Happy Birthday

Tonight I asked Daddy what his plans were for tomorrow. He said “Nothing. For the first time in my life I don’t have any plans for tomorrow.”

Tomorrow, March 23, is Momma’s birthday. If you know us then you know that birthdays are big deals. They come with 6 a.m. phone calls complete with a tone-deaf, off-key rendition of “Happy Birthday” being sung. Some voices are louder than others, and some are more chipper. But it’s all done with a half-awake, full of love heart and joy! Of course no birthday is complete without the favorite dinner followed by Daddy’s homemade strawberry shortcake and ice cream. And because no one can agree on one single flavor of ice cream in our house there’s always a smorgasbord to choose from, kinda like stepping into Baskin Robbins.

Hales and I loved the shopping for her cards. It was a challenge to find a good, spunky, sassy card that will top the belly laughs from years past. But let me tell you, Hales is a GOOD finder of cards that are “spoken like a true smart-ass!” (Claree Blecher, Steel Magnolia’s) Honestly, it’s a trait in our family. Or a squishy one that’ll make her cry more than the year before. I miss that and hadn’t realized till now how much I do. Or watching the kids help her blow out her candles. Oy vey. There should be a guide-book for all of this – at least one with suggestions!

I hope you enjoy your first birthday in heaven, Momma. And I hope you like the flowers we’ve placed at the cemetery. Daddy takes such great pride in having everything look nice for you. He’s itching to get out there and check on them for you, but the rain. It. Just. Keeps. Coming. Please tell God we’ve had enough. And while you’ve got his ear, please tell him that this family is full of soooo much character, it’s oozing out of our eyeballs. He can relax on us for a little bit. I think the lottery would be a nice compromise.

I love you Momma, we all love you…bunches and bunches and more than this world!

And Happy Birthday!

xoxoxo

2006-04-16 10.11.26

 

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” ~James 1:12

….and she did.

Advertisements

I got nuthin’, not even a title

Monday morning, standing at the open car door, Jackson stares at me across the seat and says “I haven’t been in this car in a long time.”

I know baby, but it’s okay. Come on. We’re gonna be late for school.

He gets in slowly and as he sinks into the front seat I can see his entire face shift as if another face has taken over. One that I don’t like because it makes my heart hurt and I want to fix it but I know that I can’t. And he says in the smallest voice “It smells just like Nina.”

Hales on the other hand, jumped in and then you could see her catch her breath and breathe it all in deeply –  the familiarity of it all, the feel and smells, like a huge tight hug.

How easy I forget that my kids still have moments like Daddy and I do. I’m driving Mommy’s car while mine is in the hospital and the thought never crossed my mind how it would affect my kids. And so differently. How is it that a smell can take you back in time to memory? Or a sight – a sound can turn on the movie reel in your mind and everything comes flooding back.

I walk by our dinning room window and see the Jeep in the driveway and expect to see Mommy coming up the walk, but she doesn’t walk through the door. I get in the car and see her lipstick tubes and  can vividly see her applying it. On Sunday mornings while sitting on the front pew I watch people walking up to the doors and I wait to see her too, but she doesn’t come. And sometimes at communion, I look over to tell her to get up that it’s our turn to go, yet she’s not there. When I need advice or just an ear to listen to me, my first instinct is to call her but I can’t. The other day I was talking to Daddy and he said “I wish your Momma was here ’cause she would know exactly what to tell you. She always knew what to do.” Me too Daddy. Me too.

I was going through my texts cleaning them up when I came across this one from Mommy…

IMG_3920

 

She sent this to me after she had walked into church on morning in July and looked very confused. She sat for a few minutes and caught her breath and then decided to go home. We thought the confusion and unsteadiness was because of her blood sugar levels. Little did we know that it was so much more. As you see in the text she made it home then and I know that she’s home now too.

Tuesday marked the fourth month since Mommy went home with God. It feels like forever ago and yesterday all at the same time. There is so much changing in our lives right now, so much that I want to talk to her about and this has just been one of those hard, hard weeks when you feel like you’re scraping to get by emotionally. My tank is empty. I have nothing left to give today. God, I think I’m gonna need a piggy back ride….

Greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world

This is what we’ve become. Day counters. When I walked into the kitchen this morning and glanced at the calendar, this is what was staring back at me. A reminder of time lost. Three long months.

IMG_3842

Subconsciously I was keeping score of what has been ripped from me but I had know idea that the kids were too. Funny how I thought on some level that it was just me in my crazy thinking. Not so at all. And if it is crazy, then my whole family is in the boat with me. And that’s comforting….in a weird way? They’ll jump ship on me.

It’s horrific that we all know someone whose life has been affected by cancer, if not our own. An online GBM support group that I’m apart of has over 3,000 members with new members being added daily. Think of all the time that’s been robbed from them. GBM is classified as an “orphan” disease meaning that it affects fewer than 200,000 people in the US. It has a median survival rate of 14 months. It doesn’t get all of the attention that breast cancer, colon cancer, skin cancer or any other cancer does. Wanna know why? Because there’s no cure for it. And there’s no federal money being put into research for it. Just within the last month I know of three people diagnosed with GBM and another two families who have battled GBM to the end. I think the numbers need to be re-looked at.

Considering the trauma we’ve experienced, I’d say we’ve all done ok. Some days are better or easier than others. They all hurt. But in those moments when it’s the darkest, it’s easy to let the enemy get a foot hold. To allow him to plant those seeds of doubt in my mind. To relive the not so nice moments over and over like a projector has been installed inside my brain, running continuously. And I go back to the many Bible studies that I’ve done – that Momma and I did together, and I remember to capture those thoughts and images. Taking every thought and making it obedient to Christ is sometimes not easy – but it’s the only way. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5

I remember when I was little and would have a bad dream and call out to Momma in the middle of the night. She would come sit beside me and rub my back and in the softest, sweetest voice she’d redirect my thoughts to a happy place – my favorite place to be….on the beach. And I could imagine us building sand castles, playing in the crashing waves, listening to the ocean and birds above squawking at us for a just a drop of boiled peanut, a chip or a crumb of fried chicken, walking our dog. And those bad thoughts would be captured and good ones would replace them and calmness would return.

Over the last few weeks in Kids Church we’ve walked through Jesus’ baptism, his temptation in the desert and his healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. I don’t believe for an instant that the lessons I’ve been teaching the children are coincidental with where I am. I think they were for me. I always tell the kids that you may hear a Bible story 20 times BUT if you really listen with your heart and your mind, you’ll hear something new. Always. After Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit came down on him and he heard God speak, he goes right out into the desert to be tempted by Satan – for forty days with angels attending him. For forty long days Satan tried every temptation to break Jesus. Mind games. And Jesus used God’s word against Satan.

And. He. Won.

God always wins. Hebrews 4:15-16 tells us that Jesus absolutely can sympathize with what we are going through because he has been through it all himself and we can approach the throne, with confidence that we will receive grace and mercy and help in our time of need. He is FOR us!

So when those mind games start, I have to remember who I am in Christ. I have to remind myself of all of His promises for me. I have to search for Him in all of it. I do know that He has great plans for me. I don’t believe for a minute that my great God makes bad things happen. But he does allow us to walk through the muck and mire, learning to navigate it. To experience it. To learn from it. Sometimes we get stuck in it but He can rescue us and use it all to help us grow. As I tell my kids, it’s called character building.

And that’s about the time they give me the eye roll. And yes, I sometimes roll my eyes too.

And when I capture those bad thoughts or images and replace them with God’s truth, it’s then that I can recall all the good times and great memories that I have and be joyful and thankful for them. It’s in those moments that I can hear her voice, hear her laughter and feel her next to me….like right now.

Thank you Jesus for all that you’ve done for me. All that you will do for me.

So long 2014, be good to us 2015…

Well. Here we are. It’s New Year’s Eve and somehow, someway we’ve survived. We made it through a lot of firsts without Momma in the last two months. A 47th wedding anniversary, my birthday, Jackson’s birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and I think we’ll make it through to the new year. It’s bitter-sweet for us to say good-bye to 2014, BUT let me tell you something 2015, you better have a much better plan for us!

new-year-memes

Please Lord, I beg of you, let 2015 be a great year for our family.

