Saturday, September 24, 2016

Gram's 7th Annual Banana Split Party

The party was a bit late this year but Kaden made sure that we celebrated Gram with banana splits! We met Uncle Bert and Aunt Liz at Nonnie's Ice Cream Parlor in Tomball on a night that even Gram could have tolerated sitting outside.  The kids played in the park across the street while we caught up on Cousin Sean's adventures. I still miss her every single day and wish she could see just how awesome her grandkids are!

Monday, September 7, 2015

6th Annual Banana Split Party

This year we celebrated Gram's Banana Split Party on Labor Day.  The family plus Coach Deana came over ... we grilled mini hamburgers then finished up with banana splits.  It was quiet and relaxing ... missing Gram.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Gram's 5th Annual Banana Split Party

We held Gram's Banana Split Party on July 6th this year with family and a few close friends.  The kids swam and had a blast making their crazy banana splits!  Gram would have loved it.  Miss her every. single. day.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Gram's 4th Annual Banana Split Party

This year we held the banana split party a bit later as we were traveling in July.  We had a family only party this year!  We all had a good time and shared our favorite Gram stories!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Gram's 3rd Annual Banana Split Party

We held the third annual Banana Split Party in memory of Gram.  It's hard to believe that Mom has been gone for three years.  The kids were only 4 when she went to heaven and now they are 7 -- and boy have the kids grown, changed and continued to amaze us.  Their memory of Gram continues to fade but we continue to remind them that they were loved by an extraordinary woman for the first four and half years of their lives ... and she continues to smile at them from heaven every single day!  Miss you Mom!

Monday, September 19, 2011

810 Days

If I did the math right, it's been 810 days since Mom passed away.  Maybe once its been 1,000 I won't "tear up" on a daily basis.  I guess at that point I can give up mascara forever if I still cry daily.  Don't get me wrong ... this "tear up" think isn't all that dramatic and most of the time a tear doesn't even make it down my cheek.  It happens at the strangest times with and without any apparent triggering.  There's the kids wanting to discuss Gram in the middle of driving down the road ... when did she die?  why did she die?  what disease did she have?  where's her body?  what does she look like now?  Basically any and all questions that run through the mind of a six year old.  Though rare they will sometimes cry telling me that they miss Gram.  My moments tend to hit me when one of the kids do something extraordinary which is often.  When Addison does her next trick in gymnastics, when Kaden wants to discuss some natural disaster or when Zander draws the perfect dinosaur.  I am getting all weepy now on my way to a business meeting as I write.  I guess I should have purchased the latest James Patterson book after all.  I still maintain our blog as if she is looking at it every day.  I laugh as our "views" have gone down significantly since she passed.  I made a movie of Addison's first competition and cried buckets thinking about just how many times she would have watched it over and over and over.  I think of her almost every night as I try to fall asleep.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Gram Smiles from Heaven

Last night I was helping Addison into the car when she noticed the crescent moon in the sky.  She pointed and said " Look Mommy, Gram is smiling at us.  She is saying I love you and good night!"

The way they look at the world never ceases to amaze me.  All three kids are very "matter-of-fact" and incredibly optimistic.  They "play" going to heaven with their animals and with each other.  It seems to be their way of working through the loss of their Gram.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Memories of Gram

It has been interesting to see what memories the kids have of Gram. When you ask if they remember her they will typically say that she is in heaven, that she died and that she had myeloma. But then at the most unusual times they will come up with something you did not expect. During a Valentine's Day breakfast with Nana, Granpa and the five of us Zander looked up at me and asked why did my Mommy die and why did she have myeloma. Later that same day as we were driving the kids to AWANA's Addison said that she knew where Gram was. That in her brain she knew that Gram was on a cloud up in heaven. She said that she was on the clouds because they were so fluffy.

Today Addison put on a pink sweat suit to wear over her leotard to go to gymnastics. She asked me where the pink sweat suit came from and I told her that I thought Gram had purchased it for her. To this she said, "No, Gram bought me the smaller one. I got this one for my 5th birthday and Gram was not at my 5th birthday she was at my 4th birthday." Wow. I later remember that I bought the sweat suit from Marshall's. On the drive home from gymnastics I asked Addison what she remembered about Gram just to see what she would say. She said, "I sat in her lap a lot and I think we played games, she died and she went to heaven, and she always made me feel very special". To this I replied "Yes sweetheart, she always made me feel special too".

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Flowers for Gram

On Thanksgiving Day Dad, Bert and I took Mom's cremated remains to four spots at the farm that Dad had picked out. By the two pine trees close to the farm house, by the pond, in the Stantler region under a tree and in the middle of the pasture looking back over the farm house. All of this was per Mom's request hours before she passed. Then on Saturday we went back and planted wild flowers in each of the locations along with some bulbs and fern in the shady Stantler region. We also planted wildflowers along Smith Road leading up to the farm house. Mom had researched wild flowers last spring and we had planned to plant (or throw them out) this fall. David took some video of the kids planting the flowers - see below. The fall leaves were beautiful and it was the kind of weekend at the farm that Gram would have loved. We still cannot believe that she is gone and the kids still want to talk about why Gram went to heaven.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gram's Unfinished Story

I have finally posted Gram's journal to the blog we created after she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.  If you are interested you can go to or you can click on the link on the right.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gram's Updates

I took Mom's journal where she recorded how she was feeling and added the entries into the blog. It has taken me this long to do it. Throughout the course of this journey several folks have sent emails saying that they did not know us but they have a parent or a spouse who has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma ... and that reading Gram's blog helped them in some way. I did not want to throw out Mom's journal so I figured the best way to put it to use was to add it to the blog - plus anyone who reads it will know how she felt from her perspective. You can tell her entries as I titled them Gram Update and put the words in italics. We miss her terribly and still cannot believe that she is gone.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Future of Blogs

Moving forward, this blog will only be updated occassionally.  The on-going updates will be at  From there you can link to all the various family blogs ... the triplets have a blog, Sean has a blog and we have a family blog where we are trying to track family history.  I have also found Gram's journals for her grandkids and I will be completing the blog that she started.  She did not want the blog posted until all the input is completed.  It is called Gram loves ZAKS! (Zander, Addison, Kaden and Sean).  I am hoping to complete the blog over the next several months.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Now the Grief Begins

We are now to the daily living part.  The hardest part.  On Friday I picked up Mom's cremated remains and we will take them to the farm in the fall when the weather is nicer.  Mom always loved the cool fall weather.  All of us are at various stages of grief but we have a long way to go.

