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. 🙁 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

 

Alex moved out just over two weeks ago. Today he came by the house and gathered up a little bit more of his stuff to take over to his new apartment. He has a new job that he is very excited about, he’s started his 3rd semester of classes at Austin Community College, and is considering trying out some of the local Open Mic Nights here in town. In short, he’s grown up.

I knew he would, eventually.  After all, that was the goal! To raise our children to become responsible adults who would go out and live their own lives. So why am I so sad when it happens?  I look in his closet, which used to be just teeming with all of his stuff, and it seems so. . . empty.  There is plenty of evidence that Alex was here, not the least of which is a Storm Trooper Helmet and three Nutcrackers. Star Wars and Ballet. Yep. That’s my boy!

I have to give him credit. He has made the extra effort to call and come by to see us.  He even called Gaylon and invited him over to watch a movie while I was in Boston. I remember inviting my dad to come to my first apartment. I guess it’s a rite of passage. 🙂

Gaylon and I are slowly relocating our home office into Alex’s old bedroom. In fact, I am typing this blog post where his Roland Keyboard used to sit. I’m glad for his success. I’m happy that he is making such a good start of things. I just need to not look at that closet again for a little while, I think.

For the first time, ever, I have a spare bedroom that I have the time and resources to convert into a Sewing Room!  So, I have been unpacking all of my sewing and craft totes and boxes, and organizing everything onto shelves and into drawers.  It is amazing to me, how once everything is neatly folded, it takes up so much less space!  Abby is sharing the room with me, and has her sewing table set up.  Ironically, her space is sort of still a big mess, and mine is all neat and organized, but she is the one who has actually already sewn something! 🙂

I still need a cutting table in the middle of my room, and I’ve got plans to sew some really awesome curtains, but other than that, it is starting to really shape up.

In the process of unpacking, I have run across some stuff that I haven’t seen since Kendall and Alex were babies!  Like the “Boppy” that I used when I was nursing Alexander.  It is a half-moon shaped pillow (well, actually, it’s just the fabric now, the stuffing has long ago disappeared) that I would put in my lap, and then lay the baby on, to make nursing more comfortable.  I also found the valances I made for Kendall’s room when we lived in the log cabin, on our little farm “down the mountain” in Mill Spring!  They are made out of a space patterned material, and they still look brand new. I found a few scraps of dinosaur fabric I used to make shorts for the boys when they were little, too.  I found a very yellowed sun-catcher, and a pattern for a Baby Sling that my dear friend, Bonnie Musselwhite+, had copied for me out of one of her old “Gentle Spirit” magazines, what seems like a million years ago now.  And, I found all the magazines that she left to me when she passed, back in 2008.

In the midst of my excitement about getting a new room just for sewing and crafts, I had to take a little time out to reminisce, and even grieve when I found those old treasures.  I miss the days when I was nursing my babies, more than I ever dreamed I would.  And as much as I love the wonderful man that Kendall has grown into, I really do miss him being a little boy, rockin’ those dinosaur shorts, and so full of wide-eyed wonder at the world around him.

And, I just miss Bonnie. She gave so much to so many of us, and was such a tremendous blessing.  I don’t think she ever had a clue as to how much she meant to all of us, and how she really changed so many lives, just by being, well, Bonnie.  Even though we were the same age, she was a living example of a “Titus 2 Woman”.

“Bid the older women likewise to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, chaste, domestic, kind, and submissive to their husbands, that the word of God may not be discredited.” Titus 2:3-5 (RSV)

I love finding such wonderful ‘treasures’, and am happy that the Holy Spirit places these cool little reminders here and there, for me to find and to remember the things that really matter, and to cherish my memories.  I look forward to making many, many more!  And, I pray that when my time comes, I will have been even half the blessing to the people God has shared with me in my life that Bonnie was to me, and to so many other women.

After we got somewhat settled in here in Austin, I got with a couple of the moms who are in charge of our homeschool support group and offered to create a yearbook. They thought it was a great idea, and the Teen Board did, too, so, we dug in, and created a yearbook. That was in October or November, I think. We got a pretty slow start, but for the past couple of months, I’e pretty much not done anything but work on the yearbook.  Yesterday, it was finally finished! I have a call in to the printer, and expect to send the file to him early next week. By the middle of the month, we should be able to have a yearbook signing party! Yay! It has been absolutely delightful getting to work with the kids, and to get to know them and their families better. This is an amazing bunch, and they are so gifted and motivated. I have been so very blessed by them!

So that leaves me with a little free time before we start up with our homeschooling in August. I have some cross stitch projects I’m working on, (can’t tell what they are . . . other than it’s for Christmas!) and I also have some sewing to finish up as well. But, what I think I will spend the most time on is Genealogy! It’s been such a long time since I’ve gotten to do anything with it, and I was really inspired last weekend.

The Golden Anniversary Couple

Let me explain.  Last weekend, a lot of us got together up in Ft. Worth at my cousin’s home to celebrate his parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary.  It was a lot of fun, especially because I got to see family that I don’t see very often, like the Guests of Honor, my uncle Harvey and Aunt Enid; my cousin Ronnie and his son Don; my cousin Jamie and his family (they hosted this shindig) my cousin Phyllis from Albuquerque, and best of all, Kendall!  (Especially Kendall!!) And it was awesome to eat real Texas Barbeque, which Jamie stayed up most of Friday night smoking.  We had an absolute blast!

