And Now What?

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Now what?

What do you do when you find yourself parentless, especially when you have been a caregiver for such a long time.

Being parentless is like free-falling. No direction. No one to catch you. No one to guide your fall. Just falling…

Picture a dandelion that is ready to go to seed.

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You pick it up and marvel at all the little seedlings.

Take a deep breath…and BLOW!

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Watch where those seedlings go.

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Left.

Right.

Up.

Down.

Twisting.

Turning.

Catching a breeze and heading away from you.

No direction.

No one to catch them.

Just falling…

For me, that is what this season of life feels like.  I have no sense of direction. I am a wanderer. I wander from one room to the other trying to figure out what I am supposed to do. I wander through the pages of my Bible trying to find something to make me feel better, even though just being in my Bible feels good. I wander through my knitting bag trying to figure out how to finish this project that I am supposed to give away as a gift in 10 day. Most days, the only thing that makes me feel better is writing.

When I am not free-falling, I feel like a pressure cooker. The pressure is building, building, building and I can’t take much more. No one is doing anything to me, it is just this horrific grief that is causing the pressure.

Falling.

Exploding.

Falling.

Exploding.

I live in a fog. A grief-induced fog. I can’t clear my head. I can’t think straight. I can’t remember anything.

I can’t cry. I watched my favorite show last night, This Is Us. Oh my, what a sad episode. Randall’s Dad passed away. The memories they shared. The love they found for one another. Precious, but I never shed a tear. I didn’t even realize that I should have until I read Facebook this morning and all my friends were posting about how they bawled all night. Not me…still stoic here.

I am fearful for the day that the dam breaks and the pressure cooker explodes. I don’t know what that will look like. I am doing all that I know to do to prevent it. Sleep. Pumping good information into my head in the form of sermons and Christian music. (I am currently listening to Pastor Steven Furtick from Elevation Church. I have listened to 6 of his sermons in the last couple days. He is now on my Bucket List! I want to meet him in person and hear him preach.)  I am reading a book that my sweet sister, Jacque sent me called “Through the Eyes of a Lion” by another pastor that I like. I am attending a grief seminar tonight at Hospice of East Texas. I have met with the bereavement counselor, the pastor, Pastor Harbie, my counselor. I am doing all that I know to do, but nothing is relieving the pressure.

I miss my Momma so much.

I miss my Sweet Daddy so much.

I miss my Dad so much.

Am I ever going to feel normal again or is this my new norm? All that I read and learn about grief says that “no, this is going to pass”. I am praying to God that it does.

I am praying that God will bring me out of this with a testimony. A message that I can share with others. Empathy for others that are hurting, grieving, free-falling and/or wandering. I am keeping the Faith.

Faith, is defined in the Bible in Hebrews 11:1 as, “having confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”.

Faith = Confidence + Hope + Assurance

And, now what?

I wait. Wait upon the Lord. Because Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”. That includes me!

Why?

Because, my friends…God is good ALL the time and ALL the time, MY God is good.

Two Men and a Daughter

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jake, nick, papa and gramps

Two men. Gone from my life in just over two months. One gave me life, the other taught me how to live. One led me to Jesus, one I pray saw Jesus in me.

One was my Daddy.11013353_10207043965245155_1045271748971061568_n

one was my Sweet Daddy.

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Both of them made me the person I am today. My heart aches so deeply.

Thanksgiving Day 2016

Sweet Daddy was supposed to come early that day to spend some time with Jake, Morgan and Eli. Our home was a buzz with company, cooking, and celebration. The smell of turkey was wafting through the house making everyone feel festive. Abigail, my oldest Little, was there making place cards for the table. Eli, my youngest Little, was zipping all around the house keeping everyone busy and cheerful. A great start to the day and so much to be thankful for.

UNTIL.

Until, Daddy did not show up.

