Currently Tamara Reynolds Rosenberg, is my poster child for my bucket list photography sessions. Tamara and I have been friends for quit awhile. One day, she called and said, "We're going on a trip out west 10 days. This is what I want to do while I'm out there. Plan it, and these are the dates I want to go." Now you have met my friend Tamara.
Tamara was diagnosed in high school with a glioblastoma in her brain. (A blessings when you have the most aggressive type of brain cancer) She finished high school a year early while undergoing treatments post her surgery. Tamara's goal was to then go on a get her degree as a massage therapist. A very aggressive cancer, Tamara was going to reach her goals, so she started early. Another goal was to map out how many states she could see in 3 years. (The average survival rate with this type of cancer.) In that time, she also gave birth to Bridgett, her only child.
Tamara was beating the odds when a new tumor started affecting the left side of her body, off and on. This caused her to use extreme focus to get through her days. Tamara's personality is pretty strong, and direct, it's what you have to do when you don't have time for people to slow down your life goals with silliness. She was not squeezing life in, she was living life, while other's drift through their days as if tomorrow was promised to us.
When Tamara received the news that a tumor had grown in the same location, she stepped up the pace of her bucket list. Tamara called me and directly stated, I was going out west with her. It was one of the most freeing moments of my life. "You mean stop everything to day? Go out west for you?" No, she implied, "you're going for yourself, you just get to have my wonderful presence while you do this." And that, is my friend Tamara. Life is about you, but today, you get me as well. She knew she was special, she was a child of God. So, my husband said, "What are you going to do, get on it."
Tamara's list of activities included sky diving. I shared no! You don't tell Tamara no, smile. I have to be realistic here Tamara, I don't feel like jumping out of a plane. Instead of jumping, my nephew helped me find a pilot and Tamara flew a plane from Phoenix to Sedona where we were staying. (I think that was the only compromise I was afforded except for the food I ate!") We were out there for 10 days, and her daughter Bridgett was home with Dad. But, being Tamara she took a continued education class as well, planning for the future, and called her daughter at night. One would think if you were dying, you'd want to spend your last days with your family, not out doing things on your bucket list. Tamara was different. Her brain surgery was scheduled for Monday and we'd get home on Friday.
While we were out west, we flew a plane, rock slid down the canyons, explored, swam, and of course read the bible, Tamara's anchor in life. (Not surprising, Tamara’s priorities, were God, her daughter and then she’d squeeze us in) But you always felt special when Tamara picks you as a friend, even though she can be a little self focused. We hiked 3 canyons, Bryce, Zion, and the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Please keep in mind, Tamara's left side of her body would give out from the growing pressure from the tumor. Yet, on this trip, we noticed that wasn't happening. Ah a blessings, though other things were frustrating.
While Tamara was at her conference, I found a great place for her to rest her spirit, Cathedral rock, a church on the side of the canyon in Sedona. We prayed together and alone. She came out smiling even bigger than she normally does.
I said, "you got your answer didn't you!"
Tamara: "I'm going to be ok."
Me: "Great, let's go." Then came the look. I asked, "is there more?"
Tamara: "Yes, I'm going to remarry."
Me: "Great let's go" The look came back.
Tamara: "I'm going to have another child. I'm to name her Rachel."
Me: "That's pretty clear. Great, are we ready to go?" (In my heart, I knew she did get her answers, she had a refreshing peace)
In Bryce Canyon, a group of motorcyclists showed up. Tamara was viewing the majesty of the canyon, so I shared her story with them and asked for a ride up to the top. Four guys took us up. Tamara being in charge of course. At the top of the Canyon, we took some time to walk. I wanted to show her the view from the other side, a mile walk away. Two of the riders escorted us. Decked in their black leather, they sweated along, the sun roasting them, and we did not have water."
They stumbled along since their boots we were not meant for hiking. On the other side, you could see the whole view, and a mighty breeze blew. When we got back our two guys were exhausted. They had a new appreciation for the canyons.
They shared, "We ride, we stop, we take pictures and we go. We don't experience what we see." Our advice was "Don't do that anymore" One gentleman said, "That was too hard, he'll stick to riding." The other stated he'd ride more by himself, map out places, get off his bike and experience more." Later in Bryce Canyon, as the sunset, Tamara was freezing. We wrapped up in a blanket together and watched the setting sun.
In Zion, we hiked. It was difficult. The hottest canyon we visited, it's a huge bowl of heat. We heard someone say, "There is a waterfall up there" Tamara said, "Let's go." Having hiked these canyons, I suggested down was better and we'd get to a river below, instead of climbing up. Tamara was grouchy, so we went up. Quickly after, we went down. Of course, I was in trouble for letting her go up. smile The rest of the day was spent, sunning in the river bed with the cold water lapping over us, then laying on the warm sand.
My greatest accomplishment on this trip was getting my way and going Antelope Canyon. It's a photographers dream. I used guilt to pursued her. You have to have a camera to go in, I gave her one of mine. I was in trouble again, I had did not take the time to show her how to use it right to get good pictures. "Fix it so my pictures are good!" She loved it!
