Last month, I started an apprenticeship with a midwife in Bryan, Texas. I am there for clinicals two to three days a week. Typically, we are open Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but she often has to see clients on other days of the week, as well, just to fit everyone in right now. I am loving being there, and loving being a part of this sacred process again. The birth center has such a sweet spirit, too. Just being there is peaceful!

Because I’m there for at least two days a week, I’ve been staying with my cousin and his family for a couple of nights a week, instead of commuting from Austin each day. This has been a treat for me, because we’ve not gotten to see very much of him over the past several years, and I thoroughly enjoy his family! He has the sweetest wife and such talented and fun children, too. (Okay, I’m a little scared of one of his daughters after I saw the video of her taking down a small cow in a calf-roping competition, but I think I’ll be okay as long as I don’t put a bell around my neck and run out into a rodeo arena!)

There are, however, a few drawbacks. One is that I’m not at home, and I miss my family a lot, and I really miss my cats! And, because I’m not home, I’m not getting very much quilting or sewing done. The other problem is the spiders. My cousin lives out in the country, on a really lovely ranch. Complete with a barn, horses, and goats. And spiders. Did I mention the spiders? They’re EVERYWHERE. And they are ginormous!

Now, before you blow me off because you think I’m exaggerating (due to my unreasonable and uncontrollable terror of arachnids) let me set you straight. Gaylon held a snuff can up next to one of the barn spiders (aka: “writer spiders”, “banana spiders”, “zipper spiders”, etc.) and this thing’s legs extended past the can on both the top and the bottom! Naturally, they’re all over the barn, but there are also two or three of them in every bush, and hanging from every eave. They really, truly are EVERYWHERE. But they’re not the worst ones. Because they are orb weavers, they generally stay put. You know where they are, and as long as you don’t wander into their web, you’ll probably be okay. But. There are also wolf spiders and grass spiders. Roughly the size of tarantulas! (And I have no doubt there are tarantulas, too, but praise be to God! I’ve not seen any of those yet!)

The second week I came over here for clinicals, my cousin and his family had gone down to the Frio for a much-needed summer vacation. I had the house to myself. I was thinking, “Ah! This will be great! I’ll be all alone, and get so much studying done!” I volunteered to feed the goats (although I wasn’t feeling so confident after being informed that they were Show Goats and that everyone else’s goats had been getting sick and dying. . .) I went to the barn and fed the goats, and the cats. And one horse. I saw the barn spiders, but they were way up high, and didn’t seem interested in me, so I just headed back to the house asap, and figured that was it for the night.

But then the dog wanted out. So, I opened the garage door to let him out, and there, about 12 inches from my foot, was THE BIGGEST GRASS SPIDER I’VE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. It was the size of my hand! Right there on the dog bed! I broke out in a cold sweat, my mouth went dry, and I froze. I didn’t have anything to kill it with, and besides, I wasn’t sure anything shy of a flame thrower would even come close to being effective. I managed to get the dogs out of the garage, slammed the door shut, ran into the kitchen, and did what any other rational, grown woman would do. I had a panic attack! I could not figure out how to get the dog back into the house without opening that garage door again, and THAT was NOT going to happen. But the dog is really little and cute, and I really didn’t want him to become coyote bait. So, I called Abby, because I knew she’d be awake, and she talked me through it. I went to the front door and called for the dog, and he finally came in that way. Problem solved for the moment, as long as I didn’t have to go out again that night for a birth or anything like that.

But the damage was done. I couldn’t sleep all night long, and the next morning I felt pretty rough. But I knew I had to go feed the goats and get to the birth center. So, I managed to get a shower, forced myself to open the garage door and brave the possibility of that spider still being there. When I opened it, I didn’t see him. I knew he was there, somewhere, but I kept telling myself that if I couldn’t see him, he couldn’t get me. I know, I know. That’s ridiculous, but it worked. I got to the barn, where one of the horses introduced me to one of the biggest barn spiders I’ve ever seen in my life, had a minor panic attack (c’mon. . . this thing was eye level to me!) and managed to get out with my life and back into my car. But I was far from okay by this point. I’d had no sleep and no coffee, and hysteria was creeping in.