I called him at 1:00 p.m. to see where he was. He answered his phone and said he must have slept late. (Clue #1) He told me he was going to get his shower and head our way, not to wait on him. I asked if he wanted Chris to come get him to which he quickly replied (no surprise here) that he did NOT want anyone to come get him. He was going to get his bath and head our way. He sounded funny, (clue #2) but I could not pinpoint it. When I hung up the phone, I looked at the clock on the oven and it was 1:04 p.m. The last time anyone would hear his voice.

Fast forward to 2:30 p.m.

Still no Sweet Daddy. I had been watching the time on my phone ever since I hung up from him. Something didn’t seem right. I picked my phone up again to call him and when I looked down, somehow I had called Mom’s phone. I saw Janie Abernathy on the screen and I knew something was terribly wrong. He wasn’t answering his cell phone or his house phone. Panic was setting in at this point. Chris and I gathered our things to head that way, when Allyson suggested that we call the Sheriff’s Department. I am so thankful that she spoke up and that we followed her lead.

The Sheriff’s Department got to the house and soon after, Pat and Jerry Dorman arrived. Pat handed the deputy the phone and he delivered the news that I never wanted to hear. My Sweet Daddy was gone.

He left this world exactly the way he wanted. Quickly. No nursing home. No hospital. No one staring at him while he took his last breath. As hard as that was to accept, it was exactly the way he wanted to go. Chris and I have talked at length about this and both believe that he was called by God to come home quickly and not suffer because of the life he lived while he was here. I have to scriptural basis for that, it is just what I choose to believe about my Sweet Daddy.

Thanksgiving Night, my siblings all started returning to East Texas and we began planning a funeral. We all met at Hawthorn Funeral Home on Friday to discuss the arrangements that Daddy had made (we asked him to do this when we were making arrangements for our Mom) in 2015. That night, Megan and her family arrived home from New Hampshire. Saturday, we gathered at 35 Dixie Lake West in Wildwood Estates to begin the daunting task of closing down our childhood home. We worked from Saturday through Wednesday only breaking to attend visitation on Sunday and a funeral and burial on Monday. All six children, our spouses and children worked to clean out 41 years of living from our Family Home.

Recovery has been so slow. Daddy was the rock of our family. He was the glue that held us all together. We are all floundering without him. Daddy was the closest thing to Christ on Earth that I have witnessed.
He was loving (took in 3 kids and raised us as his own).
He was kind (took care of my Momma for years with her MS and never complained).
He was compassionate (he gave everything he had physically, spiritually, financially and mentally to ANYONE that needed anything).
He was thoughtful (never missed an opportunity to tell you what he thought, lol!)
He was forgiving (being the black sheep of the family, I can attest to this more than the others, but he never held a grudge for anything I ever did).
He loved the Lord with all his heart, mind, body and soul and raised six kids that do the same.

We are blessed to have had him as our Daddy.

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Fast forward 9 weeks.

We all made it through Christmas (barely) and New Years. That had been my goal…just get through the end of the year and you will be ok. “New Year. New You.” I made it! January 3rd, I had been back at work for 5 hours when I got “the call”. My Dad was being taken to the ER by ambulance for an apparent stroke. Seriously? My first day back at work after the dreaded holidays? What happened to my new year? Ok, just breathe! Deep breath and I raced off to meet the ambulance at Good Shepherd Medical Center.

We were in the ER for quite a while, as usual. Dozens of people buzzing around us. Doctors. Nurses. Different technicians from various departments. Susan came. Chris came. Initial diagnosis was no stroke. All the sudden his fever spikes at 103.1. They begin giving him Tylenol suppositories immediately and decide he has an infection somewhere so they order blood work. Blood work comes back negative for infection. He still had a high fever and was somewhat confused so they decide to admit him anyways. As soon as we get up to a room, he begins vomiting. Fever spikes to 103.8. They put in a rectal probe to monitor his temperature and put a cooling blanket over him. Vomiting and fever continue until Thursday. They ran numerous tests and finally decide he has a virus. Thursday evening, after the vomiting has subsided, they do an MRI. Friday, they release him back to the nursing home and never mention the MRI again.

