A friend of mine, Rosemary, passed away recently. She had cancer. I met Rosemary at church. She was a long-time member, and heavily involved in many aspects of the church. I simply knew her as an education guru, who soon became my primary mentor. Upon joining the church, I was asked early to teach Sunday school, something with which I was not in the least comfortable. I agreed to “serve” to the best of my ability. Rosemary never doubted me. She provided me with countless resources, assisted me in leading/teaching education workshops, and encouraged me every step along the way. Over the years, as our relationship grew, Rosemary became more of a friend, than mentor and ”teaching colleague.”
In spring 2011, my husband took a new job, which meant our family would need to relocate to middle Tennessee. It would take a while to sell our house which meant I was flying solo with the kids. Also, struggling with a cancer recurrence, there were times I felt pushed beyond my capabilities. Rosemary stayed in close contact with me, expressing first hand that she understood the challenges of parenting “alone.” She now was mentoring me from a place of personal experience, and was reassuring me that this season was ok, and that it too would pass. I had the wonderful pleasure of spending hours talking over coffee and breakfast, as Rosemary shared her life story with me. I was so intrigued and mesmerized by her wisdom, courage, and faith. A friend, sharing her story. What an invaluable gift! I treasure so deeply what she spoke, her ability to weather the years of woes, and celebrate the joys and successes….and not only she, but revealing the gifts she had received over the years from her sweet husband Tom, her beautiful children, and extended members. She was vulnerable and honest, listing both successes and then, those matters she could have/would have handled differently in present day. I will truly miss my friend Rosemary. I hear her speak to me as I write.
A friend of mine Amy passed away this week. She wasn’t a friend that I took out to the movies or out to dinner. We had friends in common, and treated each other with kindness and respect. Perhaps some of you know, our oldest Taylor has two half sisters from her father John’s side of the family. This blended family arrangement posed some stress and chaos in the beginning. John had an ex wife, Amy, who was mother to the older girls. Then John and I divorced. I soon remarried. The children were here and there, back and forth. But after a few years, we all seemed to get the hang of things. Was it always pretty? neat and tidy? Not by a long shot. Yet, the cool thing to me was that even though there surely was chaos, we all remained in relationship. Taylor most commonly referred to Amy as Aunt Amy, and they adored each other. By the time Taylor was 6 yo, Miranda (middle sis) was 15 yo, and Heavenney was 24. Amy loved having a little one to dote over. Her girls were on the way “out.” She kept Taylor often when John had to work, and they had all sorts of adventures. Amy also bought lavish gifts for Taylor…a very fun, special aunt indeed. When Gordon and I had Jack, Amy would even keep Jack for me if he were sick and couldn’t go to daycare. Gordon and I were both working. This past year, Amy was diagnosed with cancer. It didn’t look good but Amy was a fighter. On Sunday, the cancer won. At this season in our lives, Amy and I had become distant. Her children and Taylor are grown, and Amy and I parted traveling different paths. Now all in Memphis, Taylor remained with her sisters through the weeks while Amy battled severe symptoms while under hospice care. It was rough on everyone, and rough on Taylor.Taylor called me two times Amy’s last week. The first call was to inform me that she did not want to see Amy, that it would be too hard. We talked about the importance of showing up for others, and doing the “right thing” even when it is hard. The second call was to report that she did indeed go visit and that it WAS really hard. She was glad she showed up for her sisters, but to witness the state of Amy was horrific. A third call later came, and the flood of tears released. “I never want YOU to go through that, to ever have to live that way on this earth, but at the same time I don’t want to lose you. We spoke frankly about my passing in the future, and we decided to live in the present.These recent events have surely left me reeling. This is some mirerda to deal with.