So, on the way into Bryan, I called Gaylon. I figured I’d just talk to him, and everything would be okay. But instead, when I heard his voice, I burst into tears and told him everything. (So much for my makeup. . .) My wonderful husband offered to come and be with me. He was there by that evening, and he found (and killed!) Shelob-of-the-Garage, and saved me from any further terrifying encounters. He even took over the feeding of the goats and horses (although I think I was okay with that part, actually. . .) That man deserves an award for Best. Husband. Ever!!! He is just so amazing, and I am so grateful for him. We’ve been married 28 years (almost 29) and honestly, it just keeps getting better!

I’m adapting to life on a ranch a little at a time, and now that my cousin and his family are home it’s much better. (They can let the dog in and out and brave the giant spiders!) Plus, it’s just nice to have them there. . . their house is very big and empty without all of them. ūüėÄ

I’ll probably spend more time here than at home this month, due to the fact that we have a lot of births coming up, but my family is super supportive and they can come over here and visit me anytime. So far, for the most part, this adventure is turning out very well!

 

i-want-to-believeIf you know me at all, you know I love the X-Files. Some of the episodes are super corny (“Jersey Devil” comes to mind. . .) some are pretty “Spooky” (if you’re a fan, you’ll get that pun!) but almost all of them are just plain fun to watch. I’ve seen most of them at least twice, and am really looking forward to the new episodes that are coming out soon. While I’m afraid it might be a little bit like seeing an aging rock band go back on tour, I’m still hopeful that the magic will still be there. And part of that magic is the little hidden gems of wisdom that one can sometimes glean from the dialogue.

For example,¬†in an episode entitled “III”, after witnessing a scripture verse written on the wall in blood,¬†√° la Manson, Mulder observes “These people have the same feeble literal interpretation of scripture as those big-haired preachers.”¬† For those of you who know my journey as a Christian, you will understand why that one caught my ear.¬† For those of you who don’t, let me just explain that I have had my fill of folks translating the Bible “literally” to suit their own purposes, and those “big-haired preachers” are classic examples of this sort of abuse.

Another quote came from an episode (I forget the name) where Mulder and Scully are investigating what appears to be a serial killer in a town down in Florida inhabited almost exclusively by Freak Show and Carnival people.¬† You know, the Bearded Lady, Alligator Man, etc.¬† One of the “artists”, who was always doing something bizarre and disturbing, like shoving nails up his nose, or timing himself to see how long it took him to get out of a straight jacket while hanging upside down over a barrel of water, made the comment that “If people understood the true cost of spirituality, there would be a lot more atheists.”¬† Wow. Ain’t that the truth?

And last, but far from least, there was a rather long voice-over at the beginning of an episode called “The Blessing Way” that aired September 22 1995.¬† The voice is that of an American Indian character¬†named Albert Hosteen (played by Floyd Red Crow Westerman).¬† I will leave you with this quote, which I found amazingly profound, and eerily en¬†pointe to what is happening in today’s political theater concerning the Confederate Flag and a host of other “issues”. We are in dangerous territory here, folks, and the X-Files prophesied it quite succinctly.

“There is an ancient Indian saying that something lives only as long as the last person who remembers it.¬† My people have come to trust memory over history.¬† Memory, like fire, is radiant and immutable, while history serves only those who seek to control it, those who would douse the flame of memory in order to put out the dangerous fire of truth.¬† Beware these men, for they are dangerous themselves, and unwise.¬† Their false¬† history is written in the blood of those who might remember, and of those who seek the truth.”

trustnoone

Vizzini: “INCONCEIVABLE!”
Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

There are things in life that just don’t register, things that, no matter how hard you try, you can’t wrap your brain around them. They are. . . inconceivable. Ten years ago today, I woke up, packed up my bags and my children and drove to Winston-Salem to visit my mother for a couple of days before heading up to Delaware to spend some time with some old friends, the Wygants. In many ways, I have not been home since. By the time we got to my mom’s house, our house was on fire. There were a lot of folks in the house at the time, and everyone got out okay. God was good to all of us. (Here is my blog post about the fire not long after it happened.)

