After All the Firsts……

“How long will this last?”

I remember asking Thomas those words as we brought mom home to be welcomed into hospice. We had brought mom home to die, and even though I knew that, there is nothing that could really prepare me for it.

My family flooded in and we all filled her house with bodies and comfort food. At times, we filled the home with laughter. Other moments, her home was filled with tears. The day time was busy, the night time was quiet, but the anguish was there 24/7, sun up and sun down.

2014-08-12 15.05.37-1I knew she was dying. We all did. But as she battled those final days, I couldn’t help but wonder how long she would have to fight such a gruesome fight, struggling to breathe, frequently moving to try and find the most comfortable position in which to rest, only to find nothing of the such existed.

“How long will this last?”

Turns out, there is actually a little book that exists that can help families gauge and discover that answer of “how long.” “Gone From My Sight” is the offical name, but my memory recalls it to be “Fading from my Sight” which I think is actually more appropriate. Fading……still present, but not….fading from the ones that love you.

I remember the hospice nurse coming in to talk with us. We sat down at mom’s kitchen table, mom in her room, a few family members in the living room. I sat down on a stool, which really didn’t make much sense, cause there were vacant chairs, and it made me higher than the dining table. I hovered above the nurse and my brother John as we began to talk. I remember it being an odd feeling for me, cause at barely 5 foot tall, I rarely look down on another adult. It was like I was perhaps trying to float above the reality before me.

She was pregnant, the hospice nurse. And she had a big, sparkly wedding set on her finger. She was kind.

She slid that blue booklet my way, showing us some stages that are listed in the back. And by stages I mean the stages of dying. I was asked to tell her what mom was doing/feeling.

Immediately I realized that mom was exhibiting most all of the “days or weeks out” behaviors. While telling the nurse of mom’s “burst of energy,” she nodded compassionately. “Can you tell me a little more about that?” she asked. I began relaying how mom had said the night before, “Maybe they are wrong!” in a somewhat hearty voice. “Maybe who is wrong mom?” “The doctors. Maybe the doctors are wrong. I feel great right now. Maybe they are wrong.”

That didn’t fit what she thought was the “burst” but she listened to my point of view. I shared a few more tidbits while my brother nodded in agreement. The nurse asked a few questions, some which I didn’t know, so I texted my other brother, Damien, telling him to hurry up and get to mom’s to speak with the nurse. He had stayed the night at his house while my brother John and I spent the first night home from the hospital at mom’s.

The questions were done, and the nurse left to check on mom. I sat, hovering on the stool, grabbing my phone to text my husband about the blue book and the nurse. Soon, the nurse came back, sitting down at the table.

“So, after looking at your mother, I believe she has hours, not days, left to live.”

I can’t even type those words above without my eyes filling with tears, my hands are trembling.

“How long will this last?”

Turns out, it is hours.

Hospice can be sent into a home up to 6 months out. Mom made it back to 250, her house number, on a Tuesday afternoon. She died in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Hospice didn’t even send in a caregiver until Wednesday lunch, which is when they told me hours. Just hours left with my mom. Hours.

The next time a hospice care nurse showed at mom’s would be to confirm her death and destroy her high level pain narcotics.

“If you have anyone that needs to say good bye they need to come now.”

I remember barking an order to my cousin immediately after the nurse said those words. I had been so cool and calm, matter of fact, information sharing. Now, I was emotional, scared, shaking. “Ann! Go get my boys from school now. You are on their pick up list. Go now and get them.” And with that, she left out the door.

I could barely see to text the words to Thomas. . I couldn’t hold the phone still to hit the right words. I told him to hurry back to mom’s. John came over and hugged me. I couldn’t believe the clash of emotions I was feeling. A wave, tossing me down suddenly, not allowing me to get back up, when only moments before I was watching the tide roll in on me, floating up with each wave rather than being at its mercy.

There was no part of me that thought I had long, but hours? Where do you even begin when all you have is hours?

We sang hymns to her, ones which she requested. She made fun of us for forgetting the words to one. “You did real good with that one!” she told us after “Amazing Grace.”

Damien had a hard time being around her; he had been there at all the appointments and all the visits previously, but this was too much. John took the role of being present and available; he had been unable to be at all the other events. I am not sure what role I took. I remember, however, that I felt like I was the one that had to call the shots.

“Summer, if you want everyone to leave, tell me and I’ll get them all out.”