The next week, as I would come to his nursing home for coffee before work each morning, I noticed some very unusual behaviors. His bed has been moved 3 feet across the room at a 45 degree angle to the wall. (He ran into it with his electric chair and pushed it across the room with his shins. His brain was unable to tell his hand to let go of the joy stick on his chair. He literally burned holes in the linoleum with the wheels of his chair.) He was laying upside down in the bed with his head hanging off. He was sleeping 20 hours out of the day. All strange behavior for him. Finally, I requested a care plan meeting with the staff for Wednesday. So, 8 days after the trip to the ER, the head of the physical therapy department (not the physician) tells us in the care plan meeting that Dad did indeed have a stroke. A very bad one. He has a blood clot in the Thalamus area of his brain. When she explains this and we begin discussion, everything finally makes sense. The thalamus is the “mother board”/”control center” for your body. It regulates your sleep/wake cycle, your body temperature, your arousal for your senses, the awareness of your extremities, etc. The light came on and everything finally started to make sense to all of us.

We determined his new level of care and made a new plan for him. A plan we were only able to stick to for a few days before having to put him on hospice care. Hospice of East Texas came in on January 16th and were able to maintain a good comfort level for him for the next 16 days. I pretty much moved into the nursing home with him. If I was able to work, I would go to the facility first and end my day back there. Part of his new “normal” was to yell out “help me” on a regular basis. That would continue until his death. Even when others were there, it seemed that I was “his person” and the only one that could calm the panic he was experiencing. He was very child-like during this time and I could no longer tear myself away from him. I knew my time with him was limited, so I needed to do everything I could for him while I still could.

So many people did not understand the relationship I had with Dad and I guess they never will. I am not sure I even do. When I try to describe it, I truly feel like I was more of a parent to him than he ever was to me. Two days before he died, I was sitting by his bed. He had his hand wrapped around my arm. All the sudden my pulse felt like it was beating at the same rhythm as his. Then my heart started racing and I couldn’t catch my breath. I felt like my life was leaving my body through my arm and going into him. I moved away and sat on the other bed in his room. My heart was beating out of my chest. My chest hurt so badly with every single breath. I reached for my phone and texted Chris to come. I told him it wasn’t Dad it was ME. He came from work and found me sitting against the wall in a puddle of tears barely able to breathe. He forced me to leave the facility and go home with him to take a nap. After I woke, we had a pretty hard conversation and I explained to him what had happened earlier. It was symbolic of my relationship with Dad over the last 10 years…he was sucking the life right out of me. (Literally this time!) Meanwhile, the facility had called hospice and the nurse called me. We all kept thinking that Dad was “waiting for someone to come to him”. Debbie explained that sometimes, when someone has “a person” that they have a difficult time letting go of their person. She told me that my last act of true love for my Dad would be to help him break that connection. Really? Now I have to die for you, too?! This was going to be impossible for me to do. That was the day that BJ was coming. I met him there late that evening and he wanted to stay with Dad, so I was able to go home and sleep. The next day, I worked a full 8 hour day getting everything completed for the month. I went straight there after work to relieve BJ. He wanted to stay again, so I returned home for another night of sleep. (I can’t tell you what relief I felt with BJ here. We didn’t grow up together, but there is a connection there that I can’t explain…always has been.)

Wednesday, February 1st, with my littlest brother by his side, Dad took his last breath on earth.

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I didn’t get to choose my parents, God chose them for me.

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The Bible says we are to honor our Mother and our Father. (I have never found a contingency clause in there that says “honor them if they….”.) I knew that I had to show my Dad unconditional love. A Christ-like love. I may be the only example of God’s love he truly sees in his life and I couldn’t shirk that responsibility. At the end of the day, I knew that I would be the one that had to look myself in the mirror every day and live with the choices I made. I can lay my head on my pillow at night with no regrets for the care I gave my Dad for the last decade of his life. God doesn’t make mistakes and I believe He created ME this way to be able to care for my parents the way I have had to off and on for the past 15 years.