So much has changed in the past ten years that I barely recognize myself or my life. My kids are all grown, my mom is gone, and we are now living back in Texas. All of our pets that survived that fire are gone now, except for Bonnie, who was just a puppy when it happened. (And I will be forever grateful to Gaylon’s niece, Amber, for thinking to grab her out of the house when it was burning!)

In so many ways, I’d love to hit the ‘reset’ button and go back and change things. But I firmly believe that God has a purpose for everything He allows, and so I trust that His purpose was in that fire, as well. And as much as I couldn’t imagine how much our lives would change after that fateful fire in 2005, I can’t imagine, now, what things would have been like if the house had not burned down. Time truly does heal all things.

I started this post thinking perhaps I would find something meaningful or poetic to say about the fire, but nothing comes to mind. So I guess I will just share a few photos from that time. I will say this: we’ve often considered sending pictures of the old house and then the new one that Gaylon built to replace it to some place like HGTV for one of their ‘remodeling’ shows! ūüėČ

If you click on the first image, it will go into “Slideshow” mode, and then you can just click through the images.

I’m in San Antonio for my first workshop/exam with the Association of Texas Midwives Midwifery Training Program. (My goodness, that’s a mouthful!). I’m nervous about a great many things this morning, not the least of which is getting home tomorrow afternoon! First, I’m nervous about meeting my fellow students and whether or not they’ll like me. I generally assume I will not be well-liked, but thankfully, most people seem to tolerate me pretty well. ūüôā And, of course, I’m worried about doing well in the workshop and on the exam. My brain ain’t what it used to be, and I’m just praying I’ll be able to extract the information I need,¬†when I need it! Some days, that just doesn’t happen in a timely manner!!

I’m frustrated because the coffee in the hotel I’m staying in SUCKS. So, I’m going to have to leave a bit earlier than I’d planned and try to find some good coffee that I can drink before the workshop starts. Which I didn’t want to do, but coffee is non-negotiable!! They also do not have a Paleo-friendly breakfast. I mean, they do have scrambled eggs and some very dry looking sausage, but I don’t much care for sausage, and the eggs looked a bit powdery. Considering the fact that I’m already on the nervous side this morning, I opted on the side of not risking it.

But those things are actually not at the top of my list of concerns. There is rain in the forecast. Here in Texas, that is usually a cause for rejoicing, especially the past few years, because we’ve been in a state of extreme drought. However,¬†we had so much rain over the past month that I’m honestly afraid if anyone pours their iced tea out the window, the whole state will flood! And they are predicting more rain tomorrow. I-35 was flooded after the storm on Monday, so there’s no reason to believe it won’t flood again and make it very challenging for me to get home. Never mind all the folks who are in danger of losing their homes and/or businesses, or those who already have. And they still haven’t found everyone. . .

I was in Hobby Lobby yesterday, lost in my thoughts, trying to figure out which colors of modeling clay I needed to purchase to create a model of a human cell for my Midwifery school, when a woman approached me and said “Excuse me.” ¬†Naturally, I thought I was in her way, so I moved over and mumbled something about being sorry. She looked at me with great big eyes and said “Oh no, you’re not in my way. I want to ask you a question.” I had a feeling she wasn’t interested in modeling clay. Our conversation went like this:

Me: Okay. . . .

Woman: We are going to go to the Phillipines for a mission trip, and I was wondering if you’d like to support us by buying this Sonic gift card for $5? (Magically procures a gift card and holds it up for me to see).

Me: Who is “we”?

Woman: Oh, our church. We’re going to go over there to witness to them. (Smiles sweetly).

Me: What church is that?

