1,825 days

1,825 days

When my mom took her last breath, I didn’t know how I would get through the next moments. Right or wrong, she and her care (and survival as a wife and mom) consumed my world… I had watched her go from living a full life into a state of decline whereby she could no longer walk or move herself about independently.

Some people have this happen in a short amount of time. Others of us live with it for years, and it’s a gradual thing, a normal routine. And we can’t see the severity of the decline until after the fact has come and gone.

I remember the feeling of total helplessness as I watched her breath escape her. For all the times I wondered about this moment, it was nothing I expected. I hate death scenes in movies, and hers was not much different than the ones I hate. I hate them even more now than before.

Nothing about how this scene played out was how I prayed it would happen. But the real question is, does it play out for anyone how we wish it to be?

I remember waking up the next morning, all of us girls in the house with our dad, and going and sitting at the kitchen table, unable to function. Unable to think about what to eat for breakfast. Unable to think about what needed to be done next. I was done. shot. kaput. exhausted. There was nothing left for me to give. To anyone. Anywhere. Like a metal tank to which someone took a high-powered vacuum and sucked all the air out. I was dented, rusted, and worn.

If I could have described my life at that moment, I would have given a snapshot of a crossroads deep in the middle of a mountain somewhere where the 4 roads meet. I would have been found in the middle of a puddle, laying there in a heap face down in the water. Surrounding all the roads on all sides of me were tall green trees of all varieties. And I was alone.

Now what? Now where? Now who? What next?

I couldn’t imagine a day ever without her, though I tried. For years I had tried to imagine what it would be like when I could decide how long and how far away I wanted to travel. I tried to imagine what life would be like when I didn’t check my schedule and base my appointments around a dialysis schedule. I tried to imagine what it would be like without a mother, and truthfully I could never imagine this scenario for very long because mother’s are supposed to live forever. They aren’t ever to leave ahead of us. Ever.

Some people haven’t yet been without their mother for 1,825 days. Others have been without her for longer. And the truth is, no matter how long or short the time has been, a mother’s absence leaves a gaping, jagged hole.

I’m trying to be present with and for my kids. I may never be able to prepare them to live without me, but I want our memories to be pleasant and peaceful. My heart is full of love for these offspring…Abigail, Elisabeth, Ben, Ethan, & Andrew. My nest is full. And I will love them beyond my last breath, just as I know my mother loved me. This is the gift I will pass along.

I now realize the last gift she gave to me was to take her flight on my watch — no matter how much I dreaded that ending.

Rest well, Momma…I’ll see you in the morning!

 

 

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a broken hallelujah

Currently a friend is caring for her actively dying mother, and as we “talk” from time to tome, I remember so many things. Especially of the pit caregiving became for me…and IS for most caregivers.

Caregiving becomes a pit, though unintentionally. It becomes a pit because, among other reasons, friends disappear (were they really friends?) as we become consumed with the demands of caregiving and life. No one means to disappear, I don’t think; at least, I prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt. My world shrank out of necessity to survive.

One of the biggest lessons I learned in my journey is the fact that God was in each moment. Growing up in church, it was often implied that if we aren’t reading our Bible daily and praying for an hour a day, then our walk with Jesus was going to suffer. Hear me, there is shred truth in that belief, but it is more a fear tactic to stay out of hell than an encouragement to relationship in the long run.

The reality is this: when we are handed a task in life as demanding as mothering and caregiving, there are days when Bible reading and designated prayer time simply won’t happen. It is not a measure of our lack of spirituality when we skip a day or two. Don’t carry that guilt any longer, my sister friend.

In my darkest moments as a caregiver, when I selfishly wanted to die, when I didn’t feel any strength to move one foot ahead of the other, but I knew I was doing what was in front of me to do. In those moments, God was in my pain. With me.

In those moments, I came to understand the great lengths God went to show His love and His presence in my life. Even after days of not reading my Bible. Or being on my knees.

I prayed constantly. Prayers of desperation, mostly. Sometimes there were prayers of ecstatic praise, though mostly the prayers were from a broken heart. And though I wondered if I was being good enough at praying, I knew God heard each desperate cry for help. In the course of 12.5 years, there were mostly desperate prayers and prayers for redemption. Redemption for me, for my marriage, and for my children.

My friend appears to be surrounded by a strong support system. People coming to care for her children so she can be. Hospice and home care support staff. A loving church family.

But sometimes this is all we can give….and it is enough. God knows me. God knows my friend, Jody. He knows us and remembers we are dust. Psalm 103.

thoughts to mom on a snowy day

Dear Mom,

I think about you on days like today when it’s snowing out of control! You would have been exclaiming over the large flakes and telling me a list of names of people of whom you’d like to snowball or roll in the snow! You would have caught those flakes on your gloved hand and admired their uniqueness and wondered, “how do they know how to all be different?”

You know the nicest thing about today? We don’t have to risk the roads and bundle up from the cold to get you to dialysis. There was no “dialysis delay” for you because of the weather. How many times, though, we went anyway, because it’s what kept you going. Well, that and your love for life and family.