The five stages of grief:

  • Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”

  • Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”

  • Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”

  • Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”

  • Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Service

The chapel was quite pretty.  Just simple and elegant.  The flowers were beautiful.  A big basket of multiple colored flowers.  Mom's photo which was scanned from the newspaper engagement announcement from 1962 looked very nice in the large frame with a irovy mat.  Folks started arriving around 1:15pm and the chapel slowly filled then we started promptly at 2pm.  The service went like this ...
  • Welcome and Opening Prayer
  • Scripture Reading: Psalm 23
  • Song: Amazing Grace
  • Reading of Her Obituary
  • Scripture Reading: John 3:16
  • Song:  How Great Thou Art
  • Reading of the Story of Brenda & Byron (See story below)
  • Video Tribute (A copy is below)
  • Benediction
Dr. Kem Olberholtzer did a very nice job with the service.  We laughed and we cried and we paid tribute to a life well lived.  

Brenda & Byron

This is a story of a love affair that lasted for 52 years, 8 months, and 2 days.

Brenda Pauline Forrest was 12 years old when her life was suddenly turned upside down. Her father had a massive heart attack at age 55 and died. The devastation of this event with the casket, funeral home and emotional upheaval left an indelible impression. The family was living in San Augustine at that time. Brenda’s mother, Polly, was in her mid thirties and her sister, Cathy was 8. The first move was to Texarkana to live with her mother’s parents, Brenda’s grandparents. After a couple of years, they decided to move to Huntington and temporarily live with Brenda’s Aunt Artimese Forrest until Polly could find employment and a home for herself and her girls. This was early fall of 1956. Brenda and Cathy enrolled in the Huntington school system.

The first time we met was either late September or early October of 1956. It was an afternoon at a local café in Huntington. She and her cousin, Linda Forrest, and Ann LeSassier asked me to come over and meet her and I did. They explained that she had just moved to town and was going to attend Huntington High School. As I recall, Elvis was singing Don’t Be Cruel’ on the jute box. She was somewhat reserved, not particularly friendly, but not unfriendly either. There was something special about her quiet, reserved attitude.

Brenda and I were both 14 years old and both freshman. We had multiple classes together and on or about October 10th, I informed her about a hayride that was to take place on Friday the 14th and asked if she would go with me. She said okay. My main means of transportation at that time was a 1950 ¾ ton Studebaker pickup which I was kind of ashamed of. It was about as classy and cool as a camel, but she did not mind. After the hayride, I asked if she would go to movie with me the next evening and she said okay. Pretty soon, not sure when, I asked her to be my steady girlfriend and again, she said okay. I believe that she wore a necklace with a small gold colored basketball attached to it in order to signify this relationship.

Thus the dating began. Basketball game nights, movie nights, Sunday and Wednesday church nights became much more important for me to attend since it meant taking her and having a burger and coke afterwards.

1956 in Huntington was a time when Elvis was king, grass was something to cut, being gay was a frame of mind and if someone was hot, then they had a problem with either the temperature or the humidity or both. Our basketball teams were referred to as the A team and the B-team. We did not understand that this designation was politically incorrect. We just knew that A was better than B. One of the requirements of Huntington citizenship was to either be a basketball player or supporter. We did not do football, baseball, band, or tennis. We did basketball and because that is about all we did, we did it rather well. Instructions for out of town games required that the last person to leave was to turn out the town light. The team had a very strong following that sometimes required playoff games to be held at other locations because our gym was not big enough for the crowds. In fact, during a tournament one time in Jasper, our fans got so riled up that a technical foul was called on the crowd.

As a freshman, I played on the B-team and Brenda became a cheerleader. I played the game and she provided the encouragement and support. This is what I did and what she did for the remainder of our lives together. She was not athletic, had no desire to play, but was very organized and had very strong opinions about the routines, uniforms and such. She was very happy with the supportive role for me and our children. Because of this attitude, we all have been truly blessed and probably spoiled. I had a supporter at home, not a competitor. It did not matter how good or how bad I performed in sports or on the job; I always knew that she was there for me. During our sophomore year, I went into a slump for a period of time. I could not make a basket standing on a 10 foot ladder under the goal. My performance in one of the Lufkin games was so bad that I literally shed tears while having a post game coke at Ray Stewart’s Café. She did not say a word, just teared up a bit herself and touched me with her hand to let me know ‘it’s okay’.

Sometime during our sophomore year, we hit a real serious bump in the road. Her mother remarried and they moved to a country home in the Pollok community, about 20 miles from Huntington. It was okay at first, but soon the new husband decided that she and I should not be seeing each other so much. In fact, we should not even go out on dates at all. I was allowed to visit her in their living room for an hour or so weekly. Then he became verbally abusive toward Brenda. This was devastating to both of us. This situation did not last long.

Brenda at the age of 16, decided she would not put up with that kind of crap. She walked a couple of miles to a store on the highway and called her Aunt Artimese Forrest to come get her, which she did. After a discussion with Brenda’s mother and the new husband, a decision was made that Brenda could live with Artimese and finish high school at Huntington. They were to bring Brenda’s clothes and other personal items to Artimese’s home. The word of these events circulated throughout the Forrest family and I believe every one of them were at the home of Aunt Artimese when the clothing was delivered. I was there too. The look on the faces of the Forrest group was one of determination that harm would not come to one of their own. Fortunately, the new husband did not exit the automobile and a scene was not created. I was very proud of the Forrest family that night for their united support of Brenda.