Woman: The Church of Jesus of (something I didn’t recognize and can’t remember. . . I just know it was not LDS)

Me: Hmmm. Okay. Well, how do you feel about Catholics?

Woman: (Stunned) Ummmm, . . . well. . . .most of them over there are Catholic. (Smiles, thinking she’s given me the right answer).

Me: And you’re going to try to convert them?

Woman: Well, we’re going to share with them the truth of Jesus Christ!

Me: (Realizing this was not going to come out the way I intended it) Them I’m sorry. I can’t support you.

Woman: Oh! (This is when her eyes got really big and she realized that I wasn’t interested in saving Catholics, but that I am Catholic)

Me: I went to fundamentalist churches for 12 years that sound like they were a lot like your church. But then the Holy Spirit led our family to go back to the Catholic Church, because it does have the way to Jesus.

At this point, I turned to walk away with my cart, but then I stopped and added:

Me: It just feels like to me that you’re trying to convert people who are already Christian, who already know the truth of Jesus Christ, and I don’t think that’s what God wants. It seems like dividing Christians.

Woman: (Seizing upon this wonderful opportunity to save my soul) “Then do you believe that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the light?”

Me: (Turning to face her directly) Of course! I believe that Jesus Christ is the one and only Son of God, that He died on the cross for my sins, rose again on the third day, and is seated in Heaven with God the Father. (meaningful pause. . .) ALL Catholics believe that!

Woman: (Obviously not prepared for this response from a Catholic) Oh! Ummm. . . .well, good!

I don’t eat at Sonic, anyway, but that wasn’t really the point. The point is that Catholics ARE Christians, albeit most of us don’t have a clue about what it¬†really means to be Catholic or Christian. I find it incredibly offensive, and yes, sad, that other so-called Christian groups are wasting time and money trying to “save” Catholics. It would be so nice if they would actually learn what we really believe before passing judgment and deciding we’re hell-bound. Satan must be so happy that Christians are so busy attacking¬†their own!

Mom’s been gone for a month and a half now. The world is still spinning, although it seems as if it’s spinning through a fog, at least a lot of the time. Our family is still trying to find “normal”, and I imagine it will be a while before we get there. Actually, I don’t really believe we ever really will. Our world has changed forever, and we have all been forever changed, both by her life and her death. We are all different now, and there’s no going back. I firmly believe that’s as it should be.

I’ve been thinking about how I can share what this all feels like, and I am reminded of my friend, Kevin, who became a father last year. He has¬†occasionally posted the lessons he’s learned from parenthood on his Facebook page, and I think he’s discovered a brilliant way to share, in a concise manner, what he’s feeling and learning on his journey. So, I’m stealing his idea, and am going to follow suite here. In no particular order:

