Lists and lists and lists

“I am sorry, she has been through enough. I think it’s time we bring Hospice in.” Those words echo in my mind. This is it. I have weeks left with the woman that shaped me, led me, counseled me, and sometimes annoyed the hell out of me. MY MOM IS REALLY GOING TO DIE!! I immediately took leave from my job at the antique store I was failing miserable at managing. Not a hard decision but it put a grave financial burden on my husband and family.

During the eight weeks we were in hospice care, I devoted every thought to Mom. For six of those weeks, I drove a half hour each and every morning to make the most of the time she had left. Once or twice a week I would spend the night to give Gary a good night sleep. It was also a selfish move of mine to gain even a few more hours with her, hoping for a 2 am rally. The middle of the night rallies were spent having a nail party, trying to hammer out the details of the funeral, recording love notes to each of us six kids, talking about both good and bad memories of her past.

2 am parties on the farmMom:
“What if this is all fake?”
Me: “You mean like a bad dream?”
Her: “Yeah…”
Me: “ I would love it. That way, we could wake up from it.” #cancersucks #baddream #cancer #warrior #strength #motherdaughter #bestfriends”

Our days were filled with shopping, car washes, shopping, lunch with friends, shopping. Then there were the lists. Lists upon list were waiting for me each day upon arrival. There was Mom, sitting in her chair by the dining room table, gazing quietly out at their land. Looking at her, you would think she was deep in thought. I would ask, “What are ya thinking, Ma?” Her response was always, “Nothing.” I knew better. Watching her eyes dart, different expressions cross her face, finally, picking up her pen to write something down.

The main thing she had lists for was her funeral.

  • Have a casket built
  • Get the video done
  • Find a funeral home
  • Find a church that would allow the Hospice Chaplain to perform the ceremony.
  • Flowers
  • Decorations
  • Songs
  • Food
  • Order of service
  • Clothes to the dry cleaners
  • Outfits for both she and Gary hung neatly in the closet

Not a detail was left undone. At first, it was devastating to talk about. “How can I do this? How can I plan my mom’s funeral??” It then became my mission. During the 2 am rallies we would scan the internet for the perfect casket, the perfect flower arrangements for kids and grandkids, find a nearby church for the service, a funeral home to organize it all.

(Casket credit: Barn Boards and Salvage)

There were some things she requested that were impossible to accomplish before she passed. We always added those to the “later list”, like her request to the chicken salad done two weeks before she even passed away or to get the flowers ordered. One by one, we crossed items off the “list” and, as we did so, I could see her becoming more and more at peace. I knew the end was near.

Our last shopping trip was to her Mecca, TJ Maxx. She didn’t need anything, we had already bought Christmas decorations, several pairs of pajamas, leggings and a couple sweaters. Her mission this day? “Happy Socks” for Gary. Her Oncologist, Dr. Buroker, always wore happy socks and she wanted Gary to have some. Getting her in and out of the car was not as easy as it had been in prior trips. Her legs were weak and her feet were not communicating with her brain.

The cancer was progressing. Once she willed herself to stand, she would command, “Move feet!” and her foot would turn slightly to allow for her to enter the car. My own arm and hand were used as a sliding board to prevent her from falling. All buckled into the passenger seat, covered in her ever present security blanket, I would pack the wheelchair in the hatch and we were off. Our first stop was always Casey’s for a chocolate donut and French Vanilla Cappuccino.

On the way home, she wanted to do another of our famous car wash videos but she had to pee. It was now a race to the toilet. Keep in mind, the same process to get into the car, now had to be slowly repeated to exit the car. After Gary took care of the bathroom duty, we bundled Mom up to the newly hung porch swing Gary had hung while we were gone. A moment I will never forget. A final date night between soul mates. It was so endearing and beautiful as I watched from the kitchen window, giving them a couple of moments alone.

Then came the fall….

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Videos that make me feel

106I remember when I first heard this song. I was link hopping on Facebook and came across this. It was a time that we were in a scary place on our cancer journey and I shared it with my mom. I don’t think I have heard the song since that day…. Until today. Of course, I bawled again.

DAMNIT! I miss her so much! Sometimes the pain just pops up and say, “YO! Tina! I am still here and I still own you!” Today is one of them. I think a lot of the feelings are coming from the fact that Monday marked four months, and tomorrow is my brothers birthday. I remember how absolutely HORRIBLE my birthday was with out her. Of course, I was twelve days in on on my “Motherless Journey”. I dread tomorrow for Tony. I dread the fact that Mom isn’t going to call him and say, “Hi Babe! Happy Birthday!” Our life giver… Our mother….

Listening to this song today caused that lonely feeling, as well as a sense of pride. I loved her through it. I gave up everything normal in my life to make sure her last days were filled with laughter, shopping, details and funeral.  I know she is proud of me.  I know her last seven weeks were near perfect.  Right up until her last “date” with her husband.