The Canyon belongs to the natives. They're very protective of their treasure. Inside, one of the guides picked Tamara up and put her on his treasured ledge in the Canyon. We were not even allowed to lean on them. Later he said, "She is not healthy is, is she." I said, "How did you know?" I knew Tamara was pretty good about covering things up. He said, "I'm Indian, you know." That was a treasured memory.
After that a photography, kind of, was born. Sweet! At one point along the way, we stopped at a bridge. A gap between time, life and death if you looked down. Of course, Tamara had to defy the odds and got on the outside of the fence and hung over with her head pointing to the sky.
Me: "If you don't come in, I'm going to kill you before you die." She told me to try it. "It's freeing."
Me: “What killing you or going on the other side of the railing?” You develop a free sense of humor when you feel cancer has taken all the healthy boundaries away. We settled for taking fun pictures of me for my husband. She insisted, "Then do something for Scott" And she took control of my camera and snapped away. All this time, I never thought about loosing my friend. I was just happy living life with her.
Rock sliding was an opportunity to catch the current, like life, experience a lot of pumps along the way. Tamara being small, the cold was too much and the bumps too big. So, she sat in my lap, and I took the bumps for her. The one thing that ticked Tamara in life, is unnecessary hurt, but it was ok for me to bump along. All fun memories.
We visited a site where a volcano erupted many years ago. Growing above the ground where flowers that looked like someone had made them out of sugar. Sure enough, if you touched them, they would crumble. They were the most amazing flowers I’ve ever seen, like my friend, beautiful and fragile.
The south rim of the Grand Canyon, we saw the condors they released years ago. What were the odds of seeing these wonderful birds when there was a whole canyon out there. Another freeing moment except for the commercialism. There was a blend of familiarity, along with the vast canyon.
Through out our trip, Tamara lovingly called her daughter, and shared a lot of cel phone photos with me. We laughed, spit in the wind, prayed, and laughed some more. The hot air balloon ride was the best for me, and Antelope Canyon. The colors, the red rock, vast space without power lines, and a sunset you'll always remember. Drifting along, the breeze was mocked by the rush of the tanks being opened up and the heat billowing up and out to fill up our balloon. We trusted the balloons, our guide and the wind. We had my long lens and could see the desert jack rabbits, and coyote easily. We landed our balloon, in the desert were bones, rocks and lots of dirt. Our guides fixed us breakfast, with a little mimosa. Tamara being a massage therapist, wanted to bring bones home. Somehow, I found away to get them on the airiplane. Long story, another day.
Our flight back, Tamara lost control of her left side. It was the worse and as we thought back, the whole week, that never happened. The airport taxied to our gate, and as we were riding along, I shared with her, "Tamara if your movement comes back, will you fake it? I'm tired of carrying all of this stuff." Again, we laughed, as she accused me of using her."
Friday we were home. Saturday she had her nails done. Sunday with Bridgett, and Monday was her surgery. As a nurse I felt honored to be there, as a friend, I felt wanted and needed. An amazing thing happened, the 4-6 hour surgery was over in 2 hours. At first, I thought maybe it was too serious to finish. Then I thought of our prayer time. They said, "It just slipped out!"
I stayed with Tamara and she bossed me around some more. This time not as loving, but appreciated. Move the pillow here, no I said here." I took my job seriously, I wiped down the arms of her chair with disinfectant and scrubbed them. They were not clean enough for me. I had the privilege of bathing her when the staff neglected that step. I was her eyes, ears, and medical advocate.
If you are wondering why we took so many pictures, Tamar was leaving a journal for her daughter to live her life to then end. It is her life, and she should snatch it up, and live it up.
We saw her surgeon and he said, "The lab came back no cancer." Tamara lit up. (I had brought her journal of photos so we had them on us." Doctor Sautaurous said, "Tamara don't get your hopes up, I have sent samples to other labs." Tamara with confidence said, "Well do what you need to, to make sure you feel good about this but I told you I was going to be ok." She showed some pics from our trip. He asked for a few. She said, "Take a lot" Show your colleagues and remind them, God is the great physician, and you are His instrument. Don't forget that.
Tamara today, a survivor one one of the most aggressive types of cancer. She has remarried, and they are trying to have a child. God doesn't always give us ever detail. Bridgette has a new sibling with her dad and his wife. So, maybe this was the child Tamara that was shared in prayer with her. Maybe she will have a girl or adopt a girl and her name will be Rachel. The one thing we do know, is she is living her life to the end.
We all have a story. The album that was going to be a memory of Tamara for her daughter living life, has turned into a testimony of living your life, trusting God and sharing His miracles.
Today Tamara Reynolds Rosenburger and always my friend.
The death and dying process is what we make of it. It's natural, and there is never a right time to say good-bye, it’s always too early when you love someone.
Tamara my poster child for my bucket list photography blesses me as much as it blesses others.
The scripture she read the day she felt she got her answers, Psalm 30:5 weeping me endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning.