Thursday, March 23, 2017

March 8th, 2017

Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Most of my siblings and some of my nieces and nephews were at my folk's house. We were waiting for my mom to die.

Although my mom had been dealing with many health issues for over 5 years, she took an extremely quick downturn after being home just a short time from her last trip to a rehabilitation facility. She had been doing so well at the facility that I was excited when she came home. "She'll be more confident getting around with her walker," I thought. "She'll be able to get out and about a little more now." I was wrong.

I went to see her Sunday the 5th. She was having trouble speaking. "Dorothy. Where's my Dorothy?' she asked and smiled when I said, "Here I am" and leaned over to kiss her. Before I left that evening I told her that I loved her and we kissed again after she told me she loved me, too. Those were the last words I heard her speak to me. 

Monday the 6th my dad called to say my mom wasn't doing well. I drove over. She was lethargic. Not moving. Not really communicating. I stretched out on the bed next to her. I held her hand. I read her the prayers she always loved me to read to her when she was in the hospital. When I went in the hallway I asked my dad if we could call our priest to perform the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. In the afternoon, Fr. Mark came and prayed over her and anointed her and led all who were there in a Litany of the Saints. 

Shortly after that, her physical therapist came and, after she saw my mom, she spoke to me in the hallway. Well, first she cried. "I'm sorry. I've treated your mom for so long. I really love her." The therapist called the nurse. It was determined that her doctor should be called and hospice brought in. My mom's visiting nurse spoke to me on the phone. "This may be an odd request. Please give your mom a hug and a kiss for me. I love her." It didn't sound like an odd request to me. I knew how my mom impacted people she met. 

Hospice came the morning of the 7th. We spent the day reeling from the news that she had hours to very few days to live. We held her hand. We prayed. We cried. We talked to her. We reminisced. 

Wednesday the 8th was a continuation of our vigil. Sometimes a bunch of us would be around her and sometimes only one of us. I put the Chaplet of Divine Mercy on for her, because she would pray that at least once a day. At one point I asked my dad if he wanted some time alone with her. "No. I woke up at 1 last night and I talked to her until 5. We had our alone time together." One of my sisters was scrubbing the kitchen. I cleaned the bathrooms and washed the floors. My mom always was such a great cleaner and she used white vinegar and water when she cleaned the floors. When I finished, I went and took her hand. "The house is all clean. I bet you can smell the vinegar. I cleaned the floors just how you like them."

Later in the afternoon, I was talking to one of my sisters in the kitchen and we heard great belly laughs coming from the bedroom. We just HAD to find out what that was all about. We headed to the bedroom to find mom surrounded by most of my siblings and some of my nieces and nephews. They were trying to figure out why it was so funny when you saw videos of people falling and were just laughing and laughing. My mom loved music and the Alan Jackson song, "Remember When" was playing. I had used that song in my parent's 50th wedding anniversary video 12 years prior. Her breathing became more labored, but she was peaceful. Many of us were crying as her breaths slowed down, we were touching her, and I suddenly felt incredible heat spill over us. As the song was coming to a close, she stopped breathing. My nephew looked up and said, "Should I go and get Gramps?'  

As my dad was coming into the room, she began to breathe again. Shallow, labored, slow breaths. My dad went up and put his hands on her face. "“It’s okay, Lovie. It’s okay to let go. Your mom is waiting for you, and your brothers. Dot is there, and Kay. They’re all waiting. It’s okay, Lovie, to let go." Someone suggested we pray. Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory Be. Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory Be. Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory Be. 

I asked my sister to put on "You'll Never Walk Alone." That was my parent's wedding song. We cried. We held her. We held each other. My dad remained near her face - touching her - looking at her. Again, I felt heat pour over us. Then my mom was gone.

When my mom was in the hospital, my sisters and I would take turns spending the night with her. She told some of us how when she saw my dad's face she would feel safe. That was all she needed. Just to see his face and she knew everything was okay - she was safe. How fitting, then, that this is the man who was by her side, looking in her face, as she left this world and entered eternal life. 

I've been numb since her passing. However, the reality is slowly beginning to sink in and the truth that she is no longer physically here crushes my heart. But there is hope. We have hope in the Lord. She taught me to trust in the Lord and right now I cling to what she taught me.  

Wednesday, March 8, 2017. A great woman passed from this earth, but her impact is like that of a pebble that is tossed into the water. The ripples go far beyond what she could have ever imagined. I just pray that in my lifetime I can touch people even just a fraction of the way my momma did. That is a life worth living, indeed. 

