Monday, February 28, 2011

That's Weird

Mom's pharmacist just called me. (This is one of the benefits of growing up in a small town. This man has known my family-of-origin for about 35 years. He is a wonderful compounding pharmacist with his own shop. I had to stop using his shop when my insurance changed, about 6 years ago.) He said Mom had called in a couple of refills, and then asked for them to be mailed. The pharmacist wanted to make sure Mom wasn't out of town visiting one of my siblings. He assured me they will deliver the prescriptions tomorrow.

Mom has always picked her prescriptions up. Odd that out of the blue she would request to have them mailed. I spoke to her this morning and nothing seemed out of whack. It's just weird.

Mom Logic: Today I asked Mom about her different request. She said she felt with the price of gas so high, she would ask them to mail her prescriptions. There you have it!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Here and Now

This is the rough draft of my bit for the women's ministry newsletter.

Edited a tad.

Teenagers. Death. Scary, right? But it is where I live right now. This year, the baby of our family will turn thirteen, and I will have four teenagers. This year, cancer will overtake my mom's body, and she will join my dad in heaven. Can I just pull the covers over my head until this season is over? This season is hard!

Living with teenagers is challenging. They are self-centered, irresponsible, demanding, disobedient, and hungry. We disappoint each other, annoy each other, embarrass each other, hurt each other. But living with teenagers is also rewarding. I get to live life with these four amazing people. Not only do I get to watch, but I get to be involved as God reveals who they are and who they're going to be. They are funny and fun, thoughtful and smart, helpful and hardworking, articulate and bright. They love Jesus and they love people. They shine. And as they grow and change, God uses my teenagers in my life, making me more of who He wants me to be. They make me a better person; they draw me to Jesus.

Walking with my mom through the valley of the shadow of death is challenging. We tote with us a lifetime of baggage, opportunities missed, words left unsaid, scars from old wounds. Adjustments and changing roles are hard. The path ahead is a place we've never been, and the impending loss is heart-rending. But we spend time together like never before, in ways large (a cruise!) and small. We talk, we smile, we embrace. My family has the privilege of living close and the honor of serving. I am blessed by how each of my children, and my husband, minister to my mom in their own unique way. We get to learn lessons together in the school of compassion. We get to carry each other. If my mom has to walk through the valley, I'm glad I can walk in the shadows with her.

Teenagers. Death. The temptation to hide under the covers can be strong; but if I hid, I would miss all the good God has planned for me, even in this difficult season.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Spring has sprung in our little part of the world. Two weeks ago we were concerned about freezing temperatures and icy roads. Now, all of a sudden, tulip magnolias are blooming, fresh buds of spring green are visible, and redbuds are peeking out. (I especially like to point out the redbuds as they surprise me. My kids love it.)

Mom is so happy about springtime. She is enjoying cleaning out her flower beds and planting fresh color. She loves finding new blooming things on her walks through the neighborhood. She says with wonder, "God let me see another spring!" When I suggested a trip today, she shook her head and said, "I don't want to miss springtime here."

Our ladies' bible study this semester is on seasons. Literal seasons (determined by the earth or our age) and figurative seasons (determined by our circumstances). It is not an easy, fill-in-the-blank, yes/no study. It is a thinker, a self-examiner, a won't-let-you-go-until-you-sort-it-out study. It is good.

Our study leader asked some of the ladies to write about seasons. She asked me to write about my current season. More about that later. She asked Mom to write about her favorite season. Mom said, "That was easy to pick. It is winter!" What? Why? "Because of the blessings of family," Mom whispered through tears. Incredible.

I'll post Mom's writing when I can. And I'll post mine when I write it.

Speaking of seasons, this song keeps coming to mind. I've heard that Nichole Nordeman considers this to be her best song. I'd have to agree.

Every Season by Nichole Nordeman

Every evening sky, an invitation
To trace the patterned stars.
And early in July, a celebration
For freedom that is ours.
And I notice You
In children’s games,
In those who watch them from the shade.
Every drop of sun is full of fun and wonder.
You are summer.

And even when the trees have just surrendered
To the harvest time,
Forfeiting their leaves in late September
And sending us inside.
Still I notice You when change begins
And I am braced for colder winds.
I will offer thanks for what has been and what's to come.
You are autumn.

