Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thankful, part 2.

The first snowfall of the season is occurring outside as I sit and write this blog. I know I was supposed to write this almost a week ago, but between family gathering, packing, enjoying some reading and some good down time, well, I am just now sitting down to write this. On the night of the first snowfall. Just 5 days ago I actually was able to wear shorts for an afternoon run (extremely rare in Ohio at this time of year.) Now , tomorrow, as I get up at 4 to go for a run, I will be breaking out the under armour clothing and gloves. Evidence of life going on....seasons changing yet again. Such a parallel to life and to my grief process.
 I wanted to say in my last blog what I spent last Thanksgiving doing, though now that that has passed, it seems irrelevant. It was a tradition to watch the Macy's day parade growing up. No matter how much food was in the oven, mom always sat down to watch the parade. We loved it. And those are moments I will remember forever. Upon starting my own family, it became a tradition that stayed with me and my kids. We all look forward to the parade. Last year, knowing it was quite likely the last Thanksgiving with mom, I picked up coffee for me and her (we enjoyed having a cup together quite often) and went to the hospital, where she was on that day, and spent the morning sitting with her watching the parade until she was too tired. It's a Thanksgiving memory that was hard, yes, but is one I will keep with me forever. Even in her last months, she was still such a fighter, living life to the most normal as possible. We sat down and watched the parade this year, as we always do. Of course, mom was in my mind the whole time. Bittersweet. I made it through the day, as God has helped me get through each one since she passed. I had my private moments of tears and remembering, but we also shared a lot of laughs, which is how mom would've wanted it. My brother cooked the turkey (and did an amazing job on it, along with the stuffing and a delicious salad), my sister and mother in law cooked pies, I made mom's sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole and corn pudding, and Dad made the mashed potatoes from scratch! Oh, if mom could've seen him, she would've been so proud. He did a great job on them! The day was nice over all. I sure missed having Michael there, though, as he had to work. It was just a very different day.
 My siblings and I played games in the evening. Games have always been a tradition in our home-be it a holiday or a Friday or just any day of the week. We never needed an excuse. We love games. One of our favorites (I should say the girls' favorite-mom, Becky, and I) is Dutch Blitz. We hadn't played this since mom passed, and on Thanksgiving we played. And boy, did we laugh. My brother, who really doesn't like the game all that much, joined my sister and I, and we laughed so hard. It was bittersweet. I can't speak for them, but again, mom was in the back of my mind the whole time. She would've been laughing harder than any of us at the site of the 3 of us playing.
 And so the day was different , as we all knew it would be, but again God proved faithful and got me through. Moving through grief is not easy. The holidays are hard. There is a lot of fun remembering. There is also a lot of recognizing mom not being here. I am so thankful for the many years of memories stored up.
 Tonight, as the first snow falls, I finally decided to put on some Christmas music. As I have listened to it, it has made me think of mom a lot. Being in the process of moving, we are not putting up decorations, which is really ok with me this year. In so doing, it feels a little less like the season. Tonight, however, with the snow falling and the music on, I am very aware of the time of  year, and the ache for mom is strong tonight. Hearing her favorite Christmas songs, thinking now about last year's, and all the previous years, and what this year's means, it's a wave of emotions. I imagine the season will hold a lot of that. But God is faithful. And one day at a time, He continues to carry me through the process, teaching me new ways to laugh, new traditions to start with my family, ways to remember mom, restoration of my heart and soul, and little moments to grab onto through this bittersweet season.
 Psalm 23:1-3 "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.He makes me to lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful, part 1.