After this was over, Artimese had a rather short talk with me. She was a very kind and caring person, but she was also very stern. When she looked at you with her penetrating school teacher eyes, she could tell if you had even had bad or sinful thoughts for at least the last seven days. She informed me that she had taken on a big responsibility in agreeing to take Brenda in and that I would continue to be the gentleman that she knew I was. We could continue our dating, but we would abide by her curfew. I thought she was being reasonable and I agreed to be a good boy. One did not mess with Artimese Forrest. She not only provided most of Brenda’s support throughout the high school years, but also paid for her secretarial college expenses. Later, when I began working she refused to accept reimbursement from us.

So, back to high school and basketball with me playing and her cheerleading. The A team during our sophomore year consisted of two juniors, two sophomores and a freshman. My first cousin, Frank Williams and I were the sophomores. The Lufkin paper referred to us as the kiddie cagers. For the first time in 10 years, Huntington won district. We went on to win bi-district, but were defeated at the regional tournament.

The next two years, 1959 and 1960, we won it all. Two state championships in a row. She was right in the middle of this effort, there for every game, leading the cheers and offering support, all 90 pounds of her. At that time, this was a big, big part of our lives. When the school did not furnish transportation for the cheerleaders, my dad would take as many as he could. He also attended most all of the games. He always watched them without showing any emotion at all. Everyone else was screaming and hollering but he remained perfectly sedate. When I asked about it one time, He said, “Son, you just don’t know what my butt is doing to that seat!”.

Next came Baylor University for me and Tyler Commercial College for her. We were separated again and this was not a happy time. So we suffered a couple of years, seeing each other as often as possible but then the time had come to conquer crap again. We felt the best answer was marriage. We were 20, she had completed her courses and I was a junior. My parents did not agree. They had no problem with Brenda. They just thought that this would prevent me from completing my college education. After some rather heated discussions and assurances by me the college would be completed, they still did not agree with the decision, but went along with it. As it turned out, we were right.

So, once again there was peace in the valley and grades drastically improved. She worked at a local Waco hospital and I worked part-time at the offices of two CPA’s. She made $200 per month and I made $1.15 per hour. After a short time in an efficiency apartment, we moved into a home off campus at a cost of $50 per month. She let me know that after she received her PHT [put hubby through], she was to become a fulltime mother and homemaker.

Finally, graduation day and we are off to Houston to work for Tenneco at $525 per month and to start a family. It was late January, 1964. BeLynda was born eleven months later on November 12. We had acquired our first home at a cost of $11,500. We put $500 down with less than $90 in monthly payments. Brenda insisted that all rooms have furniture, so we purchased the cheapest bed and springs that we could find for the extra bedroom. We had not noticed that the springs created a lot of noise when they were being used. After Brenda suffered numerous nights of lost sleep with BeLynda, I told her I would take care of the baby that night. I told Brenda that she should go to the other bedroom, shut the door and get some sleep. Unfortunately, that is exactly what she did. I still remember the fear I felt as her bedroom door shut. I looked down at BeLynda in her bassinet and she looked at me. The message on her little face was “I plan to torment you through the night with tears. My body has seven holes and I plan to process something disgusting from every one of them”. Every time she would go to sleep and I would try to lie down, but the squeaky springs would wake her again and again. Somehow, we made it through the night without waking Brenda.

The job at Tenneco was not going well, so I quit and started working for one of the ‘big 8’ accounting firms. This did not work well either. Their attitude and behavior toward their clients was extremely arrogant and they put me in jobs that I was not qualified to do. Of course, Brenda realized how unhappy I was and did not have a problem with me quitting this job and heading back to East Texas. I told her that I could not stand this job and was through with public accounting. She said ‘Let’s go home’. No reservations whatsoever. None. I had a wife and child, very little money and quit my job without a replacement. I think some wives would be going nuts. Not mine.

We moved back and the job search began for anything other than public accounting. There was nothing available that paid what we needed. So, as a last resort, I approached Axley & Rode, Certified Public Accountants. They had offered me a job when I graduated from Baylor, but I told them that I had already accepted a job at Tenneco. Well, they had an opening and I began working there on February 28, 1966. Their attitude toward clients and employees was a complete 180 from the other firm. After two weeks, I knew I had found a home. I was 23 years old and I stayed with them for the next 40 years.

The only time I every remember Brenda making a fool of herself was when Bert was born. There was a good reason. Since our first was a girl, we wanted a boy very badly. She was so pumped full of drugs because of the baby’s delivery that when we were informed that we now have a big boy, she began telling the world in a very loud uncharacteristic voice ‘It’s a boy! It’s a boy! It’s a boy! So on the 11th of January 1967, Bert became a part of the family and made it complete!

In 1970, I became the 6th partner of Axley & Rode and in 1971 the other five allowed me to move to Nacogdoches in order to open a branch office. It was an exciting time with challenges. The competition was tough. Not only were the established firms already here very good, I believe their family roots in Nacogdoches could be traced back to the Revolutionary War. I was 28 years old and new in town. But it finally worked with the backing of my in-house cheerleader, the patience of the partners and some wonderful employees.

So, we proceeded to live the good life with a good job I enjoyed most of the time, two beautiful children and a good safe community. We were the 4-B’s. Byron, Brenda, BeLynda and Bert.

BeLynda was into performing in pageants by singing, dancing and modeling and Bert was into motocross racing. One weekend we went to Houston with a motorcycle strapped to the front of the car, gasoline cans in the trunk and dresses, petticoats, etc in the back seat. Saturday night at the grand ballroom of the Shamrock Hilton, BeLynda belted out ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’ and on Sunday afternoon, we were cheering Bert amidst the hum of motorcycles and the smell of burning oil and gasoline. It was a blast.