Memorial Video for My Momma

"But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them.
In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,
and their departure was thought to be a disaster,
and their going from us to be their destruction;
but they are at peace.
For though in the sight of others they were punished,
their hope is full of immortality.
Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good,
because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;
like gold in the furnace he tried them,
and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.
In the time of their visitation they will shine forth,
and will run like sparks through the stubble.
They will govern nations and rule over peoples,
and the Lord will reign over them forever.
Those who trust in him will understand truth,
and the faithful will abide with him in love,
because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones,
and he watches over his elect."

Wisdom 3:1-9

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Things Were Going to be Different

2016 was going to be different.

The last number of years, the weeks before Christmas had been a whirlwind. Shopping. Decorating. Baking. Stress. Anxiety. Worry. That isn't what these weeks are supposed to be about.

2016 was going to be different.

Back in October, I began mentally preparing what would help to make the year end run more smoothly and allow for more time to just be, just breathe, just pray, just be.

2016 was going to be different.

The 1st of November I got a call from my dad. He wanted me to go to his house. I watch my great-niece twice a week and that was a day I had her. He asked me to leave her home with my 22-year-old daughter. My mom suffered a stroke in 2013. It's always a concern when my dad asks me to come by the house. I went to the house and we called for an ambulance to bring her in to the hospital.

2016 was going to be different.

She was taken to the emergency room by ambulance. My dad drove himself. I ran home to make sure everyone was situated and then headed to the hospital. Things looked bleak. I was texting my siblings with each bit of new information. This was not like her other trips to the hospital since her stroke. Things were worrisome.

2016 was going to be different.

Finally, things were somewhat stabilized and my mom was in the intensive care unit. She had a breathing tube, which made it difficult for her to communicate. We didn't know what was going to happen. After a couple days, the tube was removed and she slowly, ever so slowly, began to improve.

2016 was going to be different.

Thanksgiving came. I made my mom's signature apple pie and my dad's famous stuffing. We gathered as a family, feeling somewhat lost without our matriarch and patriarch present at the table. Dinner was brought to mom and dad at the hospital.

2016 was going to be different.

Remarkably, mom was discharged in December and sent home. I thought we were going to lose her on All Soul's Day and instead she was brought back home as we were preparing to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child.

2016 was going to be different.

For months prior to Christmas, I was reflecting on what I needed to do differently so that advent and Christmas and Epiphany would be more calm and more prayerful and more joyous. I didn't want the stress and the worry and anxiety. Then we almost lost my mom. I wasn't able to make any of the changes I had planned on implementing.

2016 was different.

I let go. I prayed. I baked. I shopped (well, to be fair, my husband did a LOT of shopping in 2016). I listened to Christmas music. I wrapped gifts. I trusted that what we needed to have done would be done. I spent a large amount of time reflecting on my life and how the people in my life touch and change me. 2016 was nothing how I planned it to be and yet all I needed it to be.

2016 was different.

I've had the privilege of sitting and holding my mom's hand. At times she laughs. Other times she cries. She likes when I read prayers to her. She tells me she loves waking up and seeing my dad's face - that he makes her feel safe. Her challenges are many and her crosses are heavy to bear. 

2016 was different.

I've watched my dad care for my mom. I've seen him sit at her hospital bedside. He arrived early in the morning and left late at night. I heard him call her "lovie." I've watched him care for her at home. He makes her meals. He helps her get from room to room. I've never heard him complain. I've seen the worry in his eyes when she is ailing. I've seen the love in his eyes when he gazes at her. 

2017 is going to be different.

Last year I was caught in the usual "stuff," making a to-do list for how my Christmas season could flow smoothly and effortlessly. And then my mom went in the hospital and things changed. I was reminded to narrow my focus. Hold a hand. Look at someone. Hug a friend. Listen. See the person next to you. Really see them.

2017 is going to be different.

My parents have spent a lifetime teaching me important lessons. Yet the most important lesson they didn't even try to teach me. They just love each other. Just love. And it is all they need. So that is what I'm going to try to do in 2017. Just love. Maybe you'll join me. 

"I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another."  John 13:34

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Cleaning for the Soul

Last week we took our two oldest and got them settled in for another year at their respective colleges. For T, this is the start of her fourth year and for D, this is the start of his second. It's such a busy whirlwind in the days before they head off.  The packing. The organizing. The shopping.  The list checking.  The laundry.  The list goes on and on.  And then, in a flash, things are quiet.

When T left her first year, it was quite an emotional roller coaster.  I wrote a little about that experience here.  Especially during that first week, just walking by her room would bring me to tears. When I was able to bring myself to go in and clean, a peace came over me as the Holy Spirit nudged my conscious.

