2 April 2017

Celebrating a life well lived: Random thoughts

Family and friends gathered in Idaho this weekend to celebrate a life well lived: Mom-in-law Ivalene, who died of complications due to pancreatic cancer.


Jack and Ivalene Johnson, 1946


Since yesterday’s Celebration of Life service, a few random thoughts have been swirling in my brain:

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5 March 2017

11 secrets I learned about living after losing

After Hubby died of cancer, I relocated to southern California, claimed my daughter-in-law’s pink-rimmed bike as my own, and said Yes to several not-necessarily-planned-far-in-advance adventures.


Venice Beach with my pink-rimmed ride


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14 February 2017

Is this how death should be?

Mom-in-law Ivalene died this week from complications due to pancreatic cancer. We thought we had six to twelve months left with her. And then the call: “She’s in transition. The hospice nurse doesn’t think she’ll last through the day.”


Photo credit: Unsplash


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1 January 2017

Can 2016 losses be turned into 2017 gains?

New beginnings have always energized me. The challenge of a new deadline, the anticipation of a change in seasons, the turning of calendar pages to a fresh, hope-filled New Year.

But what if we’re still reeling from loss as the calendar page turns? Is it possible to take the hard and turn it into good in 2017? It is.



Photo credit: Pixabay

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5 December 2016

3 thoughts on outward focus

Hubby and I were anticipating hiking a new trail with friends. Four-in-One Cone in the Sisters (Oregon) Wilderness with views of seven distinct massive rock-solid peaks. As we began our climb, we found ourselves in the clouds. Dense. Gray. No mountain views in sight. Worse, I couldn’t seem to get warm; I was focused too much on the damp coldness.

A week later, Hubby and I hiked the same trail and climbed the same cinder cone. This time, the views were stunning. And although it was cold, my focus was on the splendid 360-degree canvas in shades of blues and whites.



North and Middle Sister, left to right (Photo credit: Gary Johnson)


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28 November 2016

7 great reasons to hope

My practical analytical down-to-earth no-nonsense wry-humored (handsome) husband once said to me: “If you didn’t get your hopes up so much, you wouldn’t get so disappointed.”

I don’t know about that philosophy. It sounds pretty hope-less to me.



Photo credit: Unsplash


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23 November 2016

Be more here

Before going to bed each night, I opened the shades. So I could wake up to tall snowy mountains peeking in my windows. I’ve spent the past three days in Joseph, Oregon, at The Bronze Antler Bed & Breakfast.

Hubby and I had talked about visiting Joseph and hiking in the Wallowa Mountains. But we ran out of time. And so here I am. My November brave-making venture.



Photo credit:


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18 November 2016

Why this day is monumental

Today is the day — two years ago — Hubby left his cancer-ridden, morphine-pumped, lymphedema-swollen body for heaven.

Today I helped a friend pack up her kitchen, and unpack in her new home. The new kitchen — the heart of the house — is now open for service. And I loved that I had a part in that.

Today, I sat in a coffee shop infused with comforting aromas, writing and enjoying a Chai tea, courtesy of my niece who sent a generous gift card.



Photo credit: Unsplash


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13 November 2016

17 tips for throwing a successful funeral – wait, what?!

The title of an online article — “4 tips for throwing a successful funeral” — caused me to do a double-take. Perhaps it was the use of the word throwing as opposed to say, planning, that made it sound a little … um, inappropriate.

Two years ago this week, the most overwhelming aspect of my newly-widowed life was the thought of planning a service. But after all was said and done, the Celebration of Life service we *threw* for Hubby was just that. A celebration. And why not?



Photographer: Howard Gorman


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23 October 2016

You are missing from me

Dear Gary —

One of the tools from a widow grief class was letter-writing, beginning with these words: “My favorite memory of you is …” The problem with that: There are so many favorite memories of you. In fact, there are entire categories of memories.

Being the overly efficient person you married, here are some of my favorite memories. By category. And alphabetized. Just for the fun of it.



Dear Gary …


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About Me

Hello, my name is Marlys Johnson. I’m a cancer widow, author, speaker and blogger. I love getting outdoors; would rather lace up hiking boots than go shopping. I have a passion for repurposing old junk into cool new stuff. And an even greater passion for showing people how to navigate life's challenges. Tenaciously. And with heart wide open.

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