So how did we do it? To be honest, I’m really not sure. Some days we just ran on autopilot. But this is what I’m learning along the way….

To take care of myself and listen to me and follow what I’m feeling. I give myself permission to say NO to people, invitations, whatever and it’s ok if I need to back out at the last-minute. It’s ok for me to want to be alone and it’s ok for me to want to surround myself with friends. And you will find out who you friends are.  It’s ok to cry. Even in front of people. In front of strangers. In front of my kids. They’re struggling too and it does them no good for you to make them believe that all is well with you. They will understand and through this you are giving them the permission they need to express their own feelings and open up more to you. It’s ok that some days all I can manage is to get out of the bed and make it to the couch. It’s ok to laugh and smile and not beat myself up over it and feel guilty (I have to remind myself of that constantly). I have a new normal and I’m trying it on to see just how it fits and feels.

Sometimes traditions need to be put on hold or changed all together. So what that we didn’t do a Christmas Eve dinner after church service this year and instead we ate backstage with the worship team. We didn’t make a birthday cake for Jesus and I’m sure He understood. But I do secretly admit in not doing the birthday cake I was hoping that it would’ve catapulted the second coming. As you see, no such luck. We didn’t ride around town looking at everyone’s decorations and yet the world continued to go on.

It’s ok that it’s all not ok.

We keep Momma’s memory alive. We talk about Momma openly. Whatever comes to mind we say. And often it’s all the things that she would’ve said to us. I love remembering her out loud. I love that my kids talk about her all the time. That Daddy and my Aunt Jo (her sister) and I can share stories of her over the phone and over lunch. And laugh. And cry. And then laugh some more.

The other day Daddy and I were at the cemetery and I did something completely in character of me and graceful and Daddy laughed so hard and we both said exactly what Momma would’ve said to me. And it was lovely to hear him laugh that deep laugh from the heart and gut.

I’ve also learned that I can’t do this on my own. If I try I’ll get stuck in the muck and mire of all the horribleness of this tragedy. So I’ve reached out to a counselor – I’ll let you know how it goes. You know there’s gonna be some good stories. But in the meantime, I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other. Taking one step at a time and with each night I’ll continue to ask in my prayers that Daddy will feel Momma’s arms wrapped around him and she’ll visit us in our dreams.

Happy New Year’s, Momma. We love and miss you hard!

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Just breathe…..

Last Tuesday Daddy and I were driving to the house just ahead of the EMS that was transporting Momma home and he said to me “now the hard part begins.” And boy was he right. We were met by the admissions nurse for Hospice and it all started. The constant worrying that you automatically do when you’re all alone with her after having nurses by your side 24/7 for almost four weeks. Now her nurse comes every other day and her aide once a day, each for an hour at a time. We’re the ones responsible for giving her 12 different medications at different times of the day now, not them. We’re responsible for making note of each new “something” that we notice (even though we don’t know what we’re suppose to notice) and alerting the nurse. We’re the ones “on” 24/7 now. How do they let us do this? Although we could probably have medical degrees at this point in the game, we don’t and have you noticed how juvenile we can act? And they let us bring her home to take care of her, what where they thinking?

Daddy and I are officially twitchy, high-strung and on emotional overload. But she’s home. In her own surroundings, eating real non-hospital food. Thank you to everyone who has brought us dinners – you have no idea how much your gesture has blessed us!

All during this journey I’ve asked God to show me where He is in this mess. And He is. Loudly. And I’m so glad that He’s speaking to me in such a loud voice because I’m scared that I’d miss it completely otherwise! Every time we feel like we’ve hit a bump, God uses a friend to show us the way. From finding her a rehab facility to go to, to finding a hospice that we felt comfortable with, to bringing her home. He’s working through a lot of people, using everyone and everything preparing a way for us. He’s even brought a dear friend back into our lives as Momma’s hospice nurse.

Today we went through the “comfort care package” from hospice. I never knew anything like that existed, much less that we would have to know what to do with its contents. Liquid morphine, Tylenol suppositories, Ativan, eye drops for the death rattle – her nurse says we will know it when we hear it. It’s all just too much. Too soon. We thought we had at least a year and were hoping for so much more.

