Thursday, January 28, 2016

Hand On My Heart

I wrote this for my mom on her last Mother's Day, a month before her death. After she read it, she told me she wished she could take it with her, when she goes. I wish now, I had thought to put it in her casket.

My 4 year old daughter cries out for me in the middle of the night, yet again, and I go in to lay down next to her, the only way she'll go back to sleep these days. And I don't really mind. This stage will pass by all too quickly, just like all the ones before. There will come a time when she no longer wants me to lay down next to her. (And yet, maybe it won't. After all, as you like to tease me, “I'm pushing 40” and I still like to lie down next to you, especially with a pile of children's books.)

For as long as this will last, I will go to my daughter when she cries out for me. I want her to know without a doubt that I will always be here for her. And I know where that comes from... You were always here for me. Always. When I was sick, when I was sad. Countless times I cried out at night and you came in and sat with me in the dark. With a cold washcloth, with a cool hand upon my face. With comforting words or just your comforting presence. In my successes and through my failures. In my joy and in my sorrows. Whether I was across the hall, across town or across the country, I could always call you and you were there. Even in this, your death, just last week, you told me, “I don't want you to feel like you need to hide your sadness from me.” Still being here for me.

I've been pretty numb these days. But tonight, I'm starting to feel. This afternoon, you asked the nurse, “this left sided weakness, what's the worse it's going to progress? Am I going to be bedridden?” “Yes,” the nurse said, “it will most likely progress to that.” And I could see that hit you in the face. What's to come. I know you are ready to go. It's the getting there that you are not looking forward to.
It hurts to think of what they predict will come. I don't want that for you. All we can do is hold on to the Hope that the suffering you have to go through now is nothing compared to the joy to come. I pray for God's peace and comfort and ever presence upon you. He is your Shepherd and will lead you through this, to lie down in green pastures and besides still waters – such peaceful and restful images.
Keep your eyes on Jesus. Like a mother with her child, He will always be here for you.

There will come a time when you can't physically be here any more. What an emptiness and sadness that will leave. And yet, something happens between a child and their mother. With or without you, you are always with me. Inside me, just as Jesus is in my heart. Like I tell my kids, when they are away from me and missing me, I tell them I am always with them, even when I can't be; to put their hand on their heart and that's where I am. And you. You will always be with me in my heart. I can already see myself, my hand on my heart.  

I didn't know we'd only have a month left. I realize now, I was saying goodbye. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

4th Birthday

It was my daughter's 4th birthday and I had the flu. I had already been in bed for 2 days and it didn't look like it was finished with me yet. Those who know me know how much I love throwing parties for my kids and celebrating them. It's like my thing.

And this year, it was the night before her birthday and I could barely get out of bed. We had canceled her party for the following day and I asked my husband, hot tears on my cheeks, can't we just cancel her birthday too? I mean, just postpone it til I am feeling better? She won't know it's her actual birthday. She's only four, she barely knows the days of the week. And her seven year old brother, well, he doesn't really know the exact date of her birthday, right? I had so much planned that was undone... decorating her bedroom door for her to wake up to, making a special birthday breakfast, presents that weren't wrapped yet.

My husband just put the cold washcloth back on my forehead and ask if he could get me anything before he turned out the light and left me with my fever-delirious thoughts of canceling my daughter's birthday.

Before I fell in a fitful sleep, I set my alarm for 2:00 a.m. My daughter's time of birth. Every year, on my children's birthdays, I take a “time of birth” picture. Though I was sick, I was determined not to miss out on this tradition. But by 1 a.m. I had barely slept. I was exhausted, my body ached and my head was pounding. There would be no "time of birth" picture this year. I turned off my alarm, rolled over and fell asleep.

My body violently jerked awake and I could feel her being pulled out of my belly. I looked at the clock and it read 2:00 a.m. It was then I realized, I can't just pretend it's not her birthday. My body will never forget. And I realized, gratefully, my daughter's birthday is so much more than just her mommy celebrating her. She also has a daddy and a brother and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends and neighbors who want to love on her and bring her flowers and gifts and sing her happy birthday. Why would I want to postpone this for my daughter?

So my daughter celebrated her birthday weekend without her mommy. And she was just fine. She was actually more than fine. She went sledding at her G & Pop Pop's, her daddy bought her pink tulips and they went out for birthday donuts. When I can't take over my daughter's birthday, her Daddy gets to celebrate her, in his own way. Which meant, when his birthday cake came out lopsided, he turned it into a mountain for Elsa and Anna to snowboard down. Her brother helped decorate it and the birthday girl loved it!

