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

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“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.

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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…

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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….

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!

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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

Her Victory…

Momma finished her journey late yesterday afternoon. She was surrounded by all her loves. But do know this….she isn’t lost. We know exactly where she is – with her Heavenly Father.

And I’m oh-so jealous.

And remember me telling you that God was gonna have to speak to me loudly? Well He did. And oh my goodness it was so loud and flamboyant that it got the attention of everyone in the house but not in a crazy way. It was peaceful and calm and soft all at the same time.  He’s a good God and he’s kept all of his promises.

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Momma, we miss you so much already. I’m not sure how we’ll do this without you beside us telling us what to do and giving us advice but I imagine we’ll just grab each other’s hand and take one step at a time, right? I love you Momma, bunches and bunches and more than this world….

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” ~Matthew 11:28

The most wonderful gift…

Back on October 9th, Momma had her very own concert in her living room – just for her. Bonnie and Amy from the St. Paul’s Worship Team came to serenade her with some of her favorite songs. Um, who wouldn’t just love that? But these songs were special – for they were all the songs that she’s picked out for her funeral and wanted to be the first to hear them. It was an amazing touching sweet time….for all us. The Holy Spirit was very much alive in the room!

I’m so thankful that Amy thought to pull out her camera to capture some of the moments….

You can't see it, but Momma was actually tapping her toes to the beat of the songs!

You can’t see it, but Momma was actually tapping her toes to the beat of the songs!

 

Is that a hint of a smile? I do believe so and one of the last that were actually captured by camera.

Is that a hint of a smile? I do believe so and one of the last that were actually captured by camera.

Gosh almighty, I love that smile and I desperately miss seeing that infectious smile! Thank you so very much Amy and Bonnie for sharing the love of Christ through worship and bringing her joy that day. It was truly the most wonderful gift anyone could give!

“How lovely are Your dwelling places, O LORD of hosts! My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.” ~Psalm 84:1-2

I did it my way…

A week ago today hospice told us that Momma had entered the transition phase. Her body is preparing for death and her spirit is preparing for its journey Home. Last Rites were administered and the family was called to come and say their goodbyes. And now, we sit and hold her hand. Whisper “I love you’s” in her ear. Kiss her on the forehead. And wait. And remember all the good times. All of them. Because that’s the only way we can do this.

Can I call a time-out on all of this? Surely you know God what control freaks we all are and yet we have no control over Glioblastoma?

I remember when I was pregnant with Haley I began having panic attacks about the whole birthing process. So about two months before my due date I decided that I wasn’t going to give birth and she would just have to stay in my tummy. And that was that. I was in complete denial. Right up until the moment that they sent me in to be induced. But I showed them. After 36 hours of laboring I still wasn’t dilated so an emergency c-section was done. There was no way I was pushing a baby out of me. The McDonald’s have a strong will about them. We like to do things our way. Sometimes it turns out good and other times it backfires on us.

The fear of not having control can be so suffocating. I feel like if I hand over my control I’m also handing over my mom. How can I give up someone who I love so much? How will I be able to go on and raise my kids without her advice? How will we be able to celebrate without her? I don’t know how to do this. I don’t want to do this.

But I know in my heart I’ve got to. Give it up. Let it Go.

Lord, give us the strength and the courage to do the hard.

And that’s what we’ve been working on this past week, letting go and giving Mommy the permission she needs from us to let go too. I’ve never done anything harder in my life until I told my mom yesterday that she didn’t have to fight anymore and assured her that we’d take care of each other. That it was okay for her to grab Jesus’ hand and go with him. We would be okay. And in time we will.

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Everyone’s journey Home is different. The nurses keep telling us what to watch for but as you know we don’t follow the textbook guidelines. And just as she’s done all her life, Momma will do this in her own way – as she should. Can’t you just hear Frank Sinatra singing “My Way” through all of this?

But I also love the way my Daddy looks at it….”Jesus is still preparing her room in His house.” And that makes me smile. Oh, yes He is.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen ~ BCP

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