Now, once again I tell you that these two men are gone from my life in just over two months. My Dad gave me life, and my Sweet Daddy taught me how to live it the right way.  My Sweet Daddy led me to Jesus, and  I pray daily that my Dad saw Jesus in me. One was my Dad and one was my Sweet Daddy. Both of them made me the person I am today. My heart aches so deeply, but I know I will see them again one day. But for right now, it is too much. Too soon.

2015 Was “A” Year

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This morning a memory popped up on my Facebook page from 2010. As I read that blog, my heart was so full that my eyes began to leak down my cheeks.

2015 has been a year! I can’t say it was a GREAT year, because some not-so-great things happened this year. I can’t say it was an AWFUL year because some pretty great things happened this year. It has been a year that has taken a toll on my life. In January, Mom got another UTI and went septic. We put her back on hospice care, but this time she didn’t get better. My sweet Momma, moved to Heaven on January 30, 2015. All of my siblings were at her bedside along with our Daddy and my Jake. She struggled so to let go of this life and it was hard. Very, very hard. We had her funeral and buried her by Daddy’s parents in Hughes Springs. Chris and I try to get by there regularly and I have gone alone a few times…just to talk to her. (yes, I know she is not really there.) Losing my Mom has been very hard, after all, who are we when we are no longer someone’s child?

Mom and me

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In February, my Gram passed away. I was supposed to get to see her in January, but Mom got sick and I didn’t make the trip. Gram was tired and had lived a wonderful 95 years of life. My last grandparent.

The next few months are kind of a blur. I cried a lot. I changed jobs. Tried to heal from the grief.

In early July, we went on an amazing vacation to the beach with Lance, Amanda and Abigail. One week looking at the ocean, sitting in beautiful white sand and hanging out with the Sweet Man. God is good!! The only downfall of the vacation was that I was not able to walk on the beach, hand-in-hand, with my husband. My knee was getting worse by the day and I had been favoring it so that I could no longer walk without a limp. NEXT YEAR!!!! I. Will. Walk. Hand-in-hand. On. The. Beach. With. The Sweet Man!!!

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After our vacation in July, we welcomed our daughter into our family. Jake and Morgan got married! It was a beautiful wedding and a great time for all of our family to celebrate a happy occasion together. It was a very healing time for all of us. My Mother/Son dance was also limited due to my knee…time to get that thing fixed!

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me and jake

July 30th, I had my knee scoped. Having had 3 scopes on the left knee, I thought I knew the drill. Well, that didn’t go so well either. I ended up with SONK (spontaneous osteonecrosis of the knee) and in excruciating pain. What was supposed to be a “surgery on Thursday, back at work on Monday” ordeal, turned into weeks. MRI’s. CT Scans. Doppler scans. Injections in my back. You name it, I probably had it done to me! Finally, we managed to find two doctors that agreed on the best treatment and on November 5th I had a partial knee replacement. (Bear in mind that I have been on a walker since July 30th!!) Not fun! Dr. Kaminski did the Makoplasty on my knee and I am finally off the walker and truly seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Now as we prepare for our 1st Christmas without Mom, we are also preparing for the arrival of little Eli Hardin. I am so excited, but my excitement pales in comparison to that of Eli’s Daddy, Jake. He is over the moon about his son that is due December 31st. He and Morgan will be such good parents. The nursery is painted. The bedding is on its way (it is being made by a cousin that has an Etsy shop called “Jane’s Blankets”), the laundry is washed in Dreft and all put away, the freezer is full of pre-cooked meals, the car seats are bought and the stroller is ready. We are just waiting on Eli to decide to be born. I am so excited to watch my firstborn become a parent. Jake loves hard and he loves deeply. I have NO doubt that he will love and care for Morgan and Eli very well. What more can a mother ask for?

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So, as I reflect on 2015, I have great hope for 2016. The Sweet Man and I have big plans for US this year, God willing. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss my Momma, but I KNOW that we will be together again one day. Until then, I will cherish every moment with my children the way she did with us. After all, they need to learn all the traditions to pass down to all of RaRa’s Robins! The circle of life continues.