Everyone right now is blogging about Thanksgiving. So I must include myself into that lump of people. Actually, it's a great thing to talk about year round, but of course, this is a typical time for it to shine through.
 Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember. I love the colors and the smells. I love that everyone truly seems to have grateful hearts. I love that busyness doesn't consume this day. I love the football and the harvest season and the aspect of why we celebrate this day and what comes with it. It is the holiday that is so often overlooked, as many people are already into the Christmas mode. I will not put on the music or decorate until after Thanksgiving has been noted. We try to keep lists of what we are thankful for year round, but especially at this time of year, we are noting things in our household. The kids love this day, too.
 This Thanksgiving is really different. Amonth ago, I was saying how much I just wish we could skip over it. NOt having my mom this first time is like the elephant in the room. Everyone will know it and feel it but....who knows how this will really go. My grief has moved along a lot in a months time. I can't say I'm loving this holiday as much as I usually do, but I am not dreading it. It is painful . And there will be some tears, I am sure. But all I can do is keep moving through it all. It's going to happen, whether I want it to or not. And so I will try to make the best of it. Thanksgving will be at Dad's. Being there is a place of real peace for me, so I think that it will be good to have it there. I think it will be hard, too. It's just going to be different. LIfe is different, and there's no denying there. There is a void there that remains with mom gone.  But don't worry, I am getting to some of the things for which I am thankful...I just have to get through the grief parts of this holiday too.
 It's funny, as much as grief can be consuming at times, life keeps moving, and I have to use the experience to grow me as God has intended. I'd like to deny that at times, but lately evidence of how life keeps going has been screaming in bold letters at me. You see, my entire family is going through some enormous changes, but most of them are all exciting and good. Evidence of life going on.... we are buying a house! My sister and her husband have accepted a job as head pastor 2 hours south of here, so they are working on moving by the end of December; my older brother is home again, which is a huge blessing!; and my younger brother is getting married and he is also going to be deploying to Afghanistan in January. Life keeps going... Good changes. But a lot of changes to be happening at one time. I have thought of mom so much through all these things transpiring. How she'd quietly be at the center of most of it....supporting Tim and praying for him; helping Becky and me both pack our houses and help with the kids in the midst of the chaos; how she'd likely be playing games with Steve. It's bittersweet, experiencing these good times without her. But it is also a beautiful picture of how God moves. A year ago, I wanted nothing to do with buying a house. Now I am excited! I miss mom. This time of year is going to be full of memories and it will be hard to walk through them at times. But on this time of Thanksgiving, I want to say how grateful I am for all that mom taught me. All the laughs we shared. All the many memories I have with her. As I bake her sweet potato casserole for tomorrow, I can see her standing in the kitchen, cooking for hours for Thanksgving meals. I am so thankful that I have those to hold onto.
 2011 has been one of the most difficult years I have ever had to walk through....but God is faithful and I am so very grateful for that. Words cannot even put into an appropriate picture all that He has loved me through. I am so thankful to have Him. I am thankful that true healing is unfolding.
 I am thankful for my family. my husband my kids. my dad. my brother. my sister. my brother. We have sometimes a funny family dynamic, but we have a strong one. One I am grateful for.
 I am thankful for my church. What a blessing they are all to me. Such a support system and a true second family.
 I am thankful for my job. I could dedicate an entire blog to my job . I am so happy in it. I love my customers, who are quickly becoming some really good friends. I am really thankful for my co workers-a group of people I have bonded with in a neat way. I am thankful for a non stressful environment. I am thankful for my boss and his silly songs and crazy ways that make work a good environment. I am thankful for a consistent schedule.
 I can go on and on, which is why this blog is part 1. Tomorrow I will blog again. I've had many of these things in mind lately, just making the time lately has been difficult. (Remember, we are buying a house, so working full time, packing, prepping, and all the crazy other things take time...) Until then, I will move through tomorrow not only one day at a time, but one hour at a time, because it will be a very bittersweet day. Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