Without question, one of my favorite parts was getting to see Phyllis and getting to compare notes on the Family History.  She is LDS, and has done quite a bit of research on our family tree.  I was able to glean quite a bit from her records, and was able to share some family photos with her, as well as a bit of data.  Isn’t the digital age amazing?  Anyway, she really inspired me to get off of my cyber-butt and start really re-organizing all of my files, which I have really been meaning to do since the fire (umm. . . 6 years ago!) And now that I live just up the road from the Texas State Archives, well, I have no excuses!

We also got to go see my cousin, Branden, his beautiful wife, Laura, and their family, on my Mom’s side.  This included getting to meet his brand new baby boy, Reid, and  his 2 year-old little girl, Lily, and his brother’s son, Garrett!  So, that was awesome.  I am posting a picture of all the kids together.  We were missing Spencer’s other three kiddos and Branden’s 3 stepchildren, but it was still a nice photo-op. 😉

Granny & Grandad Would Have Been So Proud!

I don’t want to forget to mention that Mom’s friend, Janet, let us stay at her lovely home in Grapevine, just minutes from my cousin’s home, so that was really nice. She is a wonderful hostess.  I think she should have been Polish! 😉

So, I know I’ve been pretty spotty at keeping this blog up, and I read such wonderful blogs maintained by women who have far more to do and many more children than I, but somehow I can’t begin to keep up with them.  (You people know who you are!!)  So, for now, suffice it to say, even though I am going to have some free time on my hands for a few weeks, I plan to spend it ‘documenting the dead’, and still may not get to this blog regularly for a while.  Oh, and I have a couple of movies I plan to go see, too!  The final Harry Potter movie, and Cowboys and Aliens.  (Seriously, how could I NOT go see that last one??)

 

I am on several homeschool email lists, and get all sorts of emails from all sorts of people.  After homeschooling for the past 17 years, there are just a lot of things I don’t feel the need to know about or read about.  I delete most of them.  But this past week, I got one that really disturbed me.

As a homeschooler, I tend to think we should live up to a higher standard than others.  If we are going to declare that homeschooling is superior to public schooling, then we need to understand that we will be held to a very high standard.  I understand that not everyone is a good speller, and that grammar ain’t for everyone, but puh-leeze!  If you are going to send out an email to several hundred homeschoolers regarding a Homeschool Honor Society, then using the proper words is important.  Do not refer to students who might want to join as “perspective” members!  Seriously?? I might have let it slide if it was an American Girls Club for ten-year-olds.  But for an Honor Society, I would think they would know the difference between “perspective” and “prospective”.

For the record, my kids know the difference, and they are the only ones for which I am actually responsible. 😉

Abby got to attend her very first Masquerade Ball on Friday night, hosted by the Christian Choral Society of Austin.  She is not a member, but our homeschool group was invited. 🙂

Gypsy Child

She had been working on a costume for All Saints Day (we Catholics do like to dress up and celebrate all sorts of days!) but it wasn’t quite finished, so we headed down to the Halloween Express store and found a suitable replacement.

Now, I have to say that we were both very excited about being able to hop in the car and be anywhere within ten minutes!  Much as I love Saluda, it is so much more convenient living in the city.  Anyway, after looking for an Alice in Wonderland costume, which were only available in sizes that would fit the Dormouse, we found a wonderful Gypsy costume!

Abby had a wonderful time with all of her new friends, and is looking forward to dressing up as “Candy Cann” for the Murder Mystery Party this coming Friday evening!

I cannot believe that we have been living in Texas for almost two full months!  I am happy to report that, all things considered, we are doing very well, and are very happy in our new home.

Which is not to say we didn’t get off to a rocky start.  Not quite a month after we arrived, Gaylon got laid off.  Now, most of you remember that we moved here because Gaylon had a job working for his family’s commercial plumbing business.  To say that this layoff was a huge shock for us would be a gross understatement.  However, after a brief time of wallowing in extreme self-pity and misery, I managed to pull it together and start counting blessings.  I would like to share some of those blessings with y’all now.

