Saturday, January 25, 2014
In 2002, I met Sherry who has become a very good friend of mine. She and her husband showed up at a garage sale at our home. They had recently lost their son and I had sent a casserole through mutual friends for the family gathering. They came to the garage sale to thank me for the casserole and condolences we had extended to them. Dwight was inside having donuts and coffee with some good friends from church who were soon to relocate to Washington, D.C. I stuck my head inside to tell Dwight of our “new friends’ that had come to the garage sale. Mike and Charlotte offered to watch the garage sale so that our “new friends” could join us for coffee and donuts.
We visited with our grieving friends and extended a dinner invitation for that evening. That day our new friendship was born. Over these 13 years, we have shared lots of fun as well as heartbreaks. Sherry’s husband also worked at the City of Wylie and some years ago was very much a casualty of management like so many others that were set-up through no wrong of their own, but for the City of Wylie’s management team’s own purposes. As with so many of these former employees, we did not find out “the rest of the story” of his circumstances until after Dwight’s debacle happened.
About five years ago, Sherry and I discovered we had something very much in common and most unusual. Her mother had passed away and she was sharing some things that had happened at the family visitation and the funeral. She told me that one of her small granddaughters had written a note of her feelings of the loss for her great-grandmother. She had written “You will be mist”….an endearing note from a young child made even more special at the misspelling of ‘missed’. Sherry said that the day of the funeral as they were at the graveside, a fine mist enveloped them and there was a feeling as if her mother indeed was all around them in the mist. She had brought a memorial bulletin and we had already discovered that the family visitation was held at the same funeral home in Rockwall where we had Daddy’s visitation in 1997.
Some time later as I was reading the memorial bulletin, I discovered our most unusual commonality that we shared. Sherry’s mother and my dad not only shared the same date of death, but they also shared the same birth date, each some years apart. So each year, I not only think of Daddy on those dates, I also think of Sherry and her mom. We have celebrated our parents and their birthdays over lunch together when our calendars fall in sync on January 26th. We choose to celebrate the day with joy and thankfulness and today, I shall celebrate what would be Daddy’s 90th birthday and count my many blessings. Thank you, Lord!
Eccl. 7:1 A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one’s birth NKJV
In my last post, I mentioned my mother’s accident Thanksgiving weekend. She is still in Rehab making very slow progress as she heals from the physical injuries and struggles to regain physical strength. Neither of us would have authored this difficult chapter as she has come to the pool of Bethesda in this life struggle. I thought I was better equipped to help her through the healing, but I find I am miserably inadequate and there is not a moment when I am with her now that I am not having to lean on the Lord and calling for His help constantly. Unfortunately, I am physically unable to meet Mother’s daily needs like before. If I was able and my wishes for her came true, she would be back home again working on her puzzles, providing armchair refereeing for the Cowboys and Rangers, making her famous fudge and pralines, doing her seasonal decorating, on the phone bragging about her awesome grandsons, visiting with family and friends, reading her Dallas Morning News each day as well as her Bible and devotionals, planning the next family gathering, cleaning house (she loves to clean), and cooking to her heart’s content. Unfortunately, neither of us can do what we used to—the spring is a little sprung for both of these chicks!
I started wearing my ‘caregiving’ hat in 1981 at the age of 32. At that time, because of my father’s health, he sold his practice and retired. For a year, I worked side by side with him in his clinic as we transitioned the clinic from his care to the new physician’s care. It was a bittersweet time, as Daddy very much loved his patients, staff and his profession and I believe he was genuinely loved and appreciated by those honored to know him. The parting was very difficult for him, for it was not because he wanted to retire, but physically he had to retire. I had moved back to Dallas from Austin when he made the decision to sell his practice. He was only 57 years old and was dealing with a variety of health issues. He had never taken a ‘sick day’ in his entire career. After his first trip to the family farm after retiring, he went fishing and afterwards told me, “I never thought I would live to fish again”. That was his first indication of just how bad he had been feeling, as he was never one to complain, always positive with a smile on his face and any concerns and priorities were for the well-being of others.
For the next five years, he took things a little slower and developed some new hobbies other than fishing, which he had always loved. In 1986, his health took a turn for the worse and my visits became more regular, often daily. After work, I would go out to the house to check on Mother and Daddy, visit, help him with computer work and other things either might need help with at the time. In 1989, due to Daddy’s health the decision was made to close the antique shop that we had opened in 1981. I then started a business out of my home, a claims filing service for doctor’s offices. I believed that eventually with Daddy’s caregiving needs I would want to be available 24/7 and working from home would be a must. He had always taken such good care of everyone, always seeing to the needs of all the elders in both his and Mother’s family and we wanted to do no less for him. From the beginning, we chose to care for him at home rather than moving him into a care facility.
