Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Reflecting. Remembering. Celebrating.Part 2.

Now this is the second part of my thoughts. I want to reflect on the last year and all I've learned and grown, I want to remember all the beautiful memories I have with my mom and remember all she taught me, and I want to celebrate all she was and all she left me ....
 I also find it appropriate that today , March 20 , the year date of mom's death, is the first day of spring. I find it appropriate because it's turning a new leaf. It's a new season. The trees are blooming beautifully already (early, I may even add), and the weather is beautiful. It's time to move into a new season of warmth and joy. It is time for mourning to turn to dancing. It doesn't mean that my sadness is gone or that grief is totally over. It just signifies to me a new season: life is changing and moving forward and I need to do so with it as well. It has been "winter" for me for far too long. I'm not totally sure how to go about being "spring" now, but I am sure giving it my best. And it feels good and right. I am so excited to see what God has in store for me and what the next year may hold.
 The last year has been the hardest of my life. I have cried more tears than I ever care to remember. I am, to be honest, totally exhausted from emotion alone...let alone all the regular duties of life. I have said goodbye to my best friend, one I've had my entire mom. Life didn't change a little bit: it turned upside down. After mom died, Michael and I went on opposite schedule to make things work with the kids. I have had to go about being a mom with out my mom....that is a challenge that has not been easy all the time. Mom was my one steady, "always there", constant support and encouragement....God has taught me in some extremely difficult ways that my dependance in that lies in Him alone. That has probably been one of the largest voids mom left and one of the largest gaps I've had to let God come in and fill...and sill have to remember to let Him do that sometimes.  It's a one day at a time, again and again lesson I have to learn. But I am really embracing that truth for the first time in many years. I don't say that to praise myself in any fashion...itis by His grace alone I can embrace that. It's been a terribly painful lesson. I have had to learn how to laugh again. It took me a very long time to do that after mom died. Generally I laugh the hardest at work. (Not because we fool around all the time, but because we just genuinely enjoy each other.)I remember the first really hard laugh I took place with my coworker, TW, and I laughed so hard I had tears. I hadn't done that in months, and I remember when it took place it being a marker for me. I actually stopped after the fact and really took in what had just happened. I have had to learn to love in new ways because I haven't always had the love in me. I have sometimes functioned on total auto pilot because my heart hurt so badly, I was in such a fog. I'm now beginning to really purposefully do things again. It's not that I didn't do things with purpose all year long....there were several things I did do.. What I mean is, I'm beginning to move forward and not be so stuck any more. Spring is becoming more and more a part of my season right now. Family has taken on new meaning to me. Trust has new meaning. Purpose has a totally fresh , new meaning. At mom's viewing , there were over 500 people who attended, and I am not exaggerating that at all. Mom's life touched thousands. I have really taken that in and thought of my own life. Purpose has a new meaning to me.
 Life is so fleeting. Mom's was over too soon, if you ask me. But yet she lived it to the fullest every moment. Death makes one think about life even more , I think.
 Heaven has a new meaning. Man, I cannot wait to be there one day. It is so much more real now. This is not my's temporary.
 LIfe is just totally different. Being a mom, being a wife, being's different now than it was a year ago in really every single aspect. It would take me several blogs to cover that. It's been a year. A year I have only made it through by the grace of God and with the help of some very precious friends who 've stuck by me through every difficult moment, every tear, every painful experience. I am grateful for those people. I've made mistakes. I've hurt. I've cried. I've learned. I've laughed. I've grown up. I still have depression ...the anxiety attacks are getting less....but I am a better person ultimately. It is really hard to say that. I"m not better because I don't have my mom. I am better because as God promises in Romans 8:28, He will use bad for good if we love Him and if we let Him. It took me a very long time to arrive to letting Him. But now, He is showing me so many things. Not for my glory, but for His.
 I have an ache without mom. I always will. I hurt still. I still grieve. But I am moving forward. Into spring. I love music, and i always have. Mom did, too, really. But there is a specific Steven curtis Chapman CD that spoke volumes to me in the time of mom dying and has still since she died. It's Beauty From Ashes. One song stands out to me really powerful right now. It's called "Spring is Coming" and it's so appropriate to include for where my heart is today.