And everything in time and under heaven
Finally falls asleep.
Wrapped in blankets white, all creation
Shivers underneath.
And still I notice you
When branches crack
And in my breath on frosted glass.
Even now in death, You open doors for life to enter.
You are winter.

And everything that’s new has bravely surfaced,
Teaching us to breathe.
What was frozen through is newly purposed,
Turning all things green.
So it is with You
And how You make me new
With every season’s change.
And so it will be
As You are re-creating me,
Summer, autumn, winter, spring.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Our House

is a very very very fine house. But I don't think we will live in it much longer. We've arranged with Mom to move in with her when she can no longer care for herself. Mom continues to tool along and give only the smallest indications that she might someday succumb to cancer. Just looking at her, you might not guess that she is on Month 9 of the doctor's prediction of a 6-8 month timeline.

But she's nesting. When Gayle was here for a week this month, Mom's focus was closet cleaning. Gayle dutifully hauled years of accumulation out of five closets. We helped here and there, wiping dust and mildew away with vinegar solution and sorting. But mostly dear Gayle worked and wheezed. I was puzzled about Mom's obssession with the closets until Gayle revealed the reason: Mom wants us to have a place to put our things when we move in to care for her. Ah.

Now Mom is hiring our friend Perry to come to paint the closets. Which is really nice! I think a coat of Kilz and a fresh layer of paint would be lovely and do a lot to dissipate the mildew. And who wouldn't like a fresh closet? But Mom is not stopping there. Her list for Perry is growing. She is concerned that I will hate her house if I have to live in her pink bedroom with the flower border. She wants the master bathroom wallpaper stripped and the cabinets repainted. She wants me to pick out paint colors.

Mom's nesting on our behalf is incredibly nice, but I'm concerned that Mom's house stay her house until she's done with it. Of course I don't relish a pink bedroom. But shouldn't it stay the way Mom wants it while the house is still hers? That house is so very important to her. You know how men's identities are tied up in their work? I think a lot of Mom's identity is tied up in her house. I would hate to remove any of that now.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sick, Sick, Sick

I'm sick now for the third time this school year. I hate being sick. My family hates my being sick. Why do I keep getting sick?

I did a quick search for "immunity" on one of my favorite websites and found a thread discussing ways to boost immunity.

*adequate rest
*fruits and veggies
*vitamin D3
*limit sugar

Oh, okay. I see that I'm currently doing none of these things. Time to re-evaluate life.

I can take the dog for a 20 minute walk in the sunshine. I can eat yogurt, fruits and veggies everyday. I can drink lots more water. I can step away from the sweets. (Or can I???) And can I really get more sleep? What will not get done to facilitate that one?

But how can I take care of Mom if I keep getting sick? I've got to figure out something.

Sweet Sorrow

My sister Gayle had such a nice visit with Mom. They had fun with my cousin for a few days, reminiscing, playing, getting to know each other again. Then, they got down to business. Mom really wanted Gayle to clean out closets! So she did, asthma and allergy meds in hand.

But this visit seemed to go beyond the practical. Gayle stayed for an entire week, but as her departure date approached, Mom asked, "Are you sure you have to go? Are you sure you couldn't stay?" I know that might sound normal for many people, but it is so un-Mom it is stunning. I don't think I have ever heard her express a desire for anyone to stay longer. Ever.

The night before Gayle left, Mom caught some sort of cold or virus and "had a tickle in her throat". Translated to mean: She couldn't stop coughing. Mom told me with teary eyes how Gayle got up in the night and tended to her. She was touched with the role reversal (and loved the port as cough syrup!).

Gayle said Mom was even tender at the farewell, giving her a full, real hug (not the usual "post") and telling her she loved her. A rare and precious gift.

Shower the People You Love with Love

"Are you trying to bury me with valentines???"

That's what Mom said when we appeared at her door with a red and pink gift bag on Valentine's Day. Bear in mind, she's not a gift-giving occasion kind of gal. I remember giving small Valentine's gifts to my family members when I was in high school and my mom wondering what I was doing. This year, poor Mom had to endure:

*Chocolate dipped strawberries from Shari's Berries


*An azalea with large balloon

*A royal blue velour JLo suit

*And of course, the singing valentine

She even got a sweet old-timey valentine from her Bible study leader. Bless her tough-as-nails heart. What's an old crustacean to do?