Lessons I’ve Learned From Grief

  1. I have an amazing capacity¬†to cry. A lot. At any given moment, and at the drop of a hat. I’m not afraid of, or ashamed to cry. I just had no idea it was possible to cry this much!
  2. Apparently, no matter how much, or how long you cry, your eyes will not start bleeding or fall out. And yes, I really have thought those might be options on more than one occasion.
  3. One can actually get sick of crying.
  4. No matter how much you cry, people will tell you should cry more. And they seem to assume that you’re not crying enough. I am a private person when it comes to showing grief. I don’t mind writing a little about it here on my blog, but I am not likely to start crying in front of people who are not very closely related to me by blood.
  5. If your mother has just died, nobody will judge you for anything you say, or think, or do. You’re expected to be crazy, and it’s completely acceptable. I don’t think this is license for inappropriate behavior, but it is an observation I’ve made.
  6. Dillard’s is a very difficult place for me to shop now. It was Mom’s favorite store, and I have many happy memories of shopping there with her. This will take time. I love Dillard’s, too, but I think I need to wait a while before I go back¬†there. (See #4)
  7. Everyone has a different idea of where I should be in this process, but they all basically fall into two camps. The first camp wants me to try to get on with my life, because they believe this activity will help me heal. The second camp believes I should curl up in bed or on the couch, and just feel what I’m feeling, and not worry about anything else. I’ve found that my reality falls pretty much between those two places. I simply cannot just lay around; there are things that actually have to be done. Like paying the bills, going to the grocery store, going to Mass. And, I would lose my mind if I just laid around. On the other hand, some days I can’t seem to wrap my mind around any sort of concrete plan, and while I usually manage to shower and dress (my family appreciates this) I accomplish nothing else. But I’m making progress, and Gaylon is displaying unprecedented patience and understanding! He keeps telling me I’m doing better, and that it’ll take time. And he holds me.¬†I have an amazing husband.
  8. People don’t know what to say to me, especially if they’ve never experienced the death of someone close to them. That’s okay. I’ve lost many loved ones, starting with my Dad’s mom, when¬†I was three years old. I’m used to death, and I’m actually grateful for that. It is, after all, the natural conclusion to life. There is nothing anyone can really say that will “fix” me. And I don’t want them to. I just appreciate folks letting me know they care, that they are thinking of me or praying for me.
  9. The coffee does not automatically make itself. The blinds do not magically open each morning and close each evening, and the plants do not water themselves. Litter boxes just keep filling up, and if we don’t gather the trash on Tuesday evenings and take it to the curb, it just keeps filling up, as well. The refrigerator does not mysteriously restock itself with creamer and eggs. Abby discovered, quite to her surprise, that the lint tray in the dryer actually has to be emptied. Every time we use the dryer. The dishwasher doesn’t empty itself every morning, either. The ‘outgoing’ mail on the piano just sits there, and doesn’t automatically deliver itself to the mailbox. And nobody cares anymore what’s for dinner. We never asked Mom to do all those things. She just did them. And more. Quietly. Invisibly. Daily.
  10. And because nobody in the world could say it better than C.S. Lewis, I’m just going to quote him: “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me”, and, “Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.” (From “A Grief Observed”)
  11. I have found that I don’t really care for the modern concept¬†of “Celebrating” someone’s life. At least not so soon. I actually did celebrate my mother’s life while she was still alive. Right now, I’m grieving her loss, and I don’t feel like celebrating at all. I still find funny things funny, and still laugh at good jokes and funny movies. But I do not feel at all celebratory about my mother’s death, which I am unable to separate from her life at this point. This is not to say that I don’t appreciate those who are already able to ‘celebrate’ her life, and I certainly am not offended by people who embrace the concept. I’ve just realized that I don’t yet share that sentiment.
  12. Death involves a ridiculous amount of paperwork. In the immortal words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”
  13. Elizabeth K√ľbler-Ross’s “Five Stages of Grief” were inspired by her work with terminally ill patients. They do not necessarily apply to¬†their family and friends. So, I am relieved of the burden of trying to figure out which stage I’m in, and if I’m experiencing it properly. It doesn’t matter, really. I simply am where I am, and labeling it is unnecessary.
  14. And finally, this¬†is probably the most amazing and wonderful thing I’ve learned since Mom died. The Creator of the Universe cares deeply and personally about ME. There have been quite a few times when¬†I’ve been really depressed, or felt like I couldn’t keep going, when I would receive texts, Facebook messages, or phone calls from friends, all over the country, telling me that the Lord had put me on their heart, at that very moment, and they were praying for me. For me!! Right when I desperately needed it! One particularly difficult night, I got two texts at the exact same moment, from two different friends! I’ve always pretty much believed that God loved me, but He has been so very close to me throughout all of this, and has made sure that I know it. I have found this scripture to be so true:¬†“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.” ~Psalm 34:18~

So these are some of the lessons I’ve learned so far. I know there are many more lessons to learn, and that I will never fully ‘get over’ my Mother’s death. It’s a process, a journey. I really do understand and accept that. I just don’t have to enjoy¬†it.