We planted the seed while the tears of our grief soaked the groundThe sky lost its sun, and the world lost its green to lifeless brownNow the chilling wind has turned the earth hard as stoneAnd silently seed rise beneath ice and snow
And my heart's heavy nowBut I'm not letting go of this hope I have that tells meSpring is coming, Spring is comingAnd all we've been hoping and longing for soon will appearSpring is coming, Spring is comingIt won't be long now, it's just about here
Hear the birds start to singFeel the life in the breezeWatch the ice melt awayThe kids are coming out to play
Feel the sun on your skinGrowing strong and warm again[ From: ]Watch the ground: there's something movingSomething is breaking throughNew life is breaking through
Spring is coming, Spring is comingAnd all we've been hoping and longing for soon will appearSpring is coming, Spring is comingAnd it won't be long now, it's just about here
Spring is coming, Spring is coming(Out of these ashes, beauty will rise)And all we've been hoping and longing for soon will appear(Sorrow will be turned to joy)Spring is coming, Spring is coming(All we hoped for soon will appear)It won't be long now, it's just about here(Out of the dark clouds, beauty will shine)(All above in heaven, rejoice)(Spring is coming soon)(Spring is coming soon)
 I will move into spring. And I will continue moving forward one day at a time. With mom always in my heart and mind. And God by my side.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Reflecting. Remembering. Celebrating.Part 1.

Today, March 20, is likely a normal day to most people. For me, though, it's date forever burned in my mind and is the day I said goodbye to my mom here on earth. The day my mom went home to heaven. The day she lost her battle to cancer. I have so many things I'd really like to share that this will be a 2 blog post day.
 Some may say it's not healthy to walk in the past. I don't do that so much, but I think for me, to go through this day, and this grief process, I kind of need to talk about this time last year. I need to share some of what was going on in order to process my grief and keep moving forward. There are experts out there who say that the one year marker is a significant date for moving on. I really don't find anything magical about it. Yes, we've conquered a lot of firsts in this year, but it doesn't mean grief ends or is even extremely easier. It will be one day, but each persons journey is different, and one year or not, the hole will always be there. allow me to remember last year for a few minutes.

 March 18, Friday.
 I had the day off from work, and I spent the majority of it with mom. Mom was bedridden, and not eating. the hospice nurses were now on the clock 24/7, knowing that the end was any moment, really. Mom's breaths were about 5 a minute. I spent time next to her bed, holding her hand, talking to her, sometimes just sitting praying or being quiet. It depended on the moment. The hospice nurses were very kind and very respectful of space.  The day was one I saw mom smile a little bit. It was the best response I'd gotten all week from her. Here is what I wrote:
 "Today, for the first time in days, I had a little smile from her. That was a beautiful thing. And if it's my last memory, it's a good one. I sure am going to miss her like crazy. Her dress is now clean and ready for her burial. She chose it long ago. It seems unreal and sad. I am sad. But there's a peace of sorts with that sadness too. I"m scheduled to work tomorrow and I really don't know if I can."
  I remember leaving the farm that day thinking mom maybe wouldn't make it through the night. Leaving was really tough.
The next day was Saturday, the 19th. I was at work. But I may as well not have been. I was a mess. I tried my best to do what I needed to, but I knew in my heart it was about to happen, and I really didn't want to not be there. I kept my phone on me, so I could be gotten ahold of at any point. Dad's number showed up on the phone and my heart beat twice as fast. I answered, and dad told me that the nurse said I should come home. Mom's feet were beginning to turn blue. Mom was pretty non responsive. I sat for a minute and took that in, then I cried on the shoulder of a coworker for a few minutes, then I said I had to go. I drove home to grab clothes and sped out to the farm. I just wanted to be there. For me. For mom. For dad. It was just me and dad and the nurse and mom for a good part of the first few hours when I arrived.