In 1980, at the height of mortgage interest rates, we built our dream home on a four acre plot of land on Logansport Road between Skyline and Chimney Rock. Brenda designed the home and with the help of builder Charles Hensarling, we moved into it before Bert and BeLynda left home. Our intention was to live there for the rest of our lives, but situations changed and arthritis took the fun out of having a two story house.

Brenda loved animals. We became the refuge for several stray animals over the years, including dogs, cats, a turtle, a rabbit and a duck. One particular dog named Muffin had been so severely beaten that if you even looked at her she would urinate all over herself. Through Brenda’s patience and love Muffin grew into a confident dog who would lay flat on her back with her feet in the air completely happy in the loving home Brenda had created. When Brenda would head up to the stables she walked like the Piped Piper with Muffin and two stray cats following in a single file line. It was a sight to behold.

Then came horses. Lots of horses. We both went nuts over horses. She helped take care of them and with the assistance of trainers; some were shown at horse shows all over the country. One of them received Top Ten honors in the Canadian National Show which we attended. We had a beautiful horse named Peppy’s Bad Girl. Peppy was an extremely good horse but she had bad legs. One day while watching Bad Girl eating in the pasture Brenda said to me that what we needed was a bunch of bad girls with good legs. As I stated that I could live with that she realized what she had just said and we both had a big laugh.

Our last big endeavor and perhaps the most enduring was the restoration of our country home in Huntington. It is a 100 acre tract of land that was purchased by grandparents Charlie Robert and Vashti Smith in 1917.It is a place where I grew up and since Brenda and I have known each other since age 14, she had spent a lot of time there also. The home sits on a hill at the end of a dirt road overlooking 20 open acres of pasture with a tree lined creek running through it. The other 80 acres are wooded with 50 of those supporting approximately 30,000 planted pine trees. Deer, squirrels, rabbits etc are abundant. We added to the home, made some changes inside and it became a get-a way for our entire family. She absolutely loved to go there, but had become unable to travel that far. Our last trip was in October, 2008. She had told BeLynda the farm was her choice for a final resting place. She did not want to be put in a casket.

Grandparenting began in 1994. We decided that I would be called Bo and she would be Gram. If grandparenting was a popularity contest, I can guarantee you that she would win it. Big time. She became a grandmother whisperer. She had the ability to connect at grandkids level and they absolutely adored her. Upon arrival at our home, the first response was not Hi Bo or How are you Bo? It was where is Gram?

Sean Austin Smith, the son of Bert and Elizabeth, was the first to arrive. I am not sure at what age Sean finally acknowledged that our home was Bo and Gram’s house, not just Gram’s house. He would become angry if anyone suggested otherwise. One day while riding in the car, Sean announced that he could spell SFA. We asked how it was spelled and he said ‘S F A’. He was congratulated for this achievement. At the age of 5, he out smarted Gram. He loved playing with his toys, but did not like to pick them up. So, Gram decided to make a game of toy pickup. She explained that they would count to 20 slowly and see how many toys they could pickup. He said ‘Okay, I will count and you can pick them up’.

In 2004, BeLynda & David took the biblical phrase “Go forth, multiply and replenish the earth’ a little too seriously and delivered three at once. Yeah, Triplets. Oh my, Oh my. So Zander, Kaden and Addison became part of the family and once again, Gram hits a grand slam.

Brenda wrote the following in her journal:

As I sat in my rocking chair on the farm house porch, all I could see were two little “cotton heads” bobbing up and down. Their short little legs carried my seventeen month old grandsons down the sand road to the bottom of the hill where the old log cabin stands. They had no idea where they were going, but were happy to be free of boundaries and able to go----go---go!

From time to time one of them would stop and grab a handful of sand, while the other one would lose his balance and sit on his well padded bottom. Then, off they would go again----down the hill with squeals of joy! The boys’ Mom and Dad were following behind them to keep them safe, but the little guys thought they were exploring the big world all on their own. It was such a sight to see the 5th generation of Smith boys going down Smith Road. Go, Kaden---Go, Zander!

Meanwhile, The Princess was sitting in the yard in front of me playing with Easter eggs. Easter is a few weeks away, but we had a “practice run” at the farm this weekend. Addison had gone earlier with the rest of the family to explore the pasture, but passed on the “down hill run”. This was the first farm trip since all the triplets have been walking. -- Gram

When we learned of the litter of babies that David and BeLynda were expecting, Brenda moved into a one bedroom apartment in The Woodlands to help. I would come on weekends and while I was there we looked over the community. It is a very nice place to live and our entire immediate family was there. We wanted to be near them, watch the grandchildren mature and to be close to arguably the best medical center in the world. I was not ready to discontinue the work that I enjoyed and Bert indicated he was interested in helping me try to establish an accounting and tax practice from scratch. I was 64 years old in a community in which I am known by no one, do not have the financial backing of anyone and want to start again from zero. Am I nuts? The answer to that question is so obvious; there is no need to respond. So, with the approval and support of my cheerleader, the fascination of the challenge, and the opportunity to spend the rest of our days near our children and grandchildren, we loaded up and moved to The Woodlands in April, 2006.

When picking up Zander one day around Thanksgiving 2007, Brenda fractured a vertebra in her back causing tremendous pain. Previously she had been convinced that the pain she was having was from arthritis and was not ready for the replacement routine, so she had postponed seeing a doctor. The results of a MRI indicated that Brenda had Multiple Myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cell which is treatable, but not curable. It attacks the bones, kidneys, and the immune system and has other bad side effects. It is fairly rare and is usually not detectible until it is already pretty bad. And the nightmare began.