April Westbrook 1942-2015

April Westbrook
1942-2015

My precious mother passed from this world to the next at 2:30 in the morning, on¬†January 2, 2015. I realize that I had promised¬†to post funeral information, but¬†somehow, that got lost in my haze. I’m sorry. Her Visitation and Rosary were held at Beck Funeral Home on January 5, from 5:00 to 7:00. Fr. Noah Carter, our dear family friend from Salisbury, North Carolina, led the service. Allen Hebert, our close¬†friend and fellow Catholic Homeschool Dad, led the rosary for us.

Fr. Noah officiated at Mom’s funeral mass the next morning, at St. William parish, at 10:00. My sweet friend, Tiffany Gallozzi, also from North Carolina, sang the Ave Maria, Mom’s favorite song, before the service began. Mom was laid to rest at Our Lady of the Rosary Cemetery in Georgetown, Texas. At the end of the graveside ceremony, my precious daughter-in-law gave my mother one last gift, and sang the most beautiful song. I just cried.

Mom’s¬†grave is in the Marian Garden section of the cemetery, along the Rosary Walk, between the Glorious Mysteries of the Assumption and the Coronation. The Resurrection Cross towers gloriously overhead. Kendall and Abby chose the spot. I know Mom would have approved. ¬†Her obituary is online, and can be viewed here.

I have sat down to try and write this post several times, and never seem to get very far. Once, I actually did finish the post, but it was mysteriously deleted, and so, I must begin again. I can only assume the missing post was not meant to be. People keep asking me if I’m okay, how I’m doing. Honestly, that changes from moment to moment, from day to day. Mostly, I’m numb. Occasionally, I can’t stop crying. I’ve been doing the next thing, and trying to wrap my mind around the fact that my mother is gone.

But I know I’m not grieving alone. My mother had so many friends, and so many people loved her! Sometimes it feels like the whole world is mourning with me. I cannot begin to convey¬†how humbled I am at all of the love and support we’ve received from our friends and family!¬†I have gotten countless phone calls, emails, Facebook and text messages, letters and cards. A few folks have dropped by the house, and many of our homeschool friends have brought meals. I have never felt so loved in all my life, and am honestly stunned at how many people care. And not just about my mom. They care about me. I didn’t expect that, and I truly do not have the words to express how very much it means to me.

As sudden and shocking as it all has been for all of us, even (especially?) for Mom, I know that she was not afraid of death. She told us that many times. She even said she was excited about getting to Heaven. And she told us that she felt peace. Her childlike faith in her Lord is such an inspiration to me. There was no doubt in her mind that Jesus was waiting for her. Her faith has inspired me and given me an even greater desire than ever to grow in holiness, to seek the face of God, so that when my own time comes, I will get to see my mother again. All of us feel that way. Alex has even started attending church again.

I know that it will take time to heal, and that I will never fully get over this. I mean, when Mom was admitted into the hospital on December 16th, we didn’t even know she had cancer! Sixteen days later, it was over. We barely had time to say goodbye. But we did get to say it. I know that this is a precious gift that so many people do not get. Our family was very blessed to have what brief time we did get. But we are all still in shock, and it’s not real to us yet. Its surreal. Time will help ease some of the pain, but I do know that it will never be completely gone. I don’t expect it to be.

This is not my first experience with death, or even with sudden death. My grandfather died of a stroke when I was eleven years old. He was my hero, and that was really, really awful. My grandmother died of cancer when I was twenty. But we’d been expecting it for a long, long time. She had bone cancer, and she had been slowly fading from us for so long. I missed her like crazy, and still, almost 30 years later, I sometimes¬†want to pick up the phone and call her. My dad passed away ten years ago. Also from cancer. Gaylon’s dad died earlier that same year. Again, cancer. I’ve lost aunts and uncles, and more than a few¬†friends. Losing my dear friend, Bonnie Musselwhite to cancer when she was only 43 years old was devastating! But this is different. This time I lost my lifelong best friend. The one and only person who was always there for me, no matter what.¬†I really do see her face everywhere I turn. And I suppose that’s as it should be.