 Mom's breaths were shallow. Her face was pale, and the nurse was right, there was a blue tint to her feet. It's not at all what I remember when I think of my mom. but today, it's hard not to recall that. She was asleep. Dad and I decided to take turns being by her bedside. The nurse said it could be within hours, but it could be a couple days-she'd seen it both ways. It's hard not knowing sometimes. So our time of taking turns began. It was the longest 24 hours of my life. The nurse would come in and check vitals every so often or turn mom a little or things like that. But mostly, we were given our space with her. Sometimes I'd sing quietly. Sometimes I'd cry quietly. Sometimes I'd share every bit of my heart with mom. she could still hear just fine, we knew that.
 Michael showed up sometime in the afternoon to be with me. We had some amazing best friends from church keeping our kids for us. They loved on our children as much as any family member ever did. We were grateful to have them...(and to still have them through all this)
 My older brother was on his way home from PA. And I was again working on arrangements to get my younger, military brother home.
 My sister and her husband arrived late that evening. I have no idea what we ate for dinner...but I do remember sitting down to eat. As the night passed, I didn't sleep. Partially because my heart and mind couldn't shut down, and partially because I didn't want to miss any second with mom. We took turns through the night. When my  brother showed up at midnight, I remember embracing strongly and then allowing him his space to see mom.
I tossed in bed some and then moved to the couch and then really wound up talking to my brother or the nurse the rest of the night. No one could sleep well. Dad was in the room with mom. I remember really strange details talking about our grain bins with the nurse and explaining those to her, as she'd never seen anything like that. I remember our best childhood friends showing up really late at night with coffee for us. Strange details. I remember the feel of mom's skin...and I hope I never forget that. She didn't look like herself, but it's not the image I hold onto, either.  Night passed into morning and mom was still holding on. We heated up the casserole the lifelong friends had brought us and ate around the breakfast table...some moments quiet...some moments filled with laughter remembering.
 As the morning went along, we continued taking turns with mom. Early afternoon, our lifelong friends once again came along side us. We were and always have been like family, so it was comforting having them there. It happened to be dad's turn in with mom then. Shortly after they arrived, dad came out and told us mom was gone. We all huddled together and cried. It was appropriate dad was the one there. That's how it should've been. We 'd all had our time. I can remember walking back to the bedroom to say goodbye, even though she was already gone. Oh, how the tears poured down. It was no longer my mom lying there. It's crazy how God works. The image of her body there lifeless was so so so painful. And yet it is never the image I think of. All at once, I saw her there, I also pictured her finally laughing again....that was my mom....ALWAYS laughing or smiling. And she was no longer in pain and suffering...she was in the arms of Jesus, smiling and singing again. It was neat to me to have that image come almost immediately.
 The day went along...we made phone calls and arrangements. It was absolutely exhausting. Food was dropped on us galore, so we didn't have to worry about that. Then the arrangements began. I won't give every detail from that point on because then this blog would never end....because there are so many details in my mind.
 If you are so inclined, there will be another blog later tonight-part 2. Stay tuned as I continue to tell you how it's been one day at a time for me.

Saturday, March 10, 2012 the messy smoothie

I have no clever title for today's post, so "thoughts" is about all you get for that, because that's about all I have rambling through my many thoughts.  Today at work , the bottom of the blender wasn't screwed on tightly, and the smoothie I was blending went ALL over the counter, under the espresso machine,down the sink, and everywhere. What a mess. (it's funny now, but it was really frustrating then.) That's what I feel the thoughts in my head are doing lately-just kind of exploding!
 I cannot walk through this month without thinking about what was occurring this time last  year. It does not mean that I am dwelling on the past or that it is consuming me. It does not mean that I am sad all the time. But due to other crazy life events, I have been missing mom a lot-she was my encouragement backer, 100% of the time, my mistakes and all. Because I have been missing her more for that reason alone, it also draws me back to the events of the last year and what was happening.