Friday, February 18, 2011

My Funny Valentine

Last Saturday morning, as Meg, Ev and I were on our way to the laundromat, I received a text that made me laugh out loud. Okay, I admit it, I snorted.

Ev: "Mom! You snorted!"

Gwen: "You will too when you hear this!"

It was a text from my sister Gayle, who was in town visiting Mom. Don't read further if you've just taken a drink.

"Mark has hired a singing valentine male quartet to come between 1 and 3 on sunday to the house. What time do you think we will be home from the church dinner?"

Oh my goodness! Some things you just never expect to read on your phone screen. There was much speculation about Mom/Grandma's reaction to the valentine arrangements, but in the end, she loved it. (And no, they weren't str*ppers.)

In the Shape of a Heart

My cousin came to visit my mom last week. She brought with her a little rose quartz heart. It had sat on my Aunt Helen's bedside table. As Aunt Helen's time grew shorter, she instructed her daughter to bring the little heart to my mom. And so she did. Now it sits on an old family blanket chest. A sweet little memento of undying sisterly love, in the shape of a heart.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Only Love

My husband writes an article for our monthly church newsletter. It is a short thing; it has to fit on a third of a sheet of 8.5x11 paper. This month the paper is pink, for Valentine's. As Dave was musing over what to write, he made the mistake of asking me for a topic. Being the hopeless romantic I am, I said something like, "How about death and loss and grief?" Being the thoughtful man he is, he did.

I keep reading it over and over. So much truth and comfort in such a small space. I asked him if I could share it here. And being the generous man he is, he said yes.

Dear CBC Family, (February 2011)

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar
From “Magnificent,” U2, in No Line on the Horizon, 2009.

Love hurts.

To love is to take unabashed delight in pursuing the loved person’s ultimate good. Loving another stretches our capacity to be truthful, to overlook, to be steadfast, to understand. Love is just out there.

Love gleefully cheers us onward and upward to become closely attached at the heart. No thinking person would do that. Love leaves quite a mark when the loved one is lost.

Love and loss. There’s a combo for you. How do we carry out our existence in our newfound loneliness?

We cope with hope. Resurrection and reunion are key components helping a burdened heart crawl toward joy. Experience loss? Experience the truth of Scripture.

Jesus takes us further down this path. He fleshed out his grief in words and tears at the home of his good friend Lazarus.

God designed grief to heal those who give their hearts away. Good grief experiences the love of God blossoming in the heart. Only love, God’s love can heal such a scar.

Love and blessings,

Friday, February 4, 2011

All Good

The power is still on. The snow/ice was much lighter than anticipated. The roads are mostly dry. Our county did a bang up job getting our roads ready and then by this afternoon the skies were a little bit sunny. Still awfully cold, but by Sunday we should be back in the 60's. Where we belong.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Baby It's Cold Outside

Sunday, we had a high of 74* and a low of 60*. Then Tuesday, we had a high of 66* and a low of 22*. For the past two days, we have had highs in the 30's and lows in the 20's. I know many people endure temperatures hovering around freezing for months at a time; they are made of sterner stuff than we are! This is just crazy cold for us. And to top it off, we are forecast to get snow/freezing rain tonight and tomorrow. The snow/ice is expected to stick because of the unusually chilly ground temps. School is cancelled and we are looking forward to a fun snow day at home.

I called Mom today to see if I could pick up anything from the store for her. I asked her if she had enough wood to burn for 24 hours, in case we lose power. I'm anticipating a lot of icy limbs down. There have already been outages due to frozen water pipes at power plants. Really, I'm not kidding when I say we are not cut out for this kind of weather around here.

Of course, there was nothing I could do for Mom. I was pleased to hear Hospice had called to check on her already. Her friends had brought a fresh supply of firewood. She did let me give her a ride home from a memorial service today (yes, more death) because her ride was staying to help serve dinner to the family and Mom did not want to stay.

On the way home, I asked Mom if she had brought extra wood inside.
She said yes.
I asked how many pieces.
She told me to go home.
Ev and I got out of the truck and each carried in a full armload of wood.
Mom had 5 pieces of firewood inside.
That woman!

I know Mom has to go sometime, from something. I would just prefer if she didn't freeze to death or crack her head open on the ice on my watch. We'll see.