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Hanging on For Dear Life!

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I am sitting in the Starbucks in Longview, my new town. There is a family at a table directly across from where I am sitting, a mommy, a daddy and an adorable little boy. There is obviously something wrong with the Daddy. His movements are very slow and deliberate. Maybe a head injury, maybe a disabled veteran, not really sure.

This little boy has captured my heart! He looks like my boys did when they were small. Big brown eyes, the same kind of pacifier, shiny white tennis shoes and a blanket.

Daddy hasn’t spoken a word…just sitting there deliberately drinking his coffee and eating his muffin.

Little boy wants his mommy to hold him, so she throws his blanket over her shoulder and picks him up. I am watching her as she snuggles him and I see her holding on for dear life. Her hands clutch his little jacket into a fist…Hanging on for dear life! Oh how I remember those amazing impromptu snuggles and holding on to my boys for dear life. I want to go over there and hug this lady. Encourage her. Tell her to never let go!

I have had the great pleasure of sitting and watching my first-born sleep on my couch for a couple of days. Oh, how I love to watch him sleep! I remember when we brought him home from the hospital, he slept in his cradle pulled right up next to my bed. I would put my pillow on the edge of the cradle and watch him sleep. The rhythm of his breathing, the little jerks and twitches, the ever so slight snoring. When I watch him sleep now, I am always taken back to those days. The days of being able to snuggle them and hold on for dear life.

Precious Mommy in Starbucks, do hold on for dear life! Don’t let go! Don’t blink! Savor each and every moment with that adorable little boy as time will go by so quickly! You look like you have your hands full. I sit here and pray for you and your family and wonder…Is your precious husband someone who was injured in an accident? Was he hurt protecting my freedom? You answer your phone and you have such a pleasant smile. Obviously, your heart is full and you love the Lord. It shows in your face.

The Sound of Breathing

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I am sitting in my living room, typing on my son’s computer, listening to him breathe and watching him sleep, all while Harry Potter romps around on my television. For years this was such a “normal” event, but lately it hasn’t happened very often. It feels amazing!

All 6’4″ of him sprawled out in a chair, hat pulled down over his eyes, covered in a blanket…breathing in his regular way. Such a familiar sound that it warms me to the very core of my being.

I was meant to be a mom. It is just who I am. It is who God created me to be. I have never loved anything more than I have loved my children. I still love them so deeply and so completely. The struggle that I have felt during this time of “empty nest”. Oh how I have missed them…their smells, their sounds, their touch…all of the little things that were so familiar and so natural. When they reappear, I try to soak up every second of the time that I get with them…dreading the moment they walk out the door to return to their lives.

Nick is the one that is home right this moment. I haven’t seen him in 3 months and it has been torture! This is the child that was my velcro. We couldn’t be in the same room without him leaning on me, playing with my hair, bumping into me or making some kind of contact…my Peanut. He was such a fussy baby that he practically slept on top of me for the first 6 months of his life. Maybe that is why his breathing is so familiar to me…

I miss them both so much, but I am so very proud of the men they are becoming. Chris and I had dinner with Nick tonight and it was amazing to see how much he has grown up and changed in the 6 months that he has been working at Hercules. He is a working man. A hard working man. He is learning about health insurance, life insurance, 401K’s and how to manage his money. He is learning to balance his time with work and play. He is in a relationship with a precious girl that is his best friend. I pray for both of them each day…that if she is “the one”, that God is preparing her for him and him for her.

I love the sound of his breathing. I love the sight of him curled up in the chair, snuggled under a blanket. I love that when I walked in the door, Harry Potter was on the television. I love that God entrusted him to me. There are so many things I would have done differently, but one thing I know for sure…I could not have loved him any more than I do today. I am so blessed. I have the perfect sons for me. They are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but they are a perfect fit with me. They are the children that God knitted in my womb. The children of my heart. The children of my soul. I am so very grateful to God for the gift of motherhood…and the sound of breathing.

31 Days in October

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I have decided to take the 31 Days of Blogging Challenge!

