Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Sunday night, Gayle left dinner early and by the time we returned to our little room, she was in bed asleep. At some point in the night, I heard Gayle and Mom discussing who would go in the bathroom first. At some later point in the night, I realized Gayle was throwing up. She woefully admitted to being sick and repeatedly apologized for exposing us all. I think she envisioned being Patient Zero in the cruise ship plague.

We called guest relations, got the ship clinic opened up (which I'm pretty sure involved waking a nurse and a doctor), and asked for a wheelchair to come pick up my sister. By this time, Gayle was shaking uncontrollably and in a lot of pain. It finally dawned on me when she described the pain as being around her back and through her diaphragm, and then she said, "I keep throwing up but I don't feel better." Oh! I know that feeling. Gallbladder.

The ship's doctor ran a battery of tests to rule out other things, then mercifully gave Gayle an i.v. with fluids, anti-nausea meds, and morphine. She was able to sleep and I went back to our room. The good news: not a contagion. The bad news: possible emergency surgery in Juneau.

Monday morning was full of wonder as our ship approached Tracy Arm Fjord. The glacial water was a beautiful icy blue. I slept in as Mom and Cathy watched the scenery off our balcony. When the glacier was dead ahead, they woke me and went up to the top deck. It was an amazing sight! Cathy was our official photographer, so I'll post pics when she sends copies.

We visited Gayle in the ship hospital (1st floor, if you're wondering), and planned our day. If Gayle had to disembark in Juneau for surgery, Cathy would stay behind with her. I would continue on with Mom. In light of that possibility, we packed up Gayle and Cathy's bags. Since Cathy's cruise might be ending sooner than expected, Cathy went on the whale watching excursion with Mom in Juneau. They also went to the Mendenhall Glacier. They had a great time and arrived back at the ship just in time for our 8:30 dinner seating. Again, pictures on the way.

Gayle and I had a whole different kind of excursion. First, Gayle was wheeled down the ramp in her nightgown and cruise ship robe. Then, she was moved onto a gurney and wheeled to a waiting ambulance. For the full effect, you have to picture thousands of cruise ship tourists milling around to find their various excursion transportation. With Gayle rolling through. Sort of like a parade. (We found out later that our dinner tablemates saw her and pointed her out to their fellow travelers. "Look! We know her!") So we got all loaded up into the ambulance, the guy turned the key, and click. Click click click click. Have you ever seen an ambulance get a jump? I have.

To make a very long story somewhat shorter, Gayle received wonderful care in Juneau. Among the usual hospital questions, she was asked, "What time does your ship leave?" An ultrasound revealed she did indeed have gallstones, many and large, but did not need to have emergency surgery. She was released to get back on the ship, armed with a prescription and some diet recommendations. She may be the only person I know who has lost weight on a cruise. What an adventure!

Monday, September 27, 2010


On Sunday, Sept. 12, we awoke in Ketchikan, Alaska. Mom had been up a lot in the night with aching legs, but woke us at 6:30 a.m. with a loud stage whisper, "Let's go find a church!" There were plenty of churches in Ketchikan, but none that we could get to and be back in time for our excursion. So we contended ourselves with the Church of the Breakfast Buffet and loaded ourselves onto a bus at the appointed time for our land and sea tour.

We learned about the totems of the city and how they each tell a story. (Gayle and I at separate times commented that it would be fun to make a family story totem. Chainsaw art, anyone?) Our tour guide was a delightful retired school teacher, whose own mother was a feisty octogenarian. Next we took a short walk through the temperate rainforest (deep woods with moss and ferns on the floor), over a salmon stream, to an abandoned salmon cannery. (If you ever need to kick the canned salmon habit, this is the tour for you. Ick. I'm trusting modern canning methods are much improved.} We learned the 5 kinds of salmon and had a little snack of salmon spread and hot chocolate. I think Mom had two.

The "sea" portion of our tour was a narrated nature boat tour of the bay. It was beautiful and fun and we saw a few eagles. Mom continued in her adventure mode by going up top in the open air and standing for most of the tour, only going back down when strawberry strudel was offered. We walked the short distance back to our ship, but found the ramp to be very steep. The tide had risen while we were out, so the ever-accomodating staff came down to haul Mom in.

Another discovery of the day was the comedian, Fred Klett. His comedy was completely clean and very, very funny. I laughed and laughed. Mom said she would go again just to hear me laugh.

Gayle did not laugh much though. She was feeling a little off and thought she might be seasick. More about that later.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sea Day

Saturday, Sept. 11, was a full sea day for our cruise. Back at home, my family was split between Nate's first football game and the Celebrate America festival at church. On the boat, we were busy following Mom around as she got to know the breakfast and lunch buffets, toured the galley, discovered her favorite musicians, and just generally soaked it all up. At breakfast, Mom looked out the window and saw a whale blowing mist. Later in the day, we saw a beautiful double rainbow off our balcony. Mom was delighted with the wonder God had planned for her.

Mom had two favorite musical groups on the cruise. One was a string quartet called Grande Volta. The girls were sweet and pretty and had just graduated from a conservatory in Russia. The other favorite was an a cappella group, On Tap. Mom called them "the boys" and I think they loved her too. Throughout the cruise, we tried to catch these two groups every time they performed.

Mom wanted to attend a lecture on ship navigation. We went along and listened to a nearly incomprehensible greek man for about an hour. When all was said and done, Mom said, "When you have time, would you tell me what he said?" She hadn't understood a word!