November 5-6,2010

On this day a year ago, it was my second day off in a row. I was out running routine errands. My mom had  an appointment scheduled with her oncologist that day. Sort of a routine checkup after radiation, and sort of to talk about some concerns. I was waiting for a call from mom, as I usually did after one of her dr. appointments. I was in line at WalMart and my phone rang....dad's cell phone. Immediately I picked up, anxiously awaiting mom's voice of what her doctor had said.  Only it was my dad on the phone, and it was so hard to understand him through all the emotion.
 "Rachael, we have a real problem. Mom can't speak or write. ".....silence.... "ok, dad, I'll be right there." and that was about the extent of the conversation. Between phone calls to my sister-piecing together what she knew and what I knew-and call to Michael that I was headed straight to the hospital-I drove over the speed limit to get to my mom and dad's side as fast as possible. I was very confused and scared as to what was happening. All I knew was that morning, Novemeber 5, mom woke up and couldn't talk at all. And at the dr. office as they discovered this more, she couldn't write either.
 As Becky and I both arrived at Good Samaritan North, where mom was being treated, we sat by mom's side and got the story from dad. Really, we weren't all supposed to be there, but the nurses were quite kind. All we knew was that something was happening and it hadn't been a stroke. We were waiting as mom was going in for an MRI immediately. Meanwhile, we played phone tag with Tim and STeve to get them the story of what was happening. Soon Michael arrived. We could do nothing but wait, so we went to Steak N Shake for lunch. Seems a strange thing to do, but we did. After mom's MRI, I can't remember if we saw her oncologist or not. But I do remember going down to the radiologist's office. We all squeezed in there. There were 7 of us, including the radiologist. But we were supporting one another. Here we found out mom had 3 new tumors-2 on the brain, 1 on the skull. That is what caused mom to not be able to speak or write. They gave mom a radiation treatment then and would proceed to give several more and then determine from there. But the radiation should shrink the tumor so she should regain some of the speech and writing skill. We asked a lot of questions and took in all the information. We were all exhausted from tears, fears, praying, learning, and being in a hospital environment all day. Finally, the radiologist said there wasn't much more we could do that day....just to proceed as we were and just get her to the hospital if there were more dramatic changes. Meanswhile, Steve was on his way home.
 Together, Michael and I decided I'd stay the night out at the farm. It had been a very long day ....I drove home and grabbed some clothes and ordered pizza to pick up for dinner on the way to mom and dad's. Mom was a very loved woman and news traveled fast....when I arrived at the farm, a good friend of mom's, who had just had her own mom's funeral that day, was at the farm bringing food! Now that is the love of Christ shining through. Anyhow, all food was brought in and after talking a few minutes and praying together, they left and dad and I (and Elizabeth, as she was staying the night with me) sat down to eat, weary after a very long, emotional day. We had no idea what to expect. It was very scary. And so hard to understand ....we'd never been a position of mom not being able to communicate her needs. I cannot remember at what point Steve showed up in the night...but he arrived and it was so good to have my big brother home. I slept fitfully that night-partially due to not my own bed, but more so due to worry . The next morning, Saturday, November 6, Michael came out to the farm early to make breakfast for everyone. As he cooked and Becky and all her family arrived, I helped mom get up. It was hard not knowing totally what she needed. We had to figure out ways to communicate like we never had before. She was unsteady, but she got out to the breakfast table ok. As we sat down to eat, it was noticeable that her functions were slightly worse that morning. Fast forward about 30 minutes....dad and me and ....I can't remember who else was with us...were in the back talking. We were called out in an emergency fashion. Mom was having a seizure.
 Part of me hates reliving this. And sharing it here is a hesitation I have. But it's part of the process....walking through the events kind of again. It's sort of natural. I heard a quote today....it was "LIfe is a journey-not so much the destination, but the transformation..." And i realized how true that rang for me,e ven on this specific day. To see what God is doing in me through this journey of grief. He is transforming me...I see things in such a different light. But as I do that, I still have to get through these yearly milestones.
 But back to a year ago. The ambulance was called, paramedics came, mom had come back to a non seizure form . Michael got the kids off to our best friends' house, BEcky, Steve, and I all piled into Steves car and we sped off to the hospital. None of us knew what to expect or what was happening or what would be to come in the next days, let alone months. Friends piled into the hospital little by little. The love of Christ was surrounding us. It was only by that and by Him that we got through that day..and the days ahead. Mom was admitted, and they kept her there for a few days. TEsts were run, meds were given, explanations were spoken and countless hours were spent beginning a new understanding of what was happening. Cancer was spreading. But mom was amazing through all this....determination shone through. Faith was evident. The months to come would be difficult, but we'd take them one day at a time. It was this time last y ear that I really began to understand and embrace one day at a time.....
 Mom taught me that.
  I don't want to end this post on a sober note. Yes, a year ago this day was very very hard for me. And today I remember it quite vividly. But I also mean this when I say it....I rejoice that my mom now has no pain. Shoot, I envy that she gets to be in heaven. But I will see her healthy again one day, and that is just one reason to keep smiling through the tears. And keep plugging through this first unknown  year of a new normal. Some days that is hard to embrace....but I'm learning to. Because, as I said, it's not the destination, it's the transformation. And somehow, losing mom is a new transforming experience, albeit painful at times. But one day at a time, I begin to see Him in new ways.
"The Biblical view is that waiting is not so much about when I will get what I'm waiting for, but WHAT I WILL BECOME as I wait." Dr. Paul David Tripp

