fruits and veggies in Campbell, and then decided to "hunt for treasure" at yard sales. We stopped by several that lacked anything worth getting out of the car for, before we came to a great yard near our house. We hit the motherload!! Not only did this house have TONS of things that we were looking for, the sale was hosted by three of the loveliest ladies that I have met in a long time! We scooped up a table for the yard and four chairs, a trunk FULL of costumes, a racer scooter for Addi, and a garbage bag full of legos, and we had so much fun doing it! The ladies were welcoming and sisterly, and we laughed and watched the kids go through all of the treasures. Before leaving I had to hug the gals and gave them my contact info because something told me that they are extra special. Lulu even stopped by later with more costumes!!

Later, my Dad stopped by for a visit. I was telling him about the yard sale, but didn't mention where we went. He then described a yard that he had just visited and picked up some biblical literature, and had a blast. IT WAS THE SAME SALE!! I honestly believe that we were all meant to visit those gals today. Perhaps it was to bring us a cheerful day, or because we were supposed to make the connection with those wonderful ladies, but whatever the reason, I am thrilled with the impact. We were so cheerful, that we came home (after calling Jay to bring the truck!) and I redecorated the entire house. I switched the living room and dining room, just to mix things up. I have fall nesting syndrome, or get on with life syndrome, or something to that degree and it feels wonderful! I felt and extra pep in my step, and wanted to sing happy birthday all day! :)

Rene- you are with me as I move art, and search for treasure and make cupcakes. You and all that you have taught me live on in the choices I make, large or small. I have so much to be thankful for, and I am thankful for every minute that I shared with you, and now every minute that you guide me forward.

Happy Birthday dear...I am with you forever.



Monday, August 8, 2011

One Year

Today is the anniversary of Rene's passing. I have spent the week reliving the last couple of weeks of Rene's life. It is as though I never really processed it, and my body decided to relive it as a way to finally address it. This was by far the hardest year of my life, and of many others in our family. I discovered, much to my dismay, that Rene was indeed the glue that held us together. Cracks, which may have existed decades before today, became apparent, or even broke open without her here. I am not sure if it was her joy, her patience, her drive to allow us to be exactly who we are without apology, or simply a relentless drive to bring us all together and make us feel our best that held the group together. Without her here, we had to feel the cracks, the breaks, and stand up on our own.

The last two weeks of her life were hard. They were hard on her body, and hard on her heart. They were hard on the hearts of the family. She did not want to go. She was ready, but she was not happy about the fate that stood before her. She wanted to see her grandchildren grow up and be there at there weddings. She wanted to be there for her parents when they most need her. She wanted to join her husband on more Hawaiian vacations with their best friends. She wanted to sit quietly and have more girl time with me. She wanted to nurture her students into college and see them grow into mature young adults. She wanted to do more. Those weeks were hard.

I am also surprised to remember that they were rejoicful in many ways. Rene LITERALLY hung on to every last breath as precious gold, taking in her family as though each individual was the most precious treasure in the world. For her, we are her treasure. Her family, her friends, her God. That was her life. She served others and was fed by the energy of her efforts, though it came effortlessly. I would watch her as she watched the family, come into the room and leave the room. She wanted the children to play near by, just so that she could hear the sounds they made and they happily pushed their cars or interacted. She loved for us to sit and converse in the room, even if she was too tired to keep her eyes open. She wanted to be surrounded by those she loved, and who loved her back. That is the woman she was...devoted until her last breath to those that she loved.

I remember many things about Rene every day. She is so much a part of my day and my subconsciousness. The things that I remember most regularly are small nuances that made her the beautiful mother that I know her to be. Today, I kept remembering the day that she came home with "the best pedi of her life!". A gift from her neighbor. It was a Rose colored polish that stayed on for weeks and looked fabulous! It added a certain spark to her look and her demeanor. It might seem insignificant, but just a little polish, and she glowed like Miss America! She made that polish look like the most stylish and beautiful beauty treatment ever! She did that for pins and scarves as well. They may as well have been from the pages of What's Hot in InStyle Magazine. She rocked a Brighton bracelet like it was a Cartier. She could come home with a $4 blouse and make it look like a designer find. It was her confidence and inner beauty that made these insignificant possessions shine.

Rene's spirit shone a brightness on more that just accessories...she did this for the people that she loved and admired. She brought out the beauty in people that they perhaps did not even see, or indeed others did not recognize. She had a knack for taking the good with the bad, and not resenting the bad. She didn't take it personally. She made my children and husband, my Dad (her husband) and the rest of her family, feel like the best things that ever happened to her. She allowed us to feel special in her eyes, and encouraged us to follow our hearts. She truly wanted us to be happy, and if lucky, make good choices. :)

It is hard for me to pinpoint what I most miss about her tonight. I just miss her. Intellectually, I know that she is in a peaceful place and that I should rejoice, but my heart simply wants her back in person. I miss hearing her say, "Hey Baby" as she opened her front door, I miss her chicken divan, I miss holding her hand, I miss watching What Not to Wear and commenting on the outfits with her, I miss making her try on fabulous and expensive outfits "just because", I miss how she and Jay would sit and make fun of my Dad and I being 'cut from the same cloth', I miss the way she would play with my kids and and hold them like they were treasure, I miss the way that she looked at my Dad with pure love, I miss the way she said "I love you", just because, I miss the way she sang off key because...who cares!, I miss the way that she beamed when she had completed a successful event at work, I miss the way she wiped the kitchen counters down every night before she would turn off the kitchen light and head for bed, I miss her silly nightshirts with cats or flowers on them, I miss her smile, and I miss her voice. I miss all of her, the wonderful, and the even the not so wonderful. I miss all of her. I love who she is, warts and all, just as she loved us.

Today is about Rene, and it is also a new beginning. The pain of loss is deep and acute. It feels much the same as it did one year ago. That said, I know that it is time to move forward and use that pain as energy for driving some of the goodness that she drove every day. I make that commitment to myself and to her.

I love you Rene, today and always.

Your daughter

Monday, August 1, 2011

Almost a Year?

I woke up this morning with the heaviest chest- I could hardly breath. I spent all last week in deep depression and I could NOT figure out why. I realized that it has been almost a year since Rene left us. This was the last week of her life a year ago. It still hurts like it was yesterday.

I miss you Rene. I hear you telling me to be positive, so I am going to spend the week being grateful. I am grateful for you, for my kids and husband, for my family. I am grateful to be employed, to have a home and healthy food to eat. I am grateful for friends. I miss you Rene.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
-1Thessalonians 5:18

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Online Postings

Y! Acts of Kindness:
The Valley Catholic:

Friday, July 1, 2011

Award Recipient

I am not sure if anyone is still out there, checking this blog, but I must admit that it feels a bit cathartic to come here and talk about Rene.

The pain of missing her doesn't go away, and the pain of the family challenges which resulted from her death keep the wounds a bit gaping, but I must say that I felt spring coming on this year like warmth seeping through my pores and into my nerves. It is a warmth of new beginnings, a warmth of rebirth. It is strange not to have Rene physically present for a birth of any kind, as I thought that of all people in my life, she would be here the longest and most frequently. But she is here in my heart. I keep her close to my decision making most of all. "What would Rene do" is often a mantra that I pass through my mind, like a calm chant reminding me to think before I speak, to pause before I act, to remember that all people have their own pain that they are contending with, and that I should always remember to give them the benefit of the doubt. She has become a sort of conscious for me, but she also reminds me to think clearly for myself. To be confident. To have courage and conviction. To look to God in all things. Not that I always listen...but she knows that about me too. The thing about Rene is that she knew I wasn't perfect. She knew that she wasn't perfect. She understood and encouraged others to make mistakes, to brush themselves off and say they are course correct. I hope to give others that liberty when I am able.