I pray for my kids every day.  I prayed for them before they were born. I prayed for them as they grew. I prayed for them each day for whatever came to mind. When T went to college, the Holy Spirit worked His way through my sadness and inspired me to pray for my children a different way.  Not that it is such a unique idea or that others haven't done this before. However, it was just what I needed at the time and what I've done each year since that August in 2012 when we dropped our daughter off for her first year of college.

So, what did I do differently?  "Enquiring minds want to know." Well, maybe they don't, but that was just what popped into my head remembering those silly National Enquirer advertisements.  I'm digressing. Apologies. Where was I? Oh, yes. Sending my kiddos off to college and coming home without them and praying and cleaning. 

So, what DID I do differently? I went into T's room to do a thorough cleaning from top to bottom.  Stripped the bed, flipped the mattress, washed the curtains, dusted the baseboards - the whole shebang. The entire time I cleaned, I lifted T in prayer. Her friends - that she would find good ones and be a good one. Her roommate. Her teachers. Her studies. Her choices. Her spiritual journey. Her future spouse - if that is the vocation God wants for her. Her health. Her safety. Her future job. Her time at home. You name it, I prayed it. I covered her in prayer. Whatever I could think of for that day, the next, all the way down the road. Whatever came to mind, I lifted in prayer. As I wiped the dirt away, I covered her with great love through my conversation with God.

These aren't new things that I brought to God. However, during my scrubbing four years ago something sacred occurred. As I cleaned that room I looked at what was there. This was the room that she had lived in and decorated. She cried there, she laughed there, she chose what things to put on her walls and what to put on her shelves. The things left didn't make the cut for being brought to college. Yet, they would still speak to her when she would come home of her roots and where she began. 

Because of this, I cleaned that room so that when she walked in from college it would be fresh and crisp and welcoming - it would be home. I filled that room with prayer for my daughter's past, her present, and her future. I filled those four corners with prayer so that when she walked in she would feel safe and warm and loved. 

Last year and this year I had two rooms to clean. (My experience with D heading off is here.) Two of my children slipping from childhood into adulthood. Two. Two. Two.

So, what exactly DID I do differently? I don't pray any differently, per se. They aren't new things. It is more of a concentration of prayer. During that time I reflect on where they have been, celebrate who they are now, and envision who they may be in the future. The cleaning itself becomes a prayer, an extension of the words and thoughts forming in my heart. I cover them in prayer and God hears me.

I pray and wipe and pray and dust and pray and scrub and pray and launder. For a momma feeling the sadness and loss of her children being away, it brings peace to my soul. 

"Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you."  1 Peter 5:7


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Satan's Lies

i try to write

i want to write

but echoes in my mind

are satan's words

that began sometime

in 1999

I think so often about subjects and thoughts and ideas I want to write about. Then something...someone holds me back.  It's me.  I know that ultimately it is me.  Yet, I feel Satan at the forefront and I need to be stronger to hold that nasty fallen angel back.

Back in 1999 I began sending out weekly musings.  They were meant to be thoughtful, reflective, and, hopefully, inspirational messages.  Sometimes they were merely a quote that touched my heart.  Sometimes they were a reflection on my week followed by a quotation that I found inspiring.

After some time, it came to my attention that some people dear to me were getting together each week to tear apart what I had written -- my thoughts, my dreams, my heart.  I shared my week and what inspired me in the hopes that it, by God's grace, would inspire someone else only to discover that some were using that to laugh at me, poke fun at me.  Who did I think I was?

I wrote less and less often and by January of 2003 my sporadic writing came to a halt.  I allowed Satan's prodding to work its way into my mind and bring me to a standstill. 

I certainly didn't think I had the corner on being inspired by a simple life.  I take great inspiration from others who are trying to live humbly and share their journey - highs, lows, and in-betweens - with others.  I tried to do the same. To be completely honest, I fall short of this goal each and every day.  However, I continue to lift myself up and try.  Yet there is one area that I continue to fall short.  Writing.

I don't believe that my thoughts, experiences, or words hold any kind of wisdom or wonder for people.  However, I've always felt drawn to share what I'm thinking, how I see God working in my days, the wonder and beauty in the moments I usually let slip by thinking that they are not worthy of my attention. 

So, here I am challenging myself to push through.  Push through Satan's lies. Some, for whatever reason, may not appreciate my words and thoughts.  That is OK.  I need to trust in what the Lord wants me to do and not what others, and what Satan, wants me to believe.  

And my own struggles made me wonder about your struggles.  What holds you back?  Why does it hold you back?  How can you change that?