Friday, November 4, 2011

November 4,2010

Do you know what you were doing on this exact day one year ago? Probably not. Because really, Nov. 4 is not a significant day to many people. But this day, in 2010 will forever be something  I will hold onto.

 It was Thursday, Novemeber 4,2010. I had the rare joy of 2 days off in a row-Thurs and Fri. After the kids got off to school, the weather was beautiful, so I decided I'd head out for a 6 mile run. Only I wanted a bit of different scenery, so I chose to run the Yellow Springs Bike Path. This time of year, it is beautiful. Since I was going to be just down the road from the farm, I called mom. At this point in time, one year ago, she was going through things like chemo and had just finished some radiation. She had a tumor on the back of the neck that had just finished being treated. Her attitude, as always, was one of beating the disease.  I was spending a lot of time with her. I called her, being it my day off and being that I was going to be close, and told her when I finished my run, I'd come out for lunch.
 I set out on the path that beautiful day and really just enjoyed my run. I wasn't out for a time or speed, I was out to run. And pray. And think. Though mom's battle hadn't turned fierce yet, it was still an exhausting road and a hard journey to be walking. I loved my runs. (I still do). Anyway, the leaves were falling, and the colors were brilliant yellows. The fields on either side of the path were either  freshly harvested or waiting to be harvested. The path was quiet that day. I remember my headphones and specific songs from that run. It was an enjoyable run.
 When my run finished, I headed out to the farm. I have no idea what we ate for lunch. I just know we enjoyed it. It was just mom and I-dad was busy out doing work since it was nice weather. Mom and I talked about all the things. Then we played Dutch Blitz-our favorite card game. And we enjoyed a cup of coffee. Soon, I had to be going, as I had to get the kids from school. I cannot tell you exactly what we ate that day, or exactly what we talked about. But I remember our coffee and I remember playing the game and I remember laughing so hard, like I often did with my mom. We hugged tightly, as had become the normal, and I walked out the door, exchanging "I love you"s and off I went to get my kids.
 To you all, this may seems like just another memory I am recalling. However, it is so precious to me, because the next day, Novemeber 5, would change our lives forever. Tomorrow I will blog more about that. So I guess I'll say "to be continued...."
 I will be recalling a lot of details int he next few months-I think it's normal and it's ok. Don't think I'm stuck just because I'm recalling these things. It's just part of my process. To get through this yucky first year without mom, this is part of what I have to do for me.  Really, I've made some great strides in my grief process...though many of you may not see it. God gets the glory for that. Because it is certainly not by my strength.
 I am so thankful that I took the time that day to just ignore house duties and such (as I would typically give some time to those on days off) and go be with mom. It was our last really normal conversation. And it's one I'll never forget, even if I cannot remember every word. You see, those are the moments that count. Not a clean house. I'd never take back that day with my mom.....it's one I'll never have again. God knew that that day, I'm sure. We even talked that night on the phone, as we usually did. The next day would be a different story. I'll tell you more tomorrow...