WAVE after surprising WAVE

When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. https://www.reddit.com/user/GSnow 

In those early days, I didn’t feel as though I was floating, I was sinking.  Sinking into an unimaginable darkness of pain and sadness.  I would sit and stare out the window, tears rolling, soaking my shirt.  Going out in public was horrifying! I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t risk being confronted about my loss.  Confronting my loss had to be on MY TERMS.  I couldn’t risk breaking down in public, I couldn’t risk having the tears start and not be able to control them.

As days, weeks went by, I was able to compartmentalize my grief and get on with my day.  I would “open the drawer” of my grief on my own terms. It was usually on a night when I would grab a glass of wine, my JBL speaker and my essential oils and head to the tub.  I would put on “Mom’s Playlist” and soak and cry.  Mom’s Playlist consists of songs from her funeral, songs about heaven, angels and losing someone.  During the journey, I wrote about music being a connection.  I didn’t realize how true that would be on this side of the journey.  Hootie and the Blowfish will always be my connection to Mom.  As my Tears Fall Down, my heart breaks and spirit crumbles.

And I’ve learned that written words are not the same as when you take the time to say it and let the clouds release the rain. 

A couple months have passed now.  I still take baths, just not as frequently.  I can go in public and not break down… Until yesterday.

Today is my a baby shower for my first grandchild.  Another first……  GAH! I miss her so much today. It just hurts that little Holden will not know this amazing woman.  That she won’t get to hold him, kiss him or smell him. The waves are coming today and they are crashing my soul.   Please do not misinterpret my longings for my loss. I am excited and can not wait see what all this “grandma fuss” is all about. I am SO excited to meet this beautiful new soul.  To be at least HALF the grandma she was to my kids.  I really am!  I can not wait to meet him and shower him with love and adoration.   My soul is rejoicing that I am going to be a grandma, that a new generation is coming, that he will love me too…….

WAVES WAVES WAVES WAVES 
Photo Credit:  Carla Rogers, ArtistImage may contain: screen

A friend of moms made this for me.  Isn’t it beautiful?  When I received this, I was in the middle of “the journey” and this picture resonated with me.  It felt like the waves that crush me.  I reached out to the artist to see what she was feeling when she painted this.  She said that she was feeling pure joy.  Isn’t that ironic? Art is interpretation and this picture spoke to my soul, my core of grief.  To her, it was pure joy.

That is the way life is sometimes.  One person can be feeling utterly broken, yet, through connections, joy can be spoken to your heart.

Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young

I feel like I was blessed to have such a long time with my mom in Hospice.  We accomplished so much and had so many bucket list moments.  We had a list for what foods she wanted to eat, things she wanted to get done and things she wanted to do.  Every morning upon my arrival, I was given a list of things she had thought of.  Some were not possible, or seemed that way anyway.  Others, were easy:  mop the basement floor, shopping, putting dryer sheets in the RV.  Silly things but Mom was always a list maker.  Even though her body slowed, her mind was still active.

Each day of our seven week hospice stay, my mom would have me read to her from the book, “Jesus Calling”, by Sarah Young. It was a gift to mom from a friend of her sisters. The last week of her life, we would marvel on how accurate the readings were.  I didn’t read it to her on THE DAY.

 

After mom passed away, I always wondered what the devotion was for December 18, the day my life changed. A week later ON MY BIRTHDAY, I was gifted THIS BOOK by my mother-in-law. She had no idea what my connection was to this book and I truly felt it was a gift from both her, and my mother.  I waited for everyone to leave, filled my bathtub, turned on my “I MISS MOM” playlist on my phone and read and cried.

December 18 – “Jesus Calling” – Sarah Young

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Isaiah 30:20-21
And though the Lord gives you
The bread of adversity and the water of affliction,
Yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore,
But your eyes shall see your teachers.
21 Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
“This is the way, walk in it,”
Whenever you turn to the right hand
Or whenever you turn to the left.

2 Corinthians 4:17
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,…  SOURCE: Jesus Calling, Sarah Young

I have a group of women who have united in a group. Our common connection? Grief. After losing my mom to cancer in December, 2017, I created a group on Facebook called #SistersThatGrieve. Each morning, at 6:15 am, I read the daily devotion and talk about the grief process.
I now use this gift in our #SistersThatGrieve circle.  I hope I am helping.img_5170-1

Angry at God

Ugh. What a day

I watched a broken shell of man mourn the loss of his soulmate, I listened to the scripture, the hymns, the accolades. I also saw her sisters, both in wheelchairs and recently discharged from the hospital, both in the vehicle that took Sherry’s life. One was the driver, the other was the front seat passenger. Both will face a lifetime of guilt and grief. All I could think was WHY!!!??

The priest began to talk about the stage of grief we call anger. Being angry AT God specifically. He said, “Take it to God, you give it to him! All of it and with all the anger and emotion behind it.” His reasoning? You are fighting WITH God. Not against him. You are in communication. As with any relationship, communication is key. Right? A starting point to heal.