  1. First, we have found an awesome church: St. Williams in Round Rock.  It has three wonderful priests, and it is only 10 minutes from our new home.  There are two masses every weekday, and seven on the weekends.  We have been able to attend the 12:15 Mass on most days.  They also have a full-time Middle School Youth Ministry, complete with Lock-Ins and Diocesan-Wide Youth Rallies.
  2. Our neighborhood is terrific!  It not only has a community pool just half a block from our house, but it also has a walking trail, complete with deer.  Actually, our entire neighborhood is full of deer.  (I refuse to say ‘overrun’, but that might actually be the correct term.)  There are lots of children riding bikes, playing football in the streets and folks walking all over the place. Right now, though we seem to be having an epidemic of graveyards, six-foot spiders, zombies and glowing skeletons.  I love it!!  We have been stockpiling candy for Halloween night, and Alex is planning to carry on my father’s twisted tradition of donning a werewolf mask and sneaking up behind trick-or-treaters.  Actually, Alex is planning to take it to the next level, and intends to jump out of our oak tree as they come up the sidewalk.  Daddy just hid behind the planter, LOL.  I sure hope our neighbors have a sense of humor!
  3. We are also loving being so close to everything!  The grocery store is only five minutes from our house.  We are ten minutes from three or four cinemas, and a couple of really good malls.  So, while we have a lot of ‘country’, like the deer and lots of beautiful Live Oak trees, we still get all the perks of being ‘city’.
  4. F.I.S.C.H.E. (Families In Support of Catholic Home Education).  This has been a HUGE blessing!  This group meets every Friday for Mass, then they have some sort of activity for the teens.  The activities rotate between spiritual, service and social.  So far, we have had a Spiritual Retreat, Bowling, Campfire, Paintball, Mobile Loaves and Fishes, Lunch with Fr. Jonathan and Eucharistic Adoration.  In a couple of weeks we will be doing a Murder Mystery Party!!  This group has made all the difference in the world for Abigail.  She told me the other day that she really is happy here, and is glad we moved here!  Wow.  I floated all day after that announcement. 🙂
  5. Alex got a job at a grocery store called Sprouts just after we moved here.  He is making pretty good money, and has already made plans with a new friend to go to some Comic Convention next summer in San Antonio. I guess you gotta do all that while you’re young, right?
  6. Gaylon and I are making new friends, too.  We are so amazed and impressed by the spiritual family leadership of the men we are meeting, and the way they take their roles so seriously, yet still have fun doing it!  We have been invited by one couple to attend the Texas Alliance for Life’s Annual Benefit Dinner next week at the Hilton Austin.  The guest speaker is Abby Johnson, who is a former director of a Planned Parenthood abortion facility and is now a pro-life advocate.  There is a lot of controversy and hoopla surrounding her decision to abandon Planned Parenthood’s ship, so I am very excited about getting to hear her speak!  I am also beginning to wonder if we will have to pass by protesters on our way into the Hilton. . .  it is, after all, Austin.
  7. Gaylon has been able, with the help of our homeschool group, to find some side-jobs to keep money coming in for now.  We have decided to believe in God’s promises, and are trusting that He will provide whatever we need.  So far, in the past 24 years, He has never abandoned us!

We do not know exactly what our long-term future holds. But for now, the short-term looks very promising.  We are headed back to North Carolina in December for Kendall’s graduation from UNC-A, and are looking forward to reconnecting with all of our friends out there.

We are sort of settling in here in Austin.  The move went very smoothly.  We had wonderful help from our amazing friends on both ends of this journey.  In North Carolina, we had a small army to help us pack and load the trucks.  Gaylon’s brother, Chuck, and his wife, Anna, stayed on after the wedding to help us pack.  If it wasn’t for Chuck, that basement would never have been conquered!!  Anna helped me pack up a lot of books upstairs, too.  We would probably still be packing if it wasn’t for my dear friend, Marcia T.,  who pretty much single-handedly loaded my entire kitchen! When it came time to load the trucks, she sent her husband, John, and two sons, Daniel and Andrew, to help, and they didn’t come empty-handed.  She sent a crockpot of sloppy joes, along with a fruit and a veggie tray!  Hmmm. . .  methinks this woman has moved before. . .  Kendall and Lishi were on hand to help on Saturday, along with Clint and his girlfriend, Christine, and Zach C.  Aaron G. was of course there the whole time, and Alex’s buddy, Joshua B. was there almost the whole week.  Kendall’s friend, Joey, who also helped load, drove one of the trucks for us.  My best friend, Lisa, sent me off with coffee.

Once we pulled into Austin, Joey had two of his friends meet us at the house, and they stayed for two days to help unload.  Our dear friends, Tim and Beth, drove down from the Dallas area to help, and of course, Donna and Dave were here.  They all managed to get the truck unloaded in about 6 hours, and Beth even helped me unpack most of my dining room stuff!

To say that we feel loved doesn’t even begin to cover it!!  We have had so many phone calls and emails from folks all over the country checking on us, it really is humbling.  We are so grateful for such incredible friends and family!!

So now our only big challenge is figuring out how to downsize to a home that is about 2/3 smaller than the one in North Carolina!  We are getting rid of so much stuff!!  I have to say, I feel very blessed to have so much stuff to spare.

Now that we are here, Faith has decided to go by her middle name, ‘Abigail’, or ‘Abby’ for short.  I confess that if I had moved to a new city when I was her age, I’d have done the exact same thing!  It’s just tough for us to get used to calling her ‘Abby’!  We are planning on starting school on Monday, and I think we are both looking forward to getting back into our familiar homeschool groove.  It’s definitely time to start living in ‘real time’ and not in limbo anymore!

Alex has a job interview tomorrow with a place called Sprouts.  It is some sort of organic, local produce grocery store.  I am really hoping he gets the job, and then a discount! 😉

Now that we are somewhat settle, and starting to feel ever so slightly more relaxed, I will be posting much more frequently, so check back!

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