Sometimes I don’t want to talk about it at all. Just the idea of talking is exhausting. Sometimes, though, all I want to do is talk about her, to rehash every minute in the hospital, to cling to my last memories of her life. And I never know which it’s going to be, at any given moment. I’m grateful to the friends who keep texting me, calling me. I need that so much! I am not likely to pick up my phone and call anyone. I’m pretty sure I really wouldn’t even know what to say when they answered. So again, I am so grateful to everyone who has reached out to me, and keeps reaching out. I’m not ready to commit to any big plans. But¬†lunch or coffee, or just a brief phone conversation is perfect. If I’m not ready to talk, I won’t answer the phone. But I will call back.

So, thank you from the very bottom of my heart to all of you who have been here for us in any way, shape, or form. Thank you to those of you who are still reaching out. Words cannot express our gratitude. <3

 

My mom’s cancer is far more widespread than even the oncologist realized at first. When we first got to the hospital, they were telling us we had 12 – 18 months, maybe more with her. Then the biopsy results started rolling in, and we learned that she had cancer in her lungs. Stage IV. And in her adrenals. And lymphs. And esophagus. And her left hip. It seems to be a plague that has invaded her body.

But, she still wanted to try chemo and radiation. So, first they had to drain the fluid off of her lungs, so she could lay down for the procedure to put in the chemo port and then also a feeding tube, because she hasn’t been able to eat or drink anything for WEEKS. So around 11:30 on Tuesday the 23rd, she went into the procedure smiling, and we both were thinking okay, things are going to get better after this! I was told that this procedure would take about 2 hours, so I went to grab some lunch. About an hour and and fifteen minutes later, I got a phone call from a nurse, telling me the surgeon wanted to see me. I threw my lunch in the trash and made it to the Medical Tower in record time. My Uncle Steve and his wife Gretchen were able to get there right after I did, and just before the surgeon came to meet with us in the Consultation Room.

Dr. H. looked really worried as he sat down to tell us that they had had to “abort the procedure”, because to do it, they would have to lay Mom flat on her back, and as soon as they started reclining her, her oxygen level would drop to 30% in 40 seconds. He said for reference, most of us could hold our breath for a couple of minutes, and still have 100% oxygen. My heart sank. He said that the only way they’d be able to get the port and the feeding tube in would be to put her on a ventilator, but he was very afraid that she’d be on it for the rest of her life. ūüôĀ He asked us what the oncologist had told us, and I said “Twelve to eighteen months.” He said that he was concerned about the next 24 to 48 hours. I think I quit breathing at that point. I knew she would not want to be on a ventilator.

After talking to the surgeon, we went back to her room to wait. It took a really long time, and my Uncle and I began to really worry. I called all my kids and asked them to come immediately, and they did. (Alex ran out the door of the automotive shop so fast that he forgot to leave a customer’s car keys behind, and we had to send someone to return them!) When they finally brought Mom back to her room, her whole family was waiting for her. She looked so weak and disoriented! I mean, she hadn’t looked fantastic when she left for surgery, but she’d been in great spirits, smiling and alert. This was so different and disheartening. We called Hospice, and started trying to reconcile ourselves to the fact that Mom is not going home.

But we tried make¬†the best of it. After all, it’s Christmas, right?¬†My lovely and amazing daughter-in-law sang Christmas Carols to Mom. The hospital staff came in to listen to her angelic voice. Mom was delighted, even through her weakness.

I stayed with her all night, as did her friend Janet, and Gaylon. It was a super rough night. She choked and gagged for much of it. She was so weak, and having so much trouble breathing! I cried. A lot. We all cried a lot. When morning came, the oncologist came to see us, I guess for the last time. She said that the cancer is just so widespread and invasive, that there is nothing anyone could do. She said it might have been a blessing that we didn’t find it sooner, because we might have been able to try to ‘fight’ it and it would have prolonged her suffering. She recommended we watch “Christmas Vacation” and try to get some rest. (I knew I liked her. . .) Mom had a much more peaceful day, and seemed to rally a bit.