In 1992, I sold my house and moved in with Mother and Daddy as his needs became more urgent. In late 1994, Daddy became bedridden until his death in 1997. His was a long and incredibly sad battle as he lost a little of himself each day and our goodbyes were more difficult with each passing day. He was the best patient, never complaining or fussing, as he seemed to know that through it all, we very much loved him (there were times when we did not know if he recognized us) and he knew that we were trying to help him. He faced each day with such amazing grace as if he were awaiting the sanctification of his new and healed body that he would once again have in Heaven. I pray that if I am faced with the same type of suffering that I too can face each day with the grace of such love and worship.
The year after Daddy died, Mother began addressing her own health needs. In caring for Daddy, she would not give in to her own needs for fear of not being able to be at his side each and every day. Since 1997, Mother has been through major surgeries and her own loss of self. At 85, she has been described by medical professionals as the most determined and independent patient they have ever seen. She is independent to a fault in that she can not do what she insists on doing for herself. She will not easily accept assistance from those that are actually trained to help with such needs. It is not that she is trying to be difficult; hers is a determination NOT to lose the ability to do what she believes she is capable of doing for herself. If you don’t use it, you lose it and that is what fuels her determination. The medical staff is in awe of her spirit and tenacity. With her head injury, she is back in the days of shopping for us as children, panicking that she will be late picking us up from school and a momma bear fighting anyone she thinks is keeping her from her motherly duties. It has been eight weeks of battle that this caregiver has NOT ever faced in my 33 years of caregiving—more than half of my life, so you would think I know a little more than what I believe I did learn in kindergarten. With each battle, I have to call out for His wisdom and strength for this weary battle that wages. It is absolutely heartbreaking and completely mentally and physically draining.
As I write this, it is from my perspective of my experiences. Cindy, my sister is a dutiful daughter and sister with obligations to her wonderful family. My nephews, Jed and Matt never knew their doting Paw Paw when he was well. With the needs of a growing family and living four hours away, it has been difficult for Cindy to come and help as much as she would like. I know being away during difficult times such as this is a heart-tug-of-war for her as well as for my nephews. They lost all their grandparents except for Mother when they were very young. They have all been more than supportive and always huge blessings to us no matter if they are here or four hours away. Cindy’s husband Randy has always been supportive when Cindy has come even for days at a time. Having lost both of his parents, Randy understands how difficult this is for us. And certainly NOT last or least, I absolutely could not do all this now without the help and support that Dwight gives us all. Sometimes he is the only calming factor in Mom’s equation. It may be his voice, it may be his kindness, it may be his unconditional acceptance, or that she knows she can always depend on Dwight to be there to help her and in her own way she shows Dwight her love, appreciation, and thankfulness. I know she sees Dwight as a godly man, and I hope she is seeing the love of Jesus for her in Dwight as well as in me.
All this has brought us to a new stage in life where we recognize more and more the need to downsize. In working on Mother’s house now, we are downsizing her for the third time since 1991. At that time, Mother and Daddy were moving from Lucas to Rowlett and going from approximately 5,400 to about 3,900 square feet. In 2003, Mother downsized once again as we moved her from Rowlett to her smaller 2,300 square foot home (approximate) in Wylie. In addition to her home, she has three storage units at an offsite location that requires purging as well. In dealing with all this for Mother, Dwight and I have recognized that we too have a huge need to downsize. With our home and offsite storage (The Crafter’s Co-op millwork, supplies, etc.) we are looking to downsize from approximately 3,000 square feet. It will be wonderful to be free from the bondage of STUFF! So if any of you reading this, would like some trash or treasures, we have lots of both that we will be sending to new homes.
I am sure we all find our parents to be very interesting people. Mine were from very different backgrounds, yet at the same time very much the same. They loved their families and loved their children, wanting the very best for us all. The best life lessons I learned were taught by their example of living their lives to be the very best they could be for us. They taught me about faith, integrity, honesty, appreciation for life, love for family and friends, and most of what I value to the very core of my being. I learned some lessons that were hard, but even those were tempered with great love and kindness. At 85 years old, Mother is still teaching me a lot. The Lord is still using her each and every day where she is right now. She feels useless as she struggles in Rehab, yet those that are around her and are assisting her with therapy, see an incredible little lady. Yes, they are learning something from her each day as did we all learn from Daddy in his last years that probably seemed very desolate to him. What we now see as heartbreaking for them is another chapter that unfolds in all of our lives, just a different time and place, but still we are to be thankful and rejoice in it all.
Missy Buchanan wrote the following when her mother was living in the same Independent Living facility where Dwight’s mother was living and it seems very relevant with Mother’s state of circumstances at this time.
“NOT THE END OF THE STORY”
They say every good story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
I suppose that is true for novels and fairy tales too.
For my own story, the beginning and middle were written years ago, but not the final chapters.
So far, it’s been an interesting story with twists and turns in the plot.
And if I look carefully, I see evidence of your faithfulness written on every page.
Lord, I still don’t know how the last few paragraphs will unfold.
I’m not sure when I will draw my last breath.
But I do know for certain, the story won’t end there.
Your promise of eternal life gives real meaning to the fairy-tale ending: “And they lived happily ever after."
John 5:3-9 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for a moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in the condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. NKJV