Sherry was a nurse. While I didn’t know her well, I knew she was good people. She was an EMT for Life Flight. Toward the end, her brother spoke. He spoke of her antics, her compassion. He finished his speech with a tribute to Sherry. “I am going to ask some questions of you. I am going to try to save one more person in her honor.

‘Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God?’

‘Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross for you?’

‘Do you believe he ascended into Heaven on the third day?’”

He also asks that we each do an act of random kindness in her name. This post is my first.

What a powerful family!

I also had flashbacks. Some sad, some comforting. I got mad. “WHY MY MOM!!!??”

As the service ended, the congregation began to sing “How Great Though Art.” One of my mom’s and grandfathers favorites. I was absolutely losing it by now. Taken back to that night, five nights before my world collapsed. I felt her. I felt her love. I felt her joy. I felt her happiness. I also felt my loss. But I also her heard her voice, just like in the beginning of the video. “I like this one.”

Sing Mom. Sing it with all you have. See you again one day!

Amen

My niece Nicole, singing to Mom from Washington, DC

Little Bird Broke Her Wing

Let me tell you a story of a little bird. This little bird used to like to fly all over, flit really. Landing here and there, wherever the wind may take her. Enjoying everything, and sometimes taking that freedom for granted. One day, Little Bird was faced with a challenge that cost her more than she could have ever imagined. She lost her mom and broke her wing. She spent several weeks recovering, healing the broken wing and taking comfort from friends. She also cried a lot and spent many weeks alone. She didn’t think the broken wing could be ever be repaired.

As the weeks went on, the wing began to heal. Not completely, the wing is never going to be the same as it was before, NOT EVER. Some parts will be stronger, some parts more vulnerable to certain situations. But she continued to be brave and face each day, healing and becoming a stronger little bird than before.

One day, Little Bird had to face the giant that broke her wing in the first place. Knowing she had to face this giant, she was afraid of feeling the pain again. Reliving the day she broke her wing was not going to be easy. She put on her best feathers and her moms perfume and faced that giant! She faced that giant and stared it right in the face. It was so hard and she cried.

Some friends that helped her along the way showed up and gave her a hug. A HUGE, hug your soul kind of hug that can only be shared between birds that deeply care for each other. One was a nurse and one was a bath aide. They all cried and were so happy to see each other again. You see, they hadn’t seen each other since the day little bird broke her wing. LIttle Bird was so happy, she got a crying thing in her throat. She also got to thank the other birds for everything they had done to help and support her. The nurse said, “You look SO much like your mom today!” That made Little Bird feel so strong and happy!

After Little Bird faced the giant, she felt at peace. Kind of like facing that giant had to be done in order to heal. Little Bird hopes that, by facing her giant and the pain of a broken wing, other little birds with broken wings will be free to flit, fly, smile and enjoy life without fear. It doesn’t mean that Little BIrd will be okay every day, but she will be okay. The End
#CancerSucks
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She is just on Florida…

But she isn’t.

There are times the reality of this seems unrealistic. Mom and I talked every day. If we didn’t, I knew the illness had taken a move.

Check....

I recently posted about a friend that was struggling with the impending loss of her own mother. She reached out to me because I had been so “strong” on my own journey. Strong isn’t a word I would describe myself through this. Denial? Yes.

There are days, like today, that the loss doesn’t even seem real. Can’t be real. My mom is just in Florida. Not she isn’t.

My first sunrise without her

Checkmate…

Levels on Life’s Ladder

I have a friend from school that is struggling right now. Her mother is very ill and has told her she is ready to die. I’m humbled she reached out to me and it brought back a couple memories that are so similar on this journey.

Her: “ I know you have been through a lot, but would you share your devotionals everyday. I love how you express your love and encouragement. My mom isn’t doing well and I need hope.”

1. Remember that picture of Mom and I, sitting on the deck and drinking a Bloody Mary? What you didn’t know about that picture was that was the day Mom told me she was ready to go. Even though we were in Hospice, we knew she had little time left, we kind of pretended it was a day that really wasn’t coming. That we were just LIVING. Completely ignoring the fact that we were dying on the inside. I had to fight back tears to give her my permission. I lied and said everything would be okay. Reality, a piece of me passed with her and life will never be the same. It will be okay, just painful at times, until that day I too shall pass and hug her in Heaven.

2. That night, I took a bath. My bath time was my release. Still is actually. When I stay strong for periods of time, I feel the grief building. When I know I can’t keep it away any longer, I take a bath with my oils, my playlist of songs Mom loved and cry.

There are many levels of reality on this Roller Coaster journey. THIS night, the night I stepped into the next level of reality was especially hard and I reached out to a couple of friends that knew the pain I was feeling. I had to connect to people who would truly understand. I have some of the best friends.

We are all on this journey. Some farther along than others. Each person on a rung of life, pulling the other along. Thanks to those that have gone before and pulled me along. I am doing better and excited about my horizon.

J- as requested. Here is today’s devotional and my hand to pull you along. 💕💜🦋

From the book Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young.