In mid January, 2008, the situation became critical and she was admitted into M.D. Anderson hospital and remained there for six weeks. She was near death. She was in the Intensive Care Unit for a week, put on a ventilator, had to have kidney dialysis, radiation and started chemo treatments. She was rescued but severely disabled. We got out for a short while, but had to return later for a week in March to deal with blood clots in the lungs. The doctors were amazed at her determination and her ability to overcome all that was thrown at her.

Our lives then consisted of many, many trips to MDA, a multitude of doctors to visit and many medications. She hated being waited on and kept apologizing for the situation as though she had let us down. The only good thing about this time in our lives was the extra amount of time we spent together and the hope for the remission that never came. In the midst of all this turmoil, she found time to spend with her grandkids. She dyed Easter eggs, hosted tea parties, introduced Pokemon and spent hours planning out what adventures the grandchildren should take on next.

The chemo treatments either did not slow the cancer or if they did, something else was damaged. A number of combinations of drugs were tried. All of them made her sick, some more than others. Though it all she kept fighting.

Revlimid was the last chemo she took along with some steroids. It was horrible. The first five days of the 21 day treatment went okay, but then it hit. She quit eating, drinking, and began sleeping 20 hours a day. Finally, the treatment was over. The good news was that it had drastically reduced the cancer, but the bad news was that her heart function was dangerously low. After about a month she had become dehydrated and had developed a high calcium count. The cancer was back with a vengeance and she was then admitted to the hospital.

At this time, we learned that the cancer had penetrated her skull and brain and that she would probably not be able to survive the high dose chemo treatment needed to stop it. After some gut wrenching tears by all of us, she opted to stop treatments, go home and hopefully have a few remaining treatment free weeks to spend with her family. She asked BeLynda if she thought the kids would be frightened by seeing Gram arrive in an ambulance. BeLynda laughed a bit saying that the kids were four years old and there was nothing “cooler” than an ambulance. So ever the event planner Mom requested a ride home in the rough riding ambulance with her grandkids waiting at home. BeLynda was able to text Gram’s location all the way home so that the kids’ excitement continued to build and build until the ambulance arrived with lights flashing. There was shrills of joy and welcoming signs as Brenda was unloaded and rolled into her bedroom.

She arrived about 6:00pm on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 with all family members present. The triplets got in bed with her and visited for a while. Her face appeared to show that she was at peace with the situation and it was okay. The way she looked and acted was almost magical. No one realized that this was Brenda’s last hurrah.

After everyone left, she came into the living room and ate a small amount and seemed to be okay. After going back to bed, she started feeling worse and I gave her some pain medication which did not work. She was having a very bad headache around 9:30pm and I gave her some aspirin. I asked if we needed to go back to the hospital and she said absolutely not. Around 10:00pm she became sick and I gave her some nausea medication. As I stood watching her, I had the feeling that the cancer was destroying her skull and I was terribly afraid. Do I call the kids? Do I insist she go to the hospital? Do I spend the night on the floor beside her?

Well, the pain started decreasing and she said it was getting better. She told me to go on to bed. This was about 10:30 or 11:00. I said no. We held hands for a while. I set there for about an hour and she drifted off to sleep. I stuffed a pillow behind her back for support and went to bed with my monitor on as high as possible so that I could hear what was happening in her room. I heard only the sound of the oxygen machine.

I went back at 2:00am and she was still breathing. At 5:00am I went to check on her and she had died. The pillow I had stuffed behind her back earlier had not moved. She did not move again after drifting off to sleep. The doctors had told us that she would more than likely just go to sleep at the end.

So, the long 18 month fight is over and my best friend, the head cheerleader is gone.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Tribute to Gram

Tomorrow morning we head to Nacogdoches for Mom's memorial service at the First Baptist Church. We met with our paster Dr. Kem Olberholtzer and he will be leading the service. Dad has written an 8 page story of their lives together which will be read by Kem. Theirs was a love affair that lasted 52 years, 8 months and 2 days. It is a beautiful telling of what an incredible person my Mom was and of her life. The music to the video is Bon Jovi's Thank You for Loving Me. We were all very blessed to have been loved by Mom. The lyrics are below.

It's hard for me to say the things
I want to say sometimes
There's no one here but you and me
And that broken old street light
Lock the doors
We'll leave the world outside
All I've got to give to you
Are these five words tonight

Thank you for loving me
For being my eyes
When I couldn't see
For parting my lips
When I couldn't breathe
Thank you for loving me
Thank you for loving me

I never knew I had a dream
Until that dream was you
When I look into your eyes
The sky's a different blue
Cross my heart
I wear no disguise
If I tried, you'd make believe
That you believed my lies

You pick me up when I fall down
You ring the bell before they count me out
If I was drowning you would part the sea
And risk your own life to rescue me

Thank you for loving me
For being my eyes
When I couldn't see
You parted my lips
When I couldn't breathe
Thank you for loving me

When I couldn't fly
Oh, you gave me wings
You parted my lips
When I couldn't breathe
Thank you for loving me


(Brenda) Mrs. Byron Smith, 67, of The Woodlands, formerly of Nacogdoches, passed away July 2, 2009 in The Woodlands, TX. She was born March 13, 1942 in Winnsboro, TX to James Guinn and Bessie Pauline Forrest.

Brenda is survived by her loving husband of 47 years, Byron Smith; daughter BeLynda Smith and husband David; son Bert Smith and wife Elizabeth; sister Cathy Myles and husband Edward; and grandchildren Sean Smith, Zander, Kaden and Addison Smith.
In accordance with her wishes, her cremated remains will be scattered on the family farm in Huntington, TX where four oak trees will be planted for each of her grandchildren along with a pasture of wildflowers.

A celebration of Brenda’s life is set for 2:00 P.M., Thursday, July 9, 2009 in the Chapel at The First Baptist Church in Nacogdoches, 411 North Street, Nacogdoches, TX.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Charles & Lois Marie Bright Foundation, a charitable, non-profit 501C-3 organization, c/o Axley & Rode, 420 North St., Nacogdoches, TX 75961.