I miss you like mad, and I wish I could still hear your voice. I’d purposely saved 3(!) voicemails from you (for years!), and they all 3 got deleted within months of each other! I had one where you sang to me on my birthday, another one where you were asking me to get a birthday card for Daddy, and another one where you thanked me for caring for you. I cried bitterly when those got deleted. Like ugly cried. Here’s where you’d ask me what ugly cry is, and I’d tell you it’s crying which simply isn’t behaved. I have another birthday voicemail saved, though. It’s from Gerry…she sounds a little like you. She’s a really good surrogate mom, but she’s not you. Sometimes your brothers and sisters think to call me on my birthday, and that is so very special! Aunt Fran reminds me so much of you. Sometimes when I see her I fight tears because she reminds me so much of you.

What’s it like in heaven today? Well, I mean, the Son is shining, and for sure the animals are playing, flowers are blooming, and the River of Life doesn’t ever flood it’s banks. Are you helping to cook that supper we’re promised? I bet you and Judy have the best menu ever planned! And all those great cooks you have to help you! wow!

I can’t imagine the family reunion that happened a couple weeks ago…Uncle Kore, Jesse Lee, Uncle Sollie…the family circle is getting bigger up there. I’m just not ready to give Dad up yet, though. Sorry, mom. He’s doing pretty well. Getting slow, he says. He’d tell you all he gets done is taking care. Judith takes such great care of him, and you’d just love the little house Jonathan and Galen built for him. Some of the rest of the family helped, too. It was an effort of love. We love him so much! It’ll be hard to let him go, but we know that day is coming. I know you’ll be happy to see him…he took such good care of you, mom!

Guess I ought to get back to my day. I’ll write again soon! Oh, the dog in the picture is Daisy…she loves to play! I think you’d like her a lot though I know you didn’t care much for animals. I remember you cooked oatmeal for the outside cats on cold winter mornings, feeding it to them while it was still warm so it would warm their tummies. You were such a great example of care.

Give my love to Jesus. Can you give him a hug for me, please? One day I’ll do it myself. I’m so grateful for the strength I’ve had to keep walking on the road of life since you left. Your leaving left me helpless, but I’ll write about that some other time. I just know I couldn’t do it without Him!

Love you, mom! xo

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Quandry

I’ve been struggling with the direction of this writing space. I originally started it as a place to talk about what I was dealing with in regards to my mom’s care. I ended up not writing much about that because my emotions were so raw. I wasn’t sure I could handle publishing those intensely personal stories because people I know would read those dark expressions of exhaustion, and that thought terrified me into silence. Yet, I find myself still thinking there is someone somewhere who is also dealing with the rawness and loneliness of caregiving and they’re searching, digging, clawing for someone who relates. That’s what I did.

And in the middle of the caring for my (mostly sweet) dear mother, I found myself at odds with my place of worship. The caregiving and the experiences in the “house of God” are so tightly intertwined…the realizations I’m having as I journey through healing, well, oddly enough I still love those people, still care about what happens to that place of meeting, and I find myself grappling with how to express what I felt without causing more pain in all of that situation.

And now, I find myself (we, Hubster & I, find ourselves) in a place where we seek to establish a place of safety and peace at our farm. It seems as though there are huge obstacles at almost every turn and junction. We have huge dreams — dreams which will only be fulfilled through divine intervention. So we hope as Abraham…he hoped against hope. (Romans 4:18)

Today I am full of questions…how, what, why, when, where? Today I’d like to have a sit-down conversation with God, face-to-face actually. I’d like Him to zap me with understanding, along with healing the misunderstandings among friends which accompanied long-term caregiving.

Today I choose to believe, even though things seem hopeless, that the good work begun will be carried to completion. (Philippians 1:6) I choose to believe that God is able to do exceedingly above all that we ask or hope for. (Ephesians 3:20-21) I choose to believe that we will be connected to the right people and sources for healing and for the realization of our dreams. (Philippians 4:19) We will do the steps along the way. The easy ones and the hard ones.

The journey of a thousand miles passes with each step taken.

and when you pray….

Life’s been pretty rough since coming home from a truly wonderful week at Roxbury Holiness Camp. There has simply been so much “catch up” stuff to do that we can hardly see straight. On top of that was the physical struggle of not feeling well.

During one of the sessions at camp, one of the lessons we heard taught was on the story of Peter walking on the water. Here’s the story from Matthew 14 for context:

22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning[b] Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here![c]”

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong[d] wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

We were challenged to think about what our walk on the water may be. Peter took 20 seconds of courage and stepped out of the boat. Why do WE need to get out of the boat? What will our 20 seconds of courage be about?

Our journey at The Farm with our desire to have it be a place of rest, peace, ministry, joy, a place where families can BE, is being interesting. It feels sometimes as though we’re up against so many challenges. It gets wearying. I want to quit, but quitting isn’t an option. I feel alone, but I know we have each other. But where are WE headed? How will this land support us adequately? What is the next step? How do we deal with this issue or that issue? And the questions swirl around faster and faster until you want to scream, “STOP!” and get off the merry-go-round of life for just a minute.