 I was working only 20 hours a week again, knowing that the day would be literally any day at this time. I was running still, but not a lot.  all my time was split between the hours at work, my family, and mom. I wouldn't change it for a minute. Mom was declining so badly. She was sleeping most of the time. She ate, but very little, and usually only if we were feeding her. She was in the wheelchair when she was up, and she didn't wear the oxygen full time , but it was still pretty often. She wasn't able to talk . We knew it would be any day. Functioning was only a God thing for me-I look back and wonder how in the world I made it. It was only God. Here's an excerpt from my journal last year.
 March 4,2011
 " I 'm very tired. Sad. Confused. Frustrated. I long to feel normal....."
 March 6, 2011
 "It's time for mom to die. She is really suffering. I'm so sad and my heart hurts. ....Mom is not good.Every day could b her last. She is suffering so much and it's heartbreaking.It is the most difficult thing to watch unfold. I keep thinking of a lot of memories with mom, as I sit by her side for hours at a time right now. Sometimes silly ones. Sometimes serious ones. LIke When I was 3, I was playing ring around the rosie with my siblings, and when we all fell down, my head hit the corner wall and it split open. Mom held a towel on my head and drove me to the hospital. She never panicked. Never got loud or really crazy. I, on the other hand, went bazerk. I freaked out so badly, they had to wrap me in a papoose (?) while I got stitches. This is probably one of my earliest memories.That was before cell phones. Mom did it all on her own. She was always calm. Always had a quiet independence about her.She handled everything with patience and care. When I was 5, mom sat on my bed and led me to the Lord.She used to always sing to me "I have decided to follow Jesus".Mom read to us all the time.We had treasure hunts at Christmas. ...."
 It's interesting what went through my mind all those days. Sometimes as I sat there, I would talk to mom about it'"remember this, mom?" sometimes she was sleeping through it; sometimes I got a small smile.
I remember sitting by her bedside and doing the study of Esther, a study written by Beth Moore. It is always neat to me to see how God places certain studies in life just when I need them. I don't really remember the exact day, but I know it was right around this time because mom had just become bedridden and I was sitting next to her, doing my study while she slept. This particular page stood out to me and here is what it said ...."Just surviving certain tasks without falling apart is our best and in those times God is not ashamed of our performance.He's proud of us for fighting overwhelming human emotions to do His will.God isn't interested in our stellar performance, but in our hearts.He loves our obedience and willingness despite our insecurities."  That meant a lot to me then. It still means a lot to me today, and I love that God brought that back to my  mind today even.  Sometimes, whether it's due to exploding smoothies or exploding thoughts full of insecurities and yucky things, it is all I can do to make it through a day. Other times, I am laughing and giddy. I hate being a roller coaster-I really would like to be an even keel emotional person. However, for this time in my life, it is who I am, and God loves me...and loves when I choose obedience and willingness despite my insecurities. And in choosing that, He can help overcome those things. I love when He brings those back to mind. He is faithful.
  Today is my dad's birthday. He will be coming over for dinner. It will be a small celebration, but I think it'll be fun, even though simple. It will be dad's first without mom. I don't even remember celebrating his birthday las year. I am not sure if we really did or 10 days it'll be the one year anniversary of mom's passing, and most of us were consumed by that at this point, so I don't remember if we had cake or anything. however, tonight we will. We will have chili and angel food cake (dad's favorite). We will probably play silly games on the wii , and we will laugh. I have no doubt in my mind that there will be moments today hard for dad, as for us, without mom here for his birthday. But he chooses to keep smiling and he sets and amazing example. He loved my mom with every fiber in him, and he's even proved that by letting go of her, knowing she is better off now. He sets an amazing example to me. Through all this time, dad and I have found a new relationship together, so I am thankful for that. He's an incredible, strong, godly man, whom I admire greatly. He and I have a lot of similarities, to the point that mom used to roll her eyes  and say "oh, brother." about some of our similar actions. I can see it now. But I'm glad for that. so, happy birthday to my dad! Though this is a tough month, we will find joy in this day and we will laugh a lot, I am sure.