There is a website built by Dignity Memorial for Mom. You can click Dignity Memorial on the right side of the screen to access the URL. We have built our own slideshow for the memorial service which I will post after the service tomorrow.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Memorial Service Set

Mom's memorial service will be held on Thursday, July 9 at the First Baptist Church Chapel in Nacogdoches, Texas.  The Chapel is located at 411 North Street and the service will begin at 2pm.  Dr. Kem Olberholtzer will be officating.  

In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Bright Foundation, a charity that Mom and Dad have worked with in the past.

Charles & Lois Marie Bright Foundation
A Charitable, Non-Profit 501C-3 Organization
c/o Axley & Rode CPAs
420 North Street
Nacogdoches, Texas 75961

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Memorial Service Pending

We plan to have a memorial service in Nacogdoches next week for Mom. Due to the holiday we have been unable to make any arrangements with the church. We are hoping to have the service at First Baptist Church on Wednesday, July 8 or Thursday, July 9 around 1pm in the afternoon. But until we can discuss with the folks at the church we do not if this will be possible. As soon as we know we will publish it in the newspapers (Nacogdoches, Lufkin and The Woodlands) and update the blog.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


We will be working on the arrangements over the next few days. Mom's wishes were to be cremated with her ashes returned to our family farm. We plan to plant four trees (one for each grandchild) and thousands of wildflowers which is something that Mom requested. We will do this in the fall on one of the beautiful fall days that Mom loved so much.

We plan to hold a memorial service in Nacogdoches, Texas which is where Mom and Dad lived for 35 years. The memorial service will be held as soon as we can work out the details.

In Lieu of Flowers

In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Bright Foundation, a charity that Mom and Dad have worked with in the past.

Charles & Lois Marie Bright Foundation
A Charitable, Non-Profit 501C-3 Organization
c/o Axley & Rode CPAs
420 North Street
Nacogdoches, Texas 75961

The Final Goodbye

The final goodbye came even quickly than we had anticpated. Around 11pm Dad sat with Mom and held her hand not knowing how close to the end she really was. She told him to go on to bed but he sat there for about an hour until she drifted off to sleep. He checked on her around 2am and she was sleeping but when he went back around 5am she had slipped away. I arrived shortly followed quickly by Bert and Elizabeth then David.

Mom had been so happy the night before. She was surrounded by the family that adores her. When we left last night we felt certain that we had weeks if not a month to spend with her. She had planned banana split parties, doctoring visits from the kids and long conversations with my Dad.

As we grieve we are overjoyed that Mom is no longer in pain. We know that she is with the Lord and that she is comforted completely. We will do our best to follow all of her wishes and we will never forget the profound impact this great woman has had on all that knew her.

MDA Correspondence

Mom passed last night around 4am. She must have simply stopped breathing. She threw up around midnight but then she was resting comfortably.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Gram is HOME!

The ambulance arrived around 4:40pm and we started the journey back to The Woodlands. The very bumpy journey! Mom did fine but it took some extra time due to the Houston traffic. When we arrived home the kids were waiting along with Bert, Sean, David, Ed, Cathy, Jarrah and Ashlynn. David snapped some photos and Gram was able to see the welcome home signs that were posted in her bedroom. Nana and Granpa had made dinner for Gram and Bo ... a very nice treat! Plus Cathy made some bell pepper soup so they will not have to worry about cooking for a few days. It is so good to have Mom home. Tomorrow we will work on getting the radiation scheduled.

Just Say No to 5pm Ambulances!

The social worker stopped by to ask if 5pm was an OK arrival time for the ambulance. Argh ... I thought they had already been called! So we have asked to leave as soon as possible. Mom has a prescription to be picked up but either Bert or I can come get it if needed. But the hold up appears to be the mountains of paperwork that needs to be done before we head out. I am going over to wait on the prescription and Dad will stay with Mom. And the saga continues ...

Waiting for Ambulance

We are now released and waiting for the ambulance to come take Mom home. We have everything packed and ready to go.

Coming Home in Ambulance Style

Mom will be coming home in an ambulance this afternoon and she wanted to know if the kids would like to see it. So she has requested a grandkids greeting when she arrives back in The Woodlands. I'll ask Bert, Jarrah, etc ... to get the kids over there so that they can see the ambulance coming in and watch her being unloaded then we can get her settled. Maybe they can make her some Welcome Home signs -- she would like that! Uncle Bert and Cousin Sean are hanging out with the kids today in addition to Ed, Cathy and Jarrah ... plus Nana, Granpa, Jon, Marianna and Flora come by often. We are really blessed to have so much family so close!

Her pain is at an all time low. The patch that pain management put on her back is working really, really well. Still waiting to be discharged. We need to meet with Kathleen to understand how all of this will work ... hopefully she will be here soon.

MDA Correspondence

Hi Jennifer & Tiffany -

Mom has decided not to have an additional chemo treatments such as Revlimid or Velcade. She wants to do the radiation as Dr. Weber recommended and continue on the dexamethasone. They are trying to arrange for radiation treatments in The Woodlands so that we do not have to return to Houston.

While she is on the radiation which I understand could take 2.5 weeks or so ... we wanted to make sure that she can be on IV fluids. She is sleeping so much that she is not getting enough fluids even though we are pushing them as much as we can ... then the vomiting starts. I will ask the doctors doing rounds about this but wanted to let you know as well.

We also want to arrange for in home Xometa injections. Her first injection was on June 20th and I believe they are given every two weeks? If that is the case she will need one on July 4 -- or close to that date.

Is there anything we are forgetting in order to make Mom as comfortable so her last weeks?

Thanks to both of you. I appreciate all that you have done. I firmly that the last year and a half have been a gift ... and you helped make that happen.

