Wednesday, November 27, 2013

THE Holiday Season

People always talk about that holiday season - the first one after losing someone you love. It's supposed to be really hard, you know.

Well, Megan and I had our first birthdays without our Mom. We share a birthday, Megan 5 years to the day after me, and it's always been quite an event. My Mom was the queen of birthdays - well, events, really. She always dreamed of being an event planner, and she would have been the best. She had Pinterest in her head long before it ever existed. The birthday rolled around, and it was just awful. It was marginally less awful than it could have been since I shared it with my sister, and we clung to one another, understood the pain and the craziness of having our birthdays without her.

But now here we are, facing our first Thanksgiving and Christmas without our Mom. I've dreaded it since before she died. I mean, last year was pretty darn bad. She was suffering, and we were too, and wondering if she would even be here for Christmas, praying that she would. And she was, but it was not really like Christmas. In a way, I wondered if in a whole year, this might all be easier to face.

I should have known better. Everything reminds me of the emptiness that I feel without her. The Nutcracker is coming, and we bought tickets. We always went with Mom, and she always took us to dinner and bought the kids each a new "nuttus" to celebrate. The year before last, the last time we went, she bought the entire Nutcracker suite for them. I wonder if she knew then that she might not be around for another performance.

This would have been our year to have Thanksgiving with my Mom and Christmas with my in-laws. It's strange, to say the least, to have no plans for Thanksgiving day. I really don't care if Wal-Mart is open on Thanksgiving because this year, it's just another day. Maybe I'll go just to get paper towels or dog food or something.

I wrote out my Christmas planning list and not having my Mom on there was so sad that I haven't even looked at the list again. We're usually just about finished shopping by now, but I just can't hardly go there. I can't fathom celebrating Christ's birth without the one who brought me into the world.

I remember years ago, when my Mom had gone through a lot of hard life events, she just kind of gave up on Christmas decorating. It was so strange, because all the time we were growing up, she went to so much effort to make our home into a Christmas wonderland. To walk into her home, year after year, and see nary a Christmas tree, was depressing. I can understand now, though. It's so painful to think about having Christmas without my Mom that, if it weren't for my children, I might be tempted myself to just hide under the covers and pretend the holidays weren't happening.

But you know, there's another side to all of this. Despite how sad we are here without her, she is living with the King of Kings. She has the heavenly perspective that we, as Christians, strive for. She truly would not want this to be a time of sadness and tears, but a time of hopefulness and celebration, a time of closeness with our family and friends. And most of all, she would want us to draw near to our Savior.

So though I long - ache - for even one hour to sit and talk with my Mom, to laugh with her, to know how she's doing, to tell her how Alif is doing, how we have disability court next week and Malachi just got his learner's permit and Graham has a heart issue that we'll now be monitoring yearly, and how Canaan still sleeps with us at least part of most nights and I love it so much, how nervous and excited I am about starting the nursing program, and on and on and on? I will instead draw near to Jesus. I will pour out my heart to Him and ask Him to carry us through. And because He loves us with a never ending love, He will.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Grief is so weird. I knew that before, having been through some tough things in life, and just from reading about it and watching others go through it. Experiencing grief after the loss of my Mom, though, is just plain weird.

I guess I thought that I would go through the stages in a linear fashion, maybe with some hops forward and back along the way. I did not think I would experience all the stages of grief at the same time for months and months and months. I wonder if it will still be this way years from now.

Granted, in the first few weeks I felt like I lived in an alternate reality, and I cried all day long. I couldn't even count how many times in a day I would cry. It's not like that now, though: some days I do cry several times, but some I don't cry at all.

In some ways, it feels like she's still here and I just haven't heard from her in a really long time, so then I will feel kind of irritated at her, but then I'll remember that she's NOT really here and I can't talk to her now and not EVER, and then I feel devastated, and I cry though it, and then I feel a little bit of peace that yeah, she's not here because she's in Heaven and I wouldn't wish her back even if I could, because I couldn't bear to see her go through pain like that again, to watch her waste away, to feel her pulling away from me - but then again I would, because I am so very desperate to feel her near me, to have her advice, to laugh with her, to go on trips with her, to just flat-out KNOW SHE'S HERE.

Yeah. That's what my brain looks like.

Grief sucks. And I miss my Mom so much I can't hardly stand it.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Two years.

Two years have gone by since Alif's illness. It sounds weird to put it that way, because it's not like it was an event that happened and passed and life is back to normal now, but then again it was one of the biggest events of our lives.

Today is Alif's Birthday. It's impossible to celebrate his Birthday without remembering this day two years ago. We decorated his hospital room, read him cards (looking exactly as he did in that picture above, no response at ALL), a nurse bought him a cupcake (which sat, untouched, for well over a week when we finally had to throw it away).

But that night the neurologist had sobering words: Alif would not survive.

There's no way I can explain what that night was like. I knew then that I needed to gather up my courage, trust in the Lord like never before, and make the most of my last weekend with my husband. The neurologist said we would reevaluate on Monday, and that at that time we would need to make some decisions. Basically, he was saying that we would turn off his life support and he would not be likely to live after that.

It boggles my mind that my expectations for my husband went from everything to nothing in no time flat - I mean, the idea that he could live at all - even as a vegetable - was so hopeful. So coming from that point of view, it is amazingly, breathtakingly remarkable to see the man that he is now. He can do so many things! In fact, if you don't know him very well, you could probably spend quite a bit of time with him and not notice any lingering effects from the strokes that he suffered.

But they're there.

There's no need to go into his deficits here and now. It's his birthday, after all! But I ask that if you think of us, please pray. There is so much missing for Alif, and so much pressure on me, that life is definitely not easy.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Alif. I love you so very, very much.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Things have changed and that's for sure

August 12, 2012 was my last post. That was also the end of life as I knew it and a harsh introduction to the most heartbreaking time of my life.

One of my last posts was about Malachi's 8th grade graduation. That was kind of a milestone day in my Mom's health because though she was hosting his graduation party at her community center, and though she attended his graduation, she was unable to come to the party. She didn't feel well, and I think most of us very close to her knew that something wasn't right. And deep down, if we knew something wasn't right, we knew that it had to do with cancer. After all, for the last 18 years, that word has been in the back of our minds, if not at the very forefront. It just never felt like something that was Over and Done With. It lurked - both figuratively and, as we now know, literally.

We tended to symptoms long before we knew that cancer had taken over. Many, many trips to doctors, surgeons, emergency rooms, urgent care, all in the name of pain management, never facing the real problem, because the real problem was too big to face. Finally we knew, though. It was back, and it wasn't curable. Still, we were pretty hopeful at first (well, perhaps it was really all denial). God was so gracious. Things moved only as fast as the three of us (Mom, Megan and I) could handle them. For a disease that had taken over so much of her body, she functioned well at first. Then not so well, and finally, not independently at all, until on January 9, 2013 at 6:15am, she took her final breath and traveled home to her Father - and her mother and father and so many others who had gone before.

It's been almost two months now and it still doesn't feel quite real sometimes. I can again see God's grace, because there have been a few times that it's all felt SO real and SO permanent that I literally have to catch my breath; panic threatens to consume and I cry out to God. Which, let's face it, is what I should be doing every moment of every day.

Writing is therapeutic for me, but what's in my heart is so raw right now. It's not full of optimism and gratitude, though those things exist alongside the darkness, loneliness, panic, desperation, self-pity, sadness. I'm just warning you, those few who may see this, that I want to track what's going on so I can look back on it all someday, but I don't want to have to censor my thoughts, so it's gonna get real up in here. You've been warned. ;-)