While I was sad to miss my daughter's birthday, I'm also grateful for all the people in her life to love on her and not only celebrate her, but celebrate her so well, in each their own ways.  

Happy 4 baby girl! You are so loved. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

I will remember today

You know when you're doing something, even something ordinary like sitting on a park bench, and you know, this is a moment. Even as it is happening you know, I will remember this.  

That was us today, talking at the park while the kids played. Ordinary and yet, remarkable. Remarkable because you are still with us. Months before, there were only wisps and bald spots, now your gray hair, unruly and thicker than ever, blowing in the breeze. My son's favorite dog blanket, wrapped around your shoulders on this unseasonably chilly August afternoon. 

You said yes and came to the park with us! The whirlwind of the day could stop on that park bench. And we just were. Together. Alive. Talking. Mother and daughter. Thank you for showing up to Life. 

All your body has been through, invaded with cancer this past year, and your eyes, your eyes still sparkle blue like the sun dancing on the lake. And your face, glowing. Not only are you still with us. The doctor is right. You are vibrant right now. 

None of us know how long we will live. But you, you've been given extra time.  

Saturday, July 05, 2014

One Year Anniversary

Last year, 4th of July weekend was spent at St. Mary's hospital in Grand Rapids. My mom had been there for a week for what doctors believed was a stroke from a blood clot in her brain. It had been a roller coaster week of improvements and setbacks. But as the fireworks were going off, we were celebrating that her brain swelling was continuing to decrease and she was beginning to breath on her own.

It would be 5 more days before they discovered the 3 tumors on her brain and then another 4 weeks and two biopsies to reveal that the tumors were in fact cancer (the first biopsy only found dead tissue so they wanted to go deeper with a second biopsy) Diagnosis: Astroytoma, grade 3. By the time she got her diagnosis she had completed the exhausting work of rehab and would be moving into radiation and chemo. But first, after being in the hospital and rehab for over 2 months, she was going home!

This past week we celebrated her one year anniversary. Not just her one year, but crossing over the one year mark with her doing so well physically and neurologically! I didn't know if she was going to make it to Christmas. I never thought she'd be celebrating another birthday or able to attend another year of my kid's birthdays. We didn't know if she was going to make it through chemo with the severity of her side effects. Doctors had given her 12-18 months and now, at 12 months, compared to others, doctors are surprised how well she is doing. She still tires easy and continues to have some mental confusion (especially when she's tired) and has some limitations with the things she can do for herself. But things she believed were lost, she's slowly gaining parts of it back. She is slowly getting back to writing and is able to read again, which has always been a great joy for her. 

I especially want to mark this year because it seems to have taken her this first year to come back to life. To not be limited by her diagnosis or life expectancy but to find her way back to life, not her old life, but a new life, a new normal. Ahead of you now, Mom, this is my hope for you. Not to prepare for death as you have this past year, but for you to wake each day, for the rest of the days you are given, and truly LIVE, as you want to.

I posted this when my mom was in the hospital that first week and I'm posting it again now at the one year mark. My hope is different now than it was when I first posted this. The doctors were not giving us much hope that my mom was going to improve. My hope that first week was that I would not lose my mom. Now as I post this, my hope is not focused on death, but rather on life. I don't want to continue to lose my mom, before she's even gone. 

And not only for my mom, but for myself as well, that every day I will choose life. In my marriage, in my relationship with my kids and my family and friends. In my work in the office and around my home. To choose Life. For all the days any of us have left. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Her youngest grandchild

I don't know how long my mom will live. Overnight, literally, June 29, everything changed. Doctors believed the seizures, vomiting, vision issues and one-sided paralysis was due to a stroke. A MRI revealed 3 brain tumors - Astrocytomas, stage 3. My dad died 11 years ago from Glioblastoma multiforme, stage 4 brain tumors. This is where my mom is heading.

Today, 5 months since diagnosis, she has completed 6 weeks of radiation/chemo treatment (she was not a candidate for surgery) and one week of a higher dose of chemo. So far, her treatments have stopped the growth of the tumors, but she is very weak.

I don't know if my 2 year old daughter will remember her Grams. Will she remember visiting her Grams today? Warming her hands to put lotion on her Grams' feet? Drinking milkshakes together?

"Watch me, Grams!" Dancing to Christmas music. As Grams aches and longs to dance with her granddaughter as she once did.

"Why are you lying in bed, Grams? You not feeling good? What is wrong?"  A 2 year old, trying to make sense of it all.

We all are.