Take care, BeLynda (Brenda's daughter)

Dr. Dabaja

I ran into Dr. Dabaja while heading to get put "stuff" in the car prior to the journey home. Though I cried a bit I was able to quickly thank Dr. Dabaja for her excellent care of Mom when she received radiation last January. I turned and walked away as I was not certain that Dr. Dabaja actually wanted to talk to me. To my surprise she followed me to the valet stand and gave me a huge hug. It was a small gesture but it meant so much. I will never forget her.

Raw Nerves

The only way I can describe how we are all feeling is "raw nerves". Mom is sleeping. The patch worked on her back last night as she did not need any pain medications. There is a lot to say but it is nearly impossible in the hospital ... too many interruptions. So we are praying to get her home today though the doctors have not confirmed that yet. They are working on getting Mom into radiation in The Woodlands. My gut is telling me that just like here -- its packed and they are trying to get her into the schedule. Praying that she gets in and that she is scheduled for a time that she can tolerate.

Wee Hours

I woke up all worried about Mom's blood transfusion ... I have no idea why. But I got on the phone and checked in with Mom's nurse and she said that Mom had received the first unit with no issues and that she was sleeping comfortably. I will be happy when we get her home.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Coming Home

Mom and I had a few moments alone to chat. And she has decided not to pursue any additional chemotherapy. She will do the radiation and continue on the dexamethasone ... but that she can do from home. Tomorrow afternoon she will be heading home with no more trips (ever) to MD Anderson downtown. We made some plans for making her more comfortable when she gets home and so that she can see the kids.

Blood Transfusions Coming!

I asked the nurse to check to see if Mom was going to be transfused prior to our departure. She said there were no orders for the transfusion ... and Jennifer had indicated that she did not think Mom would be transfused. Tess (the nurse) asked if she should page the doctor or not ... and I said that it won't hurt. And yahoo! Before I knew it they came into draw blood in order to type Mom's blood -- she gets one unit tonight and one in the morning. I feel certain that due to David and Jon's contribution on behalf of Mom ... it was "paid forward" to Mom immediately.


The radiation team came by and we decided that Mom can have all of her radiation at the MD Anderson location in The Woodlands. Mom will be fitted for a mask but luckily it has a whole bunch of holes in it so she should not be claustrophobic. She will have 10 sessions of radiation that will last about 10 to 15 minutes each. There should be minimal side effects and it should basically kill the myeloma cells in her skull. Dr. Dabaja was in charge of Mom's case and remembered Mom from her radiation ordeal in January 2008. She convened nice message via her assistance and we were able to pass along our appreciation to Dr. Dabaja. Her quick action was one of the reasons that Mom has been able to walk for the last year ... not that well, but she was not paralyzed. So they will work on the transfer to The Woodlands location and Mom will most likely have an appointment later on this week with radiation starting next Monday.

Pain Management

The pain management team came by and discussed Mom's pain management options. They are moving her off the Darvon since she has so much going on in her skull. They are moving her to either morphine or another drug. They are also adding a patch that Mom can place directly on the lower portion of her back which is where Mom's worse pain resides. Hopefully Mom will be able to sit a bit better since right at the moment that is really out of the question.

Blood Needed

Mom is right on the border of whether or not they will transfuse her. There is a blood shortage so they have a priority with pediatrics, ICU and the emergency center. While no promises are made we can donate blood on behalf of Mom and hopefully she will get the blood she needs. When she becomes anemic it gets harder for her to breath and she starts vomiting. David and Jonathan are donating now. I will head down once Dad returns. So if you have some extra blood ... stop by MD Anderson tell them you are donating on behalf of Brenda Smith with patient ID 737874. Hey, it can't hurt and it goes to a great case regardless!

The Conversation

Shortly after I got back from speaking with Jennifer, Dr. Weber and Allan Chua came flying around the corner and straight into Mom's room. Dr. Weber told Mom that the cancer appeared to be in her brain and that she recommended a course of radiation with dexamethasone to basically buy Mom some time. We had opted not to do the lumbar puncture because even if the cancer is in Mom's spinal cord the treatment is far too harsh for Mom to tolerate. Dr. Weber discussed Mom's history with chemo and how tough it has been on her. She indicated that she needed to know what Mom wanted to do about whether or not to pursue treatment. Mom was crying on and off during this conversation. She told Dr. Weber to move forward with the radiation but she wanted to discuss the other options with us. Dr. Weber indicated that she had already responded to Dr. Romaguera via email but he had not made his return trip ... so I think she was a bit aggravated as she had a full clinic schedule but what the heck Mom needed some answers and she finally got them. Dr. Weber handled the conversation very well.

It took 11 days for a doctor to finally have the conversation with Mom regarding how much longer she had to live and what her options were ... though after 11 days there really were none as Mom died less than 24 hours later. While the end result would have been the same I truly wish that I had banged on more doors to get someone to tell Mom what was going on. Dad and I had told her in our own way ... but she needed to hear it from her doctor.

Talk with Jennifer

Bert and I walked over to the myeloma clinic hoping to talk with Jennifer (our favorite nurse). Jennifer listened to the entire story and went to check Mom's labs for us. All her blood counts are getting worse as the myeloma cells continue to spread in her blood stream. White blood 3.9; red blood 2.48; hemoglobin 8.2; hematocrit 29.7 and platelets 96. Her calcium is still low 8.0 but her creatinine is starting to climb at 1.4.

Jennifer went to check with Dr. Weber and Allan Chua to make sure that someone came to talk to Mom while we are still here at the hospital. She also told me all the things we need to make sure for hospice care ... IV for fluids, ability for cather (if needed), xometa, etc. She also told us that with medication Mom will not be in any pain once she is at home in hospice care.

Aunt Cathy & Bert on the Way

Aunt Cathy and Bert are heading down to MDA for a visit around 10am. Mom was out of the room so much yesterday that it did not make a lot of sense for anybody to come by. Now it looks like we will be hanging out for a while.