It can be so difficult to put your heart and soul out into the world.  Where do you feel that push out of your comfort zone?  How does God want you to stretch?  What, if anything, is holding you back?

I began this blog late in 2011.  How often have I written?  Not nearly as often as I think of something.  Satan's lies continue to ring in my mind.  His nasty message echoes back and forth making me question what I think, what I love.

We can't let Satan win.  He chips away at us. He wants to plant doubt and confusion.  It is easy for him.  Often times he begins with something small - so very small.  He plants that doubt, he makes you aware of the nastiness, and then lets that ferment. It comes to life and holds us back.

Let's all take some time to pray. Let's take some time to discern the places in our lives where Satan is telling us untruths and God is quietly waiting for us to hear His truth.  1 Peter 4:8 says, "Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour."

I know that one - one of many - of Satan's lies is to push me away from writing.  What is Satan telling YOU untruths about?  Let's work together.  Let's lift one another up. God wants great things for us. -- " For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope."  (Jeremiah 29:11)

Who are we going to listen to?  Who is going to win?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Feet Washing

"For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you."
John 13:15

Holy Thursday is one of my favorite liturgies to attend.  I didn't grow up attending this Mass.  In fact, it wasn't until I was an adult and a priest asked me to be a reader for Holy Thursday that I attended.  I was so moved to my core and haven't missed a Holy Thursday liturgy since then.

In John's gospel, he recounts how during the Last Supper Jesus washed the disciples' feet.  At that time, this would have been a job for the lowliest of servants.  However, Jesus does this and tells his disciples that not only can they not follow him if they do not allow him to wash their feet, but that this is an example for them of how to live.  To serve.  To serve all.

During Holy Thursday's liturgy, the priest takes off his chasuble and washes the feet of 12 people.  Often, the priest will kiss the feet of the person upon completion of the washing.  It is beautiful.  It is symbolic.  It is a reminder to the priest and to all of us of what we are called to do as a follower of Jesus.

This particular Holy Thursday, the foot washing ritual hit my heart particularly hard.  I watched our parish priest pour water over the feet, gently clean them, dry them, and kiss them.  And I saw my father. 

Two years ago, my mom suffered a minor stroke.  She has some deficits.  Not as many as some people, but definitely more than others.  My father has filled the role over these last two years as her caretaker.  

When I am at my folk's house, I see my dad prepare meals for my mom.  At breakfast, he gets her cereal or toast ready and brings it to her.  At lunch, he brings over a paper plate with a sandwich, a cookie (or two), and a glass of milk.  Dinner is prepared and brought over to the table.  

Because of some health issues, my mom has to wear very tight nylon stockings.  It takes quite an effort for my dad to get these on my mom.  She is quiet even though it is painful.  And he is kind and patient and as gentle as possible as he works to get the stockings on her.

He makes her laugh.  Throughout the tough moments of the day, he tells jokes or does silly things to bring a smile to her face.  She still has tough days and moments of tears, but he can make her laugh like no one else can.  I am grateful that their days have many moments of laughter woven through the many moments of challenges.

My mom hates not being able to do things for herself and her family that she could do before the stroke.  My father has stepped into the role of caretaker without complaining even though he has some health issues himself.

Meals and stockings and laughter.  Just three small details of the many things that my dad now does on a daily basis to help my mom.  He serves.

Jesus washed the disciples' feet.  

"For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you."

The priest washed the parishioner's feet.

"For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you."

Every day, I see my father following Jesus' example with humility and grace.  

"For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you."

My mom's stroke has changed much of how we live.  More so for them, of course, but in different ways for their children and grandchildren as well.  However, it has also brought many opportunities to grow in faith and love.  My siblings and I have been given a grace through all of this.  We are witnesses of God's love being manifested through my parents in a way that it didn't before.

"For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you."

I pray that I can live out this example every day as beautifully as I see it lived out every time I am around my parents. 


Thursday, January 15, 2015

What's In A Name?

"You can call me Ray.  Or you can call me Jay..."  Do you remember that commercial? ( That's a little bit of how I feel right now.

I was named after my auntie.  She was a great woman.  Her name was Dorothy.  People called her Dot.

My folks thought about what to call me - my given name or a nickname.  My dad believed that kids would call me by a nickname at some point and so my folks decided from the get-go to shorten my name.  My family called me Dottie.

Then I went to school.  There was always the dreaded first day when the teacher would do role call and call me by my name, "Dorothy."  No one called me Dorothy.  It sounded foreign to my ears.  "Dottie," I would reply quickly.  The teacher would make a note and I'd be called Dottie from then on.