I have to admit it is kinda scary! The first thing I have to do is pick my topics…that will be my project for today! I have several thoughts right now, but nothing set in stone.

I just finished reading a book that is a life changer…Lord, Change My Attitude, Before It’s Too Late. The author is “something” McDonald. It is such a great book. I watched one of my bosses transform her attitude with this book and it became an “I want what she has” moment. It truly is a great book. There are several study guides online to help you with your reading, too.

Since what I really need to work on is MY attitude, maybe that will be my 31 day challenge…to live what I read.

One of the other things I am working on is developing my new business opportunity with It Works! I am so excited to be joining the Skinny Wraps Tyler Team with my friends Traci and Hallye. The first thing you have to do is figure out your WHY. WHY do you want to do this business? What is my WHY? My WHY is to be able to live debt free! Our goal is to be completely debt free by January 2014. It is a hefty goal, but one that is achievable, for sure. Maybe that will be my topic.

I’ll get back to you tomorrow with my topic or topics. First I have to pray about it and see what God lies on my heart. I want this blog to be used for HIs glory and be full of Him. He is my purpose in life and that needs to be reflected in my writing.

So, as you can see, I have my work cut out for me. I made it through Day One!

Spending Time With My Father

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So, I wrote out this entire post and lost it somewhere.  Lately God has been challenging me to spend more time with Him.  I have attempted to do a “quiet time” before, but I have always failed.  I have been getting up with Chris at 4:30 a.m. and using that time as my quiet time.  I found a Bible app on my Nook that will actually read to me.  It also has a plan to read the entire Bible in 365 days.  I love sipping my coffee while my new friend (the man with the very English accent) reads to me from the Old Testament, the New Testament and Psalms every morning.  After that, I study my Sunday School lesson and read from my book by Pete Wilson called “Empty Promises”.

This morning, I read the chapter about the empty promise of beauty.  As Americans, we spend more money on beauty products than we do on education.  I find that so sad!  We should be aware of our outward appearance and do our best to look nice, but when we care more about our outward appearance than our inward beauty, we have made beauty an idol.  Here comes the part where we sin.  This was like a little “love pat” to me from God this morning.  A couple months ago, I decided to quit being a prisoner to my hair.  (Coloring every 3 weeks = a lot of money, 1 week of stain on my forehead, 1 week of great hair and 1 week of white roots.)  Rinse and repeat!  This was just a little affirmation from God that I was doing the right thing.  My hair color doesn’t matter to God, what matters to Him is that I am spending time with Him.  That is what He longs for…fellowship with His children.  (I still struggle with that though.  Why?  Why would HE want to spend time with ME?  Go figure.)

I have found it so amazing the way God uses EVERY thing to His glory!  I will read a scripture and share it with Linda and Lisa.  They will have read the same one that week.  Linda wrote a scripture on her chalkboard that I had never heard before…not long after that, it was in my Sunday School lesson.  I am so blessed to work in a place that not only allows, but encourages us, to share what we read and to lift each other up.  I know, beyond the shadow of doubt, that I am prayed for daily by my co-workers.  How GREAT is that?!

One of my other places that I love to find encouragement is in the blogs that my favorite Christian authors write.  Yesterday, Lysa TerKeurst interviewed her pastor, Steven Furtick, on her blog.  This is a quote from Steven.  “In spite of all the parts of me that are anything but great, God is holding open the door to a life that is greater.  jesus is the greater life!”  He went on to say, “Insecurity happens when I compare my ‘behind the scenes’ to everybody else’s ‘highlight reel’.  Yet, God calls us ALL to greater faith and a greater purpose.”  How amazing is that!  I find myself doing that all the time…I look at the highlight reel of my friends lives and think that I am so insignificant, but I am comparing that to my ‘behind the scenes’.  God is calling me to a greater purpose.  I know it.  I feel it.  I am just spending time with my Father until He reveals what that purpose is. I am working on greater faith.  The answer is to this greater life is Jesus…my heavenly Father.