I went home for a shower. Alex texted to say that he thought we should all get together and watch the Muppet Christmas Carol in the hospital room with Nana. So we all gathered in the hospital room to watch a movie. That never came to pass, because we just got distracted, but our sweet friends, Michael and Margaret brought Holy Communion to Mom. She lit right up!  I spent the night with her, alone, and she slept most of the night, fairly peacefully. It was good.

Later that¬†night, Abby spent the night with Kendall and Lishi. Alex went over there most of the night, as well. My children, without any direction from us, got together and nurtured each other. They loved each other and clung to one another in this difficult time. Yes, a true Christmas Miracle. My silver lining in this dark and terrifying cloud. Abby set up all the Christmas stockings before she went to Kendall’s. He helped a bit. They kept some small piece of Christmas alive for all of us.

Christmas Day, I got to be alone with my mother, for what is very likely the last fully alone-time, lucid conversation I will ever have with her here on this earth. She told me she felt like she was just laying around, waiting on God. I agreed. She said she’s peaceful, and ready to go, just not ready to leave all of us. I gave her permission to leave. We talked about funeral arrangements and where she wants to be buried. We talked about how there will NOT be a viewing or an open casket. And she wants flowers. Lots and lots of flowers. Caveat: No Easter Lilies. . . Mom has always hated them. They remind her of death! No donations to the Cancer Society or anything like that. If someone is just determined to donate some money in her name, then she wants them to give money to the Capital Campaign at our church, St. William Catholic Church, in Round Rock, Texas. So. Flowers or donate to our church. No Easter Lilies. Pretty simple. We discussed how our angel, Lishi, would never make it through the Ave Maria, so we asked our friend, Tiffany, if she could come and do it. She said she’d be honored to do it.

And then I told Mom that she needed to talk to all of the kids and give them her final blessing. She thought maybe she could divid that out over two days. I told her I thought she needed to do it all yesterday. I had a feeling. She agreed, and she did it. All the kids came, and they each got private, one-on-one time with Nana. She blessed them all. It was sacred and precious.

Today she’s been very non-responsive. She can barely wake up, and can no longer talk, or even write on her notepad. I’m glad she blessed everyone yesterday, and I know she is too. Tonight, Gaylon, Kendall, Alicia, Emily and I gathered around her bed and prayed the rosary. My sister, who is not a Christian, joined us with respectful and understanding silence. Lishi sang the Magnificat in Latin, and a couple of other lovely songs before they went home. (Alex came to visit earlier in the day, so he missed the rosary).

I don’t know how many more moments I have left with my precious mother. This has all been so horrifyingly rapid, and I’m barely able to keep up with it all. I know when it’s over, I’m going to go home and sleep. For a week. And then maybe I’ll have the energy to cry. I really did think I’d have her for at least ten to fifteen more years. She thought so, too. It’s inconceivable that she’s almost gone. Yes, I believe in miracles, but it just really seems like God wants her to go home to Heaven, not to our little house in Round Rock. I don’t know why, and I’m sure it doesn’t matter. I will miss her until the day I draw my last breath, and every day I will be surrounded by the myriad things and memories that weave their way through and permeate my life, making me who I am. And yes, my world will be so empty. It already is. I understand that this crushing grief will eventually pass, but nothing will ever replace the space my mother has filled in my life, in my being. I am grateful that she¬†showed me how to be a Christian, how to love Jesus. Her faith, her steadfastness and child-like trust in Our Lord is the glue in our family, and it will be forever. We are all who we are, because of her, because of her tireless and selfless love to all of us.

I do not know when I’ll have the chance to blog again about all of this, but I will make it a point to post funeral information, when the time comes. I cannot express how much we all appreciate all of your love, prayers, texts, phone calls. We are feeling those prayers, and that is what is sustaining all of us. Thank you. <3

 

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