Oh how your Grams loves you. May you remember.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Living Intentionally (this summer)

There's a wet blanket on my back these days, weighing me down. I am sad and overwhelmed and lonely. I'm just getting through my days rather than feeling contentment and yes, still the tiredness that comes from long days of motherhood, but also, always the gratitude. I am coming out of this now, the past couple days, and no longer feel so soggy.  Part of this is realizing that I have not been living my days as I want to...with purpose and intention... with patience and peace... with the completion of tasks.  I'm not filling my days and my weeks taking steps and making movements towards the things I want to change about myself and my life. 

Summer is fast approaching (my son has only 2 more weeks of his first year of school)! Summer is one of those seasons that is like a blank slate to me, much like New Years Day and the start of a new school year each fall. New beginnings. Time to reflect and make changes. I have decided to name this summer "my intentional summer". The other day I sat down and wrote up a (flexible) summer schedule/routine for the kids. This includes play dates and day trips and day camps and service projects as well as daily routines of chores, errands, outdoor play, naps/quiet times, meal prep, kindergarten prep, etc. I struggle so much with organization and time management. I am so poor at it but desire so much to become more organized and more wise with my time. 

I have set a couple goals for my kids for this summer: potty training and night-weaning for my daughter and learning how to tie shoes and ride bike w/o training wheels for my son. And I thought, what about goals for myself? My focus is so often on my kids that I get lost in my role as mother. I know myself well enough to know that unless I set goals (and then break down those goals into doable steps, etc,) there will be no change. I'm desperate for change: with my weight, with my current exercise (or I should say, lack thereof), with the clutter in my house, with how I spend my time. I don't want to be stuck anymore. Feeling stuck weighs me down.

So, here are my "living intentional" goals for summer 2013:

1. Study to take the National Counselor Exam in the fall (one of my final steps towards full Professional Counselor licensure. Right now I am Limited Licensed which means I work under a supervisor.)

2. Lose 10 pounds - that's one pound/week - feels very doable. I'm starting back on Medifast this week.

3. Run the Coast Guard 5K (July 27th) - I'd like to be able to run this rather than walk/run. This week I start a "couch to 5k" training program

4. Set up new work schedule for the fall (writing, seeing clients, etc.) - there's a lot that goes into this and I'll be sharing more about this in another post but my husband and I are making some exciting changes with our private practice. I'll be spending a little more time in the office starting this fall and I want to develop my blog more and work on some writing projects as well as other dreams I'm working towards. This summer I want to develop a clear picture of what I want this to look like for the fall.

Just writing down these goals lightens my mood and gives me hope. These past fews weeks have been emotionally painful but I am grateful for them to show me that I am not where I want to be in many aspects of my life. I am not meant to remain stuck in these bad habits. I am meant for more. I can get there with intentional living.

I like what Sharon Wegner says in her "What is Weighing You Down" article: "I am a work in progressalways seeking to find a better way of being a better me." 

I want to be a better me. 

I'm not living to my full potential these days. 

I'm not working towards being all I'm capable of being. 

I want more. 

I am the only one holding myself back from the ME I want to be.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Holy Sick Days

There's a nasty flu virus in our house that has laid my active children flat on their backs. Keagan caught it Wednesday at school and by Friday there was only 6 kids in his class! The remaining 13 kids were out sick. And Friday was class picture day...

I am grateful that my children are rarely sick - minor colds here and there but my 5 year old hasn't puked since he was 6 months old and my 2 year old has never puked... until now.  Makes me grateful to have such healthy kids.

Two sick kiddos can be exhausting. But this has also been a holy time. Obviously I don't enjoy cleaning up all the puke and poop that rarely actually makes it into the toilet when little ones have the flu. And there's the nonstop laundry and the sleepless nights. But there is holiness in the midst of this.

What is it that makes a time and space holy? Where there is reliance on God to get through these exhausting days and nights. When our hearts are expectant and dependent on what God will do next. How long, Lord? 
I can't do this anymore...

These sick days are set apart from our normal everyday. There's rest and peace and quiet in our house. There's lots of rocking and snuggling and cuddling and reading. We're hanging out in our pjs. My sister and brother drop off medicine and groceries. Keagan's listening to a Junie B Jones CD and playing legos on his bed. Skylar's nursing A LOT and falling asleep in my arms. Keagan's napping during the day and going to bed easy at night. (I could get used to this!) We're going through lots of popsicles...

Holy sick days slow us down. They draw us to our knees for sustenance, for requests of healing. They give us grateful hearts for the normal everyday health of noisy, active kids (and a thankfulness for a brief reprieve).

It can be so easy to miss the holiness in the everyday. These sick days remind me that we don't need to rush ahead to the days when Keagan will be back at school and Skylar will be back to her not-an-ounce-of-fear busy self. I'm in no rush.

Although I admit, I'm ready for the puking to be over.