Each time in my guestbook responses, I receive countless returns. I hear from all kinds of folks from “then and was” to “here and now.” It really helps me to journal my life and recount all of the precious times and memories I have made with so many. Even the dangerous, and not so healthy choices bring back a time that I cherish…it having been mine to share with someone else…to grow, learn, etch and shape from the experience - the time then having helped mold the person I have become. I find myself wanting more and more to spend time in precious relationships. I am wanting to spend time with old friends and rekindle old relationships. I want to nurture present relationships so that they do not become lost in my past. I want to foster new relationships. I feel that I am meeting the most wonderful people here in Nolensville, and everyone has such an incredible life story to share. Many folks are naturally drawn to me, and in sitting and talking…one of us ends up telling our story, or reliving the”good ol’ days. When folks have to leave, I am overcome with a feeling of abandonment. I am sad to see people go, and don’t want to be “left alone.”From here I can get sideways, or even worse, go down hill. What starts as a fun and rewarding experience of sharing time with friends and loved ones, can downward spiral to an array of feelings that come in a variety of orders. Many of you are probably familiar with the five stages of dying, or the five stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining depression, acceptance. We could throw fear in there, remorse, and maybe even more denial….but you’ve got the gist. Remember when I most recently wrote, “Now then, I feel better. Even though I do get mad at times, I just can’t stay mad. Why? Because I just can’t get over how good I have it. My blessings are so numerous I cannot even name them all. I have such a wonderful incredible life, and despite this set back, I love the rest of my life so much.” I get this picture of my comparing the stages of death stages to the old 50′s pop, ‘Sunshine Lollipops and Rainbows.’ Let me share of verse so I can reveal just how beautiful and nauseating ( and I don’t use this word lightly) it can be at the same time.
Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows everything that’s wonderfulIs what I feel a-when we’re together, brighter than a lucky penny. When you’re near the rain cloud disappears, dear. And I feel so fine just to know that you are mine. My life is sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. That’s how this refrain goes, so come on join in everybody. Give me a break….and I like Leslie Gore stuff. All of the time and energy invested in relationship building and maintaining can be overwhelming and exhausting. Is it avoidvance? Maybe, but I don’t think so. I can suddenly have this major lust for life. I want to experience it all. There is such beauty in the world in people and places. I don’t want it to be taken away. What I will miss? I want go to the beach, camping, take the kids swimming to the zoo. Ok, yes I can’t drive, so someone can take me/us. I get so caught up in doing, and being, and living life to the fullest…I forget. And this is when hard reality sets in. In addition to this newly found ferver in friends, I also set out to re-stake my claim in performing mothering and home management responsibilities…from bed, of course, since I cannot get up and stay up.
Great plan hunh? Since I am unable, we hired a nanny. This woman could not be better. Her name is Pattie, and although she is no Velma , she is very high in the ranks. She cares for the children 6-9 am and 3-7pm. She cooks, cleans, does laundry and runs errands. She attends school events and takes me in my wheelchair. She makes my meals, and keeps me abreast of everything. She is a gem, a saint, a dream come true. And……I still want to be this person…the mom who is everywhere and in everything. Not the mom in bed. ( No offense Pattie . I am very, very sick. I have been told by more than one person that this disease will kill me…sooner than later. Realistically most of my efforts each day should focus on basic self care because that is what I have the strength and energy for. If not, my basic needs go unattended, and I find myself in need and despair. Without proper sleep, food, water, clothing, bed/blankets, medical care, love, support, nurturing, stimulation and engagement…I can get out of whack. The key I am missing is balance. For those of you who know me well, I live large! Do a lot in a big way – meaning giving everything I’ve got, sometimes to the point of depletion and exhaustion. Then I become too tired for anything and can’t do. So i rest and go again. It’s cyclical. It has worked for me over the years, and with time and trial and error …I have improved greatly in my ability to keep it all a little more even keel. In my present medical, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual state, this could be no further from the truth. I have never done the dying