Waiting for Pain Management

We are also waiting for pain management. It appears that Mom has another fracture at T6 which is really painful. The pain medications Mom currently has are no longer working that well so its time to get a fresh view from the pain doctors. If they ever come by my guess is that they will want another x-ray then they will want to do another vertebroplasty. Vertebroplasty puts liquid cement into the vertebra to stop the fracture and compression ... and to relieve the pain. Mom already has 4 of them.

Long Bone Survey

On June 24 Mom had a long bone survey and we just now got the results ... so much has been going on. Basically it says that there is progression of the disease. Here are the findings:

  • Interval development of a larger number of myelomatous lesions with the calvarium as compared to the prior examinations, including disease progression.
  • Interval development of a moderate compression fracture of a mid thoracic vertebral body that is likely T6. This is indeterminate for disease progression.
  • Again visualized is mild myelomatous involvement of the humeri. The femora are osteopenic with no definite discrete lesions.
  • Vertebroplasty has been performed at L2, L3, L4 and L5 is unchanged.
  • No dominant lesions are seen within the pelvis or ribs. A healed fracture of the left seventh rib is incidentally noted and was seen previously.
  • Severe degenerative narrowing of the C4-5, C5-6 and C6-7 intevertebral disc spaces is visualized with moderate degenerative narrowing of C2-3 and C3-4. The pre-dens speace appears narrowed, and also appears degenerative.
  • Progression of disease. A larger number of myelomatous lesions are seen within the calvarium as compared to prior examinations.
  • Inteval development of a moderate compression fracture of one of the mid thoracic vertebral bodies. While not necessarily representative of progression of disease, given the new lesions in the calvarium, it may represent disease progression. It is recommended that the patient be examined with complete bone survey with long bones rather than limited bone survey with long bones. This allows better evaluation of the spine and ribs. The level is thought to be T6.
This URL provides a good picture of the spinal cord so that it makes the report above easier to read for us non-doctor types.

Waiting for Weber Again

Well ... they have emailed Dr. Weber and now we are waiting for her to read the results of all the tests and to advise on next steps. I have no idea whether or not she will come over to meet with Mom or simply call back. I had hoped that Kathleen would present the options but Dr. Weber is the expert on myeloma so she will have the best idea of how (or if) to move forward with treatment. And since its July 1 tomorrow -- we will have a new doctor and nurse practitioner in the morning if Mom is still here.

More About the MRI

Mom has widespread myelomatous involvement of the calvarium, skull base and mandible. Meaning it is possible that the myeloma has moved into her spinal fluid. I believe what the doctor said is that once it is in the spinal fluid then it can move into organs (but I am not certain). In order to know for sure then Mom needs a lumbar puncture. She will have to lay on her stomach for 10 to 15 minutes while the neurologist draws fluid out of the spine. However, before she does this we need to understand the treatment. Based on what we were told in general it means high dose chemotherapy which I do not believe Mom will want to or can tolerate. If this is the case then there is no reason to do the lumbar punction.

EF is 40-45%

Mom's heart has recovered yet again. The EF has been calculated at 40 to 45%.

The left atruim is moderately dilated. The mitral value leaflets appear thickened, but open well. There is moderate mitral regurgitation. There is mild tricuspid regurgitation. Right ventricular systolic pressure is elevated at 50-60mmHg. Moderate aortic regurgitation. Trace pulmonic valvular regurgitation. Minimal pericardial effusion. The Transmitral spectal Doppler flow pattern is suggestive of impaired LV relaxation.

New Shirt & Earrings

Dad and I are sitting here in the hospital waiting for the doctor to arrive. I hope he has the results of the echocardiogram as that is the key bit of information Mom wants prior to making any decision. Mom is sound asleep.

I have no idea why this popped into my head but I remember when I was in the 9th grade. I had been asked on my first official date. Mom was so excited and she made a huge deal out of it. She took me shopping at the Nacogdoches equivalent of Ross Dress for Less at the time. We searched through racks and racks and racks to find the perfect velour aqua shirt and matching aqua earrings. We spent the whole afternoon getting me ready ... long bath, painting fingernails and toes, hair, makeup ... the works. I have no idea who the date was (I assume it was Rob Alexander since we dated most of high school) and I have no idea where we went but I do vividly remembering Mom and how exciting she made the whole experience. And I can remember the awful aqua shirt which I loved at the time. Its funny that I cannot remember my actual first date ... but I can remember Mom's reaction to it. One of my Mom's gifts is the ability to make the ordinary extraordinary ... its all in the approach and attitude.

Stuffed Bell Pepper Soup

I just got an email from Dinky (Maw-Maw's sister/Mom's aunt). It was really nice to hear from her. She wanted to know the recipe for bell pepper soup so I decided to try to find it online. This is what I found ... not sure if it is good or not but it did get good reviews.



  1. Brown ground beef until fully cooked.
  2. Drain fat from beef and set aside, do not discard the fat.
  3. Saute the vegetables in the same pan.
  4. Add water or broth, beef base, ground beef and rendered fat, let simmer for at least 15 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. The longer this soup simmers the better the flavor. Stir in desired amount of rice.
  6. Freeze without adding the rice. When ready to serve thaw and heat soup and serve with fresh rice. (You can probably freeze this with the rice in it just fine we just usually prefer to make the rice fresh.).

Back Again

I could not sleep (shocking I know) so I headed to MDA about 40 minutes earlier than I planned. Zander came into our room at some point during the wee hours of the morning and made a pallet on the floor. About once an hour he got up and touched my hand or shoulder just to make sure I was there. When I left I scooped him up and put him into bed with David. Yesterday morning it was Addison who crawled in to sleep with Daddy. On the drive in I cried, thought about Mom, thought about what to tell the kids and prayed for some good answers today. I really hope that we can bring Mom home today.