 Well, it's Saturday morning now as I finish this. Bright and early out for a run....the longest one of the season. If you read my last blog, we'll see if I find any crazy things along the dark path this morning. The time changes tonight, so next time this early, there should be more light!
 Until the next blog...I keep going one step, one day at a time. And it is a new day...time to rejoice in that! A verse in my mind repeated lately is "This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it!"

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dark,Light,and Home Grown Tomatoes

  Saturday morning....the alarm went off at 3:45 so I could get on the path by 5 am for a 13.1 (half marathon) distance run with my faithful friend. We don't typically run so early on a Saturday, but today we needed to. I half dreaded that, half thrilled off of it. I love to run, but I hadn't gotten the sleep I needed the night before. Anyway, we met up at 5 and started off by her getting out of her car into a puddle (it was very dark.) We laughed hysterically...most likely because we were both tired.  anyway, we set off. It became a very fun, very therapeutic run. We are both experiencing some really deep life experiences, so We have some in depth talks when we run. We also laugh when we run-we've been friends for years. Anyway, it was very dark. I mean, we couldn't see 100 yards ahead of us because this path is a bit woodsy. A lot of times, that could be unsafe. But we have run the path enough times, we know it by heart. However, what you cannot predict are some of the things we "bumped " into on the path as we went along. Like a pile of horse crap that was completely hidden by the dark. Or some sticks consuming the path in certain areas. Or even animals. But we were having a great time.
 As we hit the halfway point, ( a little before) the sun started coming out. As we doubled back and ran back toward our cars, we could see the things we ran "through and into". the sticks were actually pretty large branches. The horse crap was....definitly horse crap. We actually laughed hysterically as we passed by that point, seeing the shoe print I'd left in it. I told her ....this is going into my blog. There is a life analogy in that. (And I'm getting to that.) It was an amazing run. We saw the sun rise. We saw a few random snow flakes. We laughed. We shared. We ran our little hearts out. One step closer to our goal.
 But as we ran, and we compared how the path was the very same path we were on in both directions (to and then back ), we talked about how very true it is that something that is the same one hour to the next can be totally different in dark vs. light. Our point was proven as we could easily see the branches and horse poo the way back. We couldn't see those things on our first half.
  In life, that is true. Sometimes choosing the light is hard. It's not always the easy choice. In fact, it sometimes is the harder choice. But it is the choice God calls us to make. He is our light. And when we choose Him, we can see things so much better. The dark is sometimes the path we want to choose, however, we run into a lot of crap when we choose that path. There are also so many obstacles unseen. however, when God shines His light on those things-when we choose to let Him do so-we can not be hurt by them. Life is so much like that. When I choose to let God guide my way with His light, my path is so much easier. I can see what would hurt me and I can avoid that by following Him. If or when I have chosen the darker way....inevitably I get dirty or messy or hurt. It's not worth it.  His Word offers me light every day, if I choose to open it up and use it. Psalm 119:105 "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." to stay on the right path, I need His word.
 It was sort of an analogy "oh yeah, duh!" kind of reminder moment for me. By the very last mile, we had just gotten silly. It was no longer a serious run for us. It was a good time. Somehow, we ended up singing silly camp songs from our childhood , laughing so hard we almost couldn't' even run.  That's where Homegrown Tomatoes comes in. It was the dumbest camp song ever, but it came to her mind and the words came back to us ....not that it would make any sense to you unless you once graced the campus of Scioto Hills Camp, but a few of the silly words were "Homegrown tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes, aint nothing like homegrown tomatoes, only 2 things money can't buy, and that's true love and home grown tomatoes." It goes on even sillier. The point is, talking about camp and remembering that silly song not only provided some laughter, but reminded us of some of the more important camp songs and moments.  It was a really good run-horse crap, branches, dark, light and all. And I am so thankful we ended in the light! I hope every day I start and end there.
 This month is a challenging month in some aspects, as it will mark the one year date of my mom's passing. It is difficult to believe that it has almost been a year. I have a lot rumbling through my mind on that topic, too, but I will post later this week on that.
 In the meantime, I am going to make every effort to choose the light-one step, one day at a time.