thing before. What do I do? I am out of order, out of sync, and don’t know how to do this. I want people to tell me the answers. It seems the information and options are now of dire importance. What is the issue? Problem? Why am I tired, weak, nauseous, in pain, unable to eat certain food, can only eat 1/2 cup portions, can mainly have bland soft food. Why can’t I drink during meals? Why does my ilieostomy bag randomly leak and other times not? When will I get stronger? Why is none of my medication addressing my nausea symptoms? How long and to what severity will they last? Why is my body weighted with kryptonite? The answer? If only it were that easy. My professional team has been providing me with options, and asking that I make choices. An otherwise healthy approach. Empowering the patient to be a part of the team, making choices. No thank you. Tell me what to do and make it better.The tired depleted me has an ugly side a venemous spewing side, and I am capable of lashing out at anyone in my path, a vicious wounding poison that shows no mercy. Who gets hit here? Well of course, the folks nearest and dearest. I see others as the reason for my woes and unattended needs. I feel sorry for myself, and I lose touch. I yet again find myself in an ugly state of anger and resentment. You say, just ask for help? I don’t want your help. I want to do it by myself. Do you realize how small my life has become? I have a very small life comprised of eating, dressing, self care, resting, meds, too much screen time on my iPad and phone, etc. and I can’t even do those things for myself. Oh acceptance and gratitude you say? Accepting what? Life, death, defeat, needing help, limitations? I am sick of settling for candy land and helping with homework in the bed. And even though I want more, I am too tired for anything anyway. I am dying right? I need to be making some memories. I have got to be writing letters, making scrap book albums, shooting video. I need to be leaving my legacy? I need to be making precious memories with my children!! I love them so so so so much. I want to spend precious quality time with my sweet Gordon, and tell him over and over again how much I love him. I want to bath, feed, walk, and play with the dogs. I now have employed the volunteer efforts of my sweet neighbor Heidi N. who walks my dogs daily for free. Also, my husband and children pitch in. I can barely tolerate being in the dogs presence now because they get too hyper to see me. And then of course there is me. Where is my miracle network? Where is my slice of pie? I am done with this. Ok, literally I am done with this.
Here’s the good news, at least it is for me. All of these crazy feelings culminated into a fit throwing, crying, hysterical heap of tears…probably a much needed release now that I look back. I was helpless, hopeless, and very scared and alone. Where was God in all of this? I didn’t know because I surely hadn’t called upon His love, assistance, guidance, mercy or healing. Wow. wasn’t it me who said God is my everything, and if I just keep Him close and hold on tight, I am never in need and never alone. How quickly I forget, and go off on some personal tangent only to result in my demise. Uuuuggghhh. Why can’t I just remember and stay the course? Luckily i called a friend without doing too much collateral damage. She listened, calmed me, and suggested that I talk to my nurse about strategies and solutions. The present day resolve I have selected is to transfer my care to Hospice care. As my nurse described all that could be afforded to me through Hospice, the weight began to ease. I found hope and faith. Ok, so I know there are folks out there with the misconception that hospice is the last step..the end. It is where the nurses come to your house to help you die ( kind of my thought as well). Not so!!! If you are really interested, I can email you a list of services I will receive through hospice, and the best news…I am ecstatic and alive again. I can now return to my newly found purpose…to,be a beacon of hope and a stream of light to all I meet.
Cardinal Newman developed this prayer for Mother Teresa and the other sisters. I am memorizing it and praying it often. It really speaks to me and my believed purpose at this season in my life.
Help me speak your fragrance wherever I go.
Flood my soul with your Spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that my life may only be a radiance of yours.
Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with
may feel your presence in my soul.
Let them look up, and see no longer me, but only Jesus!
Stay with me and then I will begin to shine as you shine,
so to shine as to be a light to others.
The light, O Jesus, will be all from you; none of it will be mine.
It will be you, shining on others through me.
Let me thus praise you in the way that you love best, by shining on those around me.
Let me preach you without preaching, not by words but by example, by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears for you.