The funeral planning has also begun. Most of the songs have been picked out. Many decisions made. Many more to make. I know that it’ll make it easier for when the time comes for all of this to be done but in the meantime…..

There are many private moments and conversations that I have with my mommy that I’d like to keep just for myself, but one that I will share happened just the other night. Daddy had left to run to the store and mommy grabbed my hand and wanted to add another song to her ever-growing list and said, “I don’t want to leave you.”

“I don’t want you to leave me either but I don’t want to see you suffer.”

“I’m scared that I’ll be alone.”

“But you won’t be Mommy. You’ll see your mommy and daddy again and you’ll have Jesus….you’ll have Jesus.”

“But getting there I’ll be all alone!”

“No mommy, He’ll hold your hand the whole way there. And once you grab his hand you’ll be happy and you’ll want to go with him and you won’t miss us like you do here on earth. You’re gonna be home. You’re real home. Remember, we’re just visiting here?”

“Yeah. I know. Okay.”

Lots of hugs and kisses and tears were shared too. Lots. And what struck me and stung my heart was that was same conversation we would have when I was a little girl when I’d wake in the middle of the night panicking because I was scared of dying. And she would hold me and comfort me and remind me….to breathe. And now here we are. I’m the one holding her. Comforting her instead of her comforting me.

She loved me into this world, now it’s my turn to love her out. But how do you do that when all you want is to cling to her and not let her go?

Breathe Tina, just remember to breathe….

 

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” ~ Psalm 23

Ok God….here we go….

On August 2, my Mom and best friend was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Our life has been nothing short of a terrifying roller coaster ride since…full of questions, ugly crying, a barrage of tests and so many nights sleeping on a couch in a hospital room than I can or care to remember. It’s also been full of love, laughter, support and even more ugly crying….

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM IV) has become a regular part of our vocabulary. It’s a tumor that is made up of the supportive tissue of the brain. These cells reproduce quickly and are very aggressive. Unlike most glioblastomas, Momma’s tumor encompasses most of her brain on her right side. It’s shaped like a banana, which to a lot of Doctor’s may stun, but to us McDonalds’ it just proves that we are uniquely made….if it’s weird — we have it. If you know us, then you know this to be true. (You’ll also know that we have a dark sense of humor and laughter is what we need and do best. If you are offended by our musings, I cannot apologize. We need them to survive.) Because these tumors come from normal brain cells, it’s easy for them to invade and live within normal brain tissue and dead cells may be seen towards the center of the tumor. So essentially, it eats away at the healthy cells in brain and destroys everything in its path.

Days before her first surgery.

Days before her first surgery.

Her tumor is incurable. She has already undergone a biopsy and a craniotomy, which resulted in a brain hemorrhage that landed her a two-week hospital stay and is now in a rehab facility where she is working on regaining her strength so she may begin radiation and chemo…again…she’s also a breast cancer survivor – two times over!

Mommy, on release day from her brain surgery. I never look this good in the hospital!

Mommy and her favorite nurse Charles, just after her brain surgery.

She’s also a pretty amazing woman with an amazing faith. The kind of faith that I admire.

Because while I’m all ugly crying in the shower so nobody can see me and the water can sort of drown out my sobs – screaming at God “why?”, she’s all like “you need someone to talk to and sort out your feelings. Be honest with my grand-babies and help them work through this. I don’t want them scared.”

But what about you Momma? Aren’t you scared? Aren’t you mad at God for this? Don’t you question Him with why? You are the one who needs someone to talk to!

And she says to me, “why should I be mad at Him? He’s done nothing but be kind to me and blessed me over and over again. I guess I could ask Him why me, but why not me?”

And that is the vision of a woman who knows whose she is and is bathed in His peace. Peace that passes ALL understanding. And wrapped in His love.

So while I should be ministering to my Mommy, who sits in a wheelchair beside her hospital bed, staring off into space…..she is ministering to me.

 

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~ Isaiah 41:10

Ok God….here we go…..