Yes, this is a picture of my mother drinking champagne. And loving it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


That's the best term I can come up with for it. Mom was transformed for/by/with this cruise. She was like a little kid! Eager, full of energy, ready for adventure. On Friday morning, Sept. 10, I had arranged to pick Mom up between 6:00 and 6:15 a.m. Dave and I were on our way to her house when she called at 6:07 to see where we were.

Me: We're on our way. We'll be there in about 5 or 10 minutes.

Mom: I'm going out the back door so I can leave the front locked.

Me: Okay. Hey, Mom, we can get your bags for you when we get to your house.

Mom: Oh, they are already out on the sidewalk.

And so was she when we arrived. On the sidewalk. In the early morning dark. With her bags. She had been so excited about the trip that she couldn't sleep. Mom was ready to go on her Alaskan cruise!

Dave got us to the airport in good time, we checked in at a kiosk, and breezed through security. We had time to sit for a cup of coffee before early boarding. We weren't able to sit together on the plane, but I went back midway through the flight and Mom was doing great. She thought the flight seemed short. :)

We quickly found my sister Gayle and sister-in-law Cathy in the Seattle baggage claim, then just as seamlessly found our ride. I'm telling you, Cathy did all the work on the ground, but God planned this trip, no doubt about it. And let me tell you, He is a great travel agent! We zipped over to the pier, checked our bags onto the ship, and began to wind our way through the check-in process. Everything was in order, our birth certificates were sufficient for i.d., and we boarded our beautiful big boat.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


"This is better than I ever dreamed!" That was Mom's assessment only one day into our Alaskan cruise. And we hadn't even made it to Alaska yet! It was a wonderful cruise, full of God's special gifts to Mom. She dove right into the cruising life, as you can see from this photo taken on our balcony moments after boarding the ship.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Little Help

My sister Gayle and her daughter Lydia (and Lydia's dog) are visiting Mom this week. They are working on some organization and recording, but mostly on getting Mom ready for her cruise. I know Mom is enjoying her time with them and I am so glad to know they are getting her ready to go. Gayle is actually planning to come down every few weeks to help mom. Sweet sister.

Gayle and Lydia will also be helping me get ready to go, as they will be stopping by OK to pick up a copy of my birth certificate! I don't know how a person loses their birth certificate, but I have managed somehow. I found out this morning that I cannot get my passport renewed without my birth certificate AND that the company that handles mail requests for birth certificates cannot guarantee delivery by Thursday. I also found out that crying over the phone to strangers does not help. I didn't cry in the passport office, but I bet that wouldn't have helped either. Thank goodness for Gayle!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Another Place I Never Thought I'd Go


But on Friday my mom and I will fly to Seattle, where we will meet one of my sisters and one of my sisters-in-law, and get on a really big boat together. And we will sail to Alaska!

As my brother Bill helped Mom get her finances in order after Dad's passing, he asked her if there was anything she wanted to do with her money. She replied, "Well, I've always wanted to go on an Alaskan cruise." And so, thanks to a ton of research and work from my sister-in-law, we leave Friday. It's crazy!

I'm really happy for Mom to get to do something she has always wanted to do. I'm excited to be able to enjoy it with her. But I'm also sad. I wonder if this is how Make a Wish families feel. Happy, excited, and sad. How do you take a fun trip that you know is your very last?

What's Not to Like?

I just love these people.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Family Lunch

Following Dad's Celebration of Life service, we had a family lunch in the church great room. Mom provided a delicious barbecue meal from a wonderful local place (Karis' new employer). Once again, kind friends set up, served, and cleaned up. It was a great time to enjoy each other before everyone headed back across the country.

All of the pictures I've been posting from last Tuesday were taken by our worship pastor. Many thanks to Ben for recording the day for us. And my sincere apologies to anyone with dial up.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Celebration of Life

After the graveside service, the family drove over to the church. Some kind friends had set up a breakfast area for us in a private room. It was nice to sit, eat, and collect ourselves before the public service.

The Celebration of Life service was long and sort of a variety show, but I think everyone got some of what they wanted, and Mom was pleased.

Grandson Paul sang. Children and grandchildren played beautiful music. It was clear to me that my sisters especially expressed their love for Dad in their music.

Grandson Jonathan read the obituary. Same grandson could not contain himself at the conclusion of the service and came back up to make some comments. (Guess his occupation?)

Brother-in-law Mark gave the eluogy. You can read it here.

Grandson William read scripture. He attended bible college and seminary with the help of a scholarship from Dad.

Dave's dad Lou prayed. He was Dad's pastor when Dad was on the elder board.

Mark led singing. From the hymnal. Dad's fondest desire. [Someone mentioned singing choruses and I pointed out that Dad doesn't like choruses. (I mean he REALLY does not like choruses.) Bill sagely observed, "He does now." Which made me laugh.]

Dave gave the message based on Isaiah 26:3, Dad's favorite verse. He used Numbers 6:24-26 as a benediction. Then we went out to Handel's Hallelujah Chorus.


The graveside service for Dad was last Tuesday morning at 8:30. The local American Legion did military honors, a very moving and meaningful tribute. Dave read scripture. Mark recited part of St. Patrick's Breastplate. Nate (and his cousins) manned up, fought back tears, wore suits, carried their grandpa to his final resting place, and stood up for him. It was true and surreal, binding and shattering, comforting and heart-breaking.