My peers would pounce on my given name.  If there is a joke out there about "The Wizard of Oz" that I haven't heard, I would be surprised.  At times, my peers would also pounce on my nickname.  Dottie became "Dottie-Potty."  No need to tell you how that resonated in my soul.

Different times in my life I thought I might be able to break from the identity I associated with my childhood.  Surely adults wouldn't jump to the yellow-brick-road jokes?

When my husband and I moved with two young kiddos I grasped that time to embrace my grown up self, or at least what I perceived my grown up self to be.  The vast majority of my adult friends and people I've come in contact with call me "Dorothy."  It was lovely...for a time. Until my name worlds crashed.

When we had gatherings at our home, half the people would be calling me "Dottie" and half would be calling me "Dorothy."  Initially, the yellow-brick-road crowd would turn their heads.  "What are people calling you?" and "Why don't we call you that?"

Why, indeed.

Joining Facebook was another name clash.  Some people who knew me as "Dottie" and whom I hadn't seen in a while called me "Dorothy," which just didn't feel right.

Recently I went to a mini-reunion from my elementary school.  Everyone there was calling me "Dot" or "Dottie."   How did that feel?  Honestly, it felt wonderful.  When I drove back to our humble abode after an evening of being called "Dottie" I felt like I was coming home in more ways than one.

Since then I've found myself reflecting... Who am I?  WHO am I?  Who AM I?  Maybe I should sing it like Jean Valjean?  WHO AM I?  Maybe then I'll know?

Or maybe I should keep my singing to my own house and car?  Yes.  I think you may thank me for that.

What I can say is that since the reunion night I have felt a special fondness once again for my childhood nickname - Dottie.  Maybe now I can relate to this name in a new way realizing that who I was as a child is more in line with who I am now as an adult.  There is something about that knowledge which is very comforting and warm.  I like who I was as a child.  I like the trust and the unquestioning love and the innocence that I had.  I realize that I still look at the world through much of the same lens that I did as a little one, and I am extremely grateful for not having become jaded by life - at least not too jaded.

Who am I?  I am a combination of all these names and all they represent.  Together, they are who I am.  I am "Dor" - to a select few, and you few know who you are and I love you.  I am "Dot."  I am "Dorothy."  I am "Dottie."  I can say that last one again with joy and peace in my heart.  I am "Dottie."  I like it.  It feels like home again.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Second Time Around

They said it would be easier the second time around...

I remember when I had my second child I was told it would be easier.  And it was.  I was more comfortable as a parent.  I felt more confident with my decisions. Becoming a mom with my daughter was a delight and a blessing.  I soaked up the moments and was grateful to discover that this - THIS - was what God had in store for me.  Yet with the second time around, when I had my son, there was an ease not there before.  What a gift.

And time went by...

They said it would be easier the second time around...

When it was getting close to D's senior year people told me it would be easier.  And they were wrong.  Well, they were mostly wrong.  They said it would be easier since I'd been through it already with T.  And it was easier in that I knew what to expect and what to prep for his graduation and heading off to college.  However, emotionally it wasn't any easier at all.

My only son graduated in June.  It was a happy time.  And yet I felt that tug at my heart.  I sat down to try and write what I felt, but I couldn't.  

My only son went away for the first year of his college career in August.  It was a happy time.  And yet I felt that tug at my heart.  And the tears flowed.  I sat down to try and write what I felt, but I couldn't.

My only son turned 18 in September.  It was a happy time - a wonderful milestone.  And yet I felt that tug at my heart.  I sat down to try and write what I felt, but I couldn't.

He called me yesterday to talk about his college major.  When I hung up the phone, I reflected on this last year with him.  I've observed him mature and grow and really start to settle in and discover who he is. I look at him and see a young man, no longer a child, thinking things through, making responsible choices, and having fun.  I'm looking forward to watching him continue to spread his wings and I pray that he makes far more right decisions than wrong ones as he moves along the path in front of him.

Yet there is still that tugging at my heart. That sense of loss as I see him gaining so much independence.  I know that is how it is supposed to be.  And, although this is my second time around this block, it doesn't make it any easier. 

Sometimes the second time around is easier and sometimes it is the same and sometimes, I daresay, it may be more difficult.  Yet the second time around is always a blessing and gift.  My role as a momma is changing and I feel that more than ever this second time around sending a child off to college.  However, there is great peace in reflecting back on where I have been and great hope in what is in store for me. And this second child of mine, who fills my heart with such joy and love, makes seconds something I wouldn't miss for anything.