I heard from a friend at Notre Dame today who let me know that a recipient of the Rene Lepiane Student Leadership Award for 2011 was selected. I won't type her name in order to protect her privacy, but I wanted to copy a couple of lines from her essay:

"Good leaders show confidence and pride in their work. Also, they ask opinions of their peers to make better decisions. Leaders should be humble, knowing that they are not superman and cannot do everything...My experience has taught me a number of things. God's plan requires us to be strong and gives us the opportunities to become more mature. Although these chances are hard and heart-wrenching, they are worth it in the long run." - Anonymous

I am so proud to see that this type of message is coming from some of our own young women in the bay area. This gives me great hope in our future female leaders, moms, sisters, bosses. Rene tried her best to spread this type of message to all of the young people that she touched, and would be proud to know that these girls are at her very own school. She was proud of the young people in her life, and quietly revered them for the individuals that they are, and the incredible adults they will be.

I am thinking of Rene today, and thinking of all of the people whose lives she touched and those who touched her life. I hope that these words, should you read them, will give you a little boost today. Enjoy the sun and happy 4Th of July!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Thinking of You

Thinking of you Rene, during this most holy of weeks. I am thankful for a great deal. For my family, for our home and food, for the work that sustains our lives, for our friends. Life tastes a bit different though, without you. Somehow blander, not so spicy. I know you want me to find the spice again, because you always found a way to spread it around to those who needed to be lifted up or energized. I promise to continue to work on that, and I hope that others are able to recover as well.

The pain of living without Rene doesn't really seem to leave, as I thought it would. It doesn't really even fade. I have just gotten more used to it than I was on August the 9th...but not so used to it that it doesn't still feel foreign. It nags at me in the back of my mind, and tugs at my soul. I suppose that is what people were describing in various books I have read, when writing about death, and how it makes us stronger. It is a burden somehow, a weight on the living, knowing that they will not see their loved one again, until they themselves are standing before the Lord. Grief is a new muscle that one must develop and use. You cannot go around it, you must go through it. You must own it. You must let it be a part of you.

Cooper still asks me when he will get to visit Grandma in heaven. I want to scream "NEVER!" because the idea of a 3 yr old in heaven scares me. But then I remember that he will be with Jesus, the greatest reward of all, and I tell him that one day, he will get to visit Grandma. One day we will all get to visit with her, and be in the presence of The Lord, together. I am thankful for that today, but also thankful that I am right where I am, grief and all.

Happy Good Friday, Holy week, Passover, Easter to all! Thinking of you and your amazing love and community. I hope that you all join me in thinking of Rene today as well.

Lots of love,

Kristen Sanders

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Happy Birthday Rene!

Today was a day of celebration, remembrance and sadness as we found ourselves trying to spend Rene’s 50th Birthday in a way we thought she would have enjoyed.

This morning we woke up, packed the car with our two children and Max, our 3rd “child for a day” then waited until the familiar Blue Rav-4 pulled up outside our house. Except this time it was different, the car was dirtier then Rene would like, and she did not get out and greet us with her familiar bubbly smile. She always kept a car duster on hand, swiping the odd grime from the hood before leaving, taking pride in the shiny little SUV. But we felt like the car looked, a little sad, a little clouded, and missing that sparkle Rene brought to our lives. Cooper yelled Grandpa! As Chris emerged from the car and we quickly inserted a large coffee into his hand as he got into ours. “Happy-Hollow!…Happy-Hollow!…Happy-Hollow!” Chimed the back seat as our destination was revealed and the car thundered off towards the freeway.

Today we celebrated the way Rene always did….by making it about everyone else, not just her. The joy she had spending time with Cooper and Addison was always the best gift she would say, relishing every moment. So we burst through the gates of the zoo and quickly immersed ourselves in new rides, animals, snacks, treats, sun, dragons, bugs and a forest of slides and towers. It was a long day, but everyone left with a smile, having enjoyed watching, playing, eating and being a family.

Later we joined up again, this time at a favorite Sushi restaurant that Rene enjoyed so much, and it was too much. We all cried a little and felt the weight of her absence and toasted to her, our Rene and we felt her next to us, a familiar place, chair beckoning to be filled. We shared stories with Judy, Rene’s “Sushi-Sister” whom was always asking about us, had another round of Sake, and finished with ice cream at Cold Stone, a true birthday dinner that Rene would have loved.

We love you Rene, and as Cooper said tonight; “Mommy, don’t be sad, Rene is up in Heaven, She is having fun activities and playing like at Happy Hollow.” Thank you Cooper.

Happy Birthday Rene,

Love, -Jay