My journey at Lifeline Pregnancy Care Center has also grown and stretched me in various ways and manners. When I was a young mom, I prayed one day I could be a support for young moms….here we’re about so much more than young moms. We’re about seasoned moms. Dads. The kids. Grandparents. Fostering and adopting. Meeting needs – physical, material, emotional, spiritual. Being a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. But when I take stock of my life and all that goes on at home at The Farm, I wonder if I should be working away from home, to simply be paying attention to life there.

This morning in one of my moments of questioning, I prayed, “Dear God, please just show me plainly if I am still to be at Lifeline.” Boom! At 1 p.m. when our doors opened, there was no stopping till we closed at 4 p.m. People kept walking in looking for answers to questions about what we do, can we help them with this or that, past clients came in looking to start parenting classes again, women needing pregnancy tests…. OUT.OF.NOWHERE.

And when I finally sat and got quiet, I heard God say, “Do you still doubt your purpose here?”

….when you pray…there is an answer….

Saturday Ramblings

When I’m working on fence rows I think a lot of thoughts. Today I was trying to get a whole field completed to say to being sick, “Enough already!” Well, I got 3/4 of the field done. Then I just accepted I shouldn’t do more. My heart was pounding, well, trying to pound. It doesn’t do that since the ablation procedure!
 
Here were my random thoughts:
 
1. Sometimes I need to learn the value of saying “NO!” (well, really, I was thinking of others and their choices, but I figured I need to apply it to me before I judge anyone else).
2. Yes, I almost always get a itchy rash, not always poison, after I do this job because I don’t wear long sleeves. (I prefer to tan. I love me some Vitamin D.) No, that doesn’t mean I won’t still do this job. If we quit doing what causes us discomfort, absolutely no work around this farm would be done.
3. And then I thought how there is the vein of thought that I have white privilege because I own land, and it sapped so much of my energy, I changed my line of thought so that I could do more work. (Yes, I have made ignorant racist comments in my life. I’d like to think that the majority of them were before I knew better, and I have repented of those comments. I value my friends of other races and cultures.) I also have come to the conclusion that I do not have energy to spend on debating white or black privilege, so please don’t go there in the comment section.
4. I am so thankful for a husband who brought me water and more gasoline for the weed eater. We make a great team!
5. If I stayed within my stereotypical gender role, my poor husband would never get a break. I’m thankful for farm life teaching us even more about our capability of working side by side. I’m thankful we enjoy working together. I’m thankful Hubster teaches me to do things I’ve never had to learn to do before.
6. This work in my hand is fulfilling a dream. Our dreams look differently from most people’s dreams. I used to dream of exotic travel, a big house, and a huge yard with a groundskeeper. I wouldn’t trade this life for that one.
7. And then in the middle of all this I’m praying…praying for our families, our barn family, for wisdom for sticky situations, for Cowboy Church….and then I am filled with peace, over and over and over again!
So there you have it, folks….this is why I will mourn the day when I can no longer weed eat the fence rows.

Commitments, et. al.

The last 12 days and 11 nights were spent at our church camp. I know some of you wonder why on earth we’d want to go spend our vacation at a church camp of all places.

Generally by this time in the year of my life, I need a recharge, a boost, a refocus moment. Church camp helps me do that. I get to meet up with friends I only see once a year in person — Facebook changes the connecting points in between camps. Still, nothing is better than face-to-face.

This year the theme of camp was “Stories”, and we heard stories from the Bible (naturally, this occurs at a church camp) and from real life people who have faced tough stuff. For me, I went to camp simply needing confirmation, reassurance, a boost-in-the-pants to keep doing what I’m doing.

I got that. And so much more.

I’ve been feeling nudged in the direction of more personal discipline (hate that ‘D’ word!) and becoming more practiced in terms of writing, reading, and having margins in my personal life. So here I go to make my entrance back into reality — you know, my real life!

I prayed last night that God would awaken me so that I could have some time to think and pray about life, my day, the people I love, etc. I got awake alright! 2 a.m. So did the Hubster. I was confused about lights I saw outside; he was confused about where he was — camp or home! We got ourselves straightened out (mostly) mentally. I laid there nursing a stomach ache and trying to pray to keep my mind off my misery. It worked, and I fell asleep. Again, I used that time to pray to wake up earlier than normal.

May as well hit the ground running on the decisions I made to change my habits, right?

Wrong.

My belly still hurt at 6:30. I ate Tums and napped on the recliner till 7:30 when it was time to go to the barn. I dragged myself through all but bringing in 3 of the horses before I headed back into the house to dress for a chiropractor appointment and a 10 hour day at work.

I was feeling bummed about my morning. I so wanted to get up and spend time with God this morning. I felt like He had other plans. I think He knows I’ll function better at night….

Nonetheless, my belly still hurts. I have strength for the 10 hour day. But I’m looking forward to going to bed tonight.

I’m still committed to margin and space in my daily life. I’m still committed to spending time in prayer and meditation. It just might not be the best to try for morning!