“Summer, where do you want me to put this cake from Mildred?”

“Summer, would you like for me to hold Hazel?”

I didn’t know. It was too much. Most of it didn’t matter anyway. I appreciated the do-ers during this time. The ones that just took Hazel, shoved food around in the fridge to make room, and any matter of the like.

With all the last minute good byes, mom hung on a little longer than we initially thought. I think there was too much energy and movement for her to settle, rest, breathe fully, and welcome in her new home. All three of her children, my sweet Hazel, and our God-sent helper during the darkest time, our cousin Shelia, all stayed the night.

Apparently, mom tried to get up in the middle of the night, and my brothers had to convince her it wasn’t a good idea.

Around 430 or 5 in the morning, I heard shuffling and mumbles. Next, I hear foot steps on the stairs. John opens the door to tell me what I already know.

“Mom’s gone Summer. She’s gone.”

It may seem like the most absurd response, but I put my hand in the air, right level to my face. I closed my eyes, lifted my face toward Heaven, and uttered the words, “Thank God.”

Cause knowing she wasn’t feeling the pain she had felt was a relief. Knowing she didn’t have to fight any more was peaceful. The earthly end meant a heavenly beginning.

Next, came the days of life without her, and all the firsts without mom were quick to follow.

First Christmas without her excited gift-giving.

First birthday for me without the woman who gave me life.

First steps of my baby that couldn’t be enjoyed by her.

So, so many firsts. And as the day that she went home comes creeping in on me, I wonder what comes after all the firsts have happened and the first year anniversary hits? Do you keep track of seconds? “This is the second Thanksgiving without mom.” Or do you just morph into a person who is less and less impacted by the grief?

I don’t know yet. Maybe I can tell you in another year. Alas, after this year of the grief journey I don’t know if I really have anything figured out. After talking very recently with a friend that lost her mom several years ago, she told me about how at a year after the loss she remembered thinking, “Why am I not doing better than this? I should be so much farther!”

True words.

Why am I not farther healed? Why do I now not have a better grip on grief and sadness? I know it will never be okay, but when can I walk comfortably in the new normal?

“How long will this last?”

I don’t think there is an answer, and even if there was a little blue book to tell me, the hours will feel like years, even after all the firsts I suppose. The years will feel like seconds. Until then, I’ll cling to what is good, looking for what can build me.

“Sometimes the darkest times can bring you to the brightest places, your most painful struggles can grant you the greatest growth, and the most heartbreaking losses of relationships can make room for the most wonderful people.  What seems like a curse at the moment can actually be a blessing in disguise, and what seems like the end of the road is actually just the realization that you are meant to travel a different path.  No matter how difficult things seem, there’s always hope.  And no matter how powerless you feel or how horrible things seem, you can’t give up.  You have to keep going.  Even when it’s scary, even when all your strength seems gone, you have to keep picking yourself back up and moving forward, because whatever you’re battling in the moment, it will pass, and you will make it through.  You’ve made it this far, and you’ve felt this way before.  Think about it.  Remember that time awhile back when you thought the world was ending?  It didn’t.  And it isn’t ending this time either” source

That’s what I am looking forward to now, after all the firsts.

2015, A New Year to Find the Light

It’s 2015 folks! Crazy, right?

Turns out, it’s actually a whole 11 days into this new year, ELEVEN! How on earth did that happen already?

I can honestly say that these days have dragged on but also flown bye. It’s so weird to think such a drastic dichotomy can exist in a single day, but alas it does.

Day one of 2015, I spent a little over an hour crying on and off. We were on our way out of town to visit Thomas’s family to celebrate Christmas, which is a good thing, but my heart was so heavy. I kept fighting back tears while riding in the passenger seat, and when I couldn’t hold them in any longer and some began to fall, I completely took Thomas off guard.

Silently, he just grabbed my hand and held it for a little bit. Then, when the tears continued, he gently asked, “What’s wrong babe?”

“It’s the new year. It’s 2015. This is the first year where I won’t have any memories with my mom. She won’t be a part of anything we do this year.”

And there isn’t really anything to say back to that, so he just held my hand and let me cry. I was thankful the boys were behind me where they couldn’t see and that Hazel was asleep.

So that was day one of the year. After that, I began to take the majority lead of prepping my mom’s house to put on the market. At one point, my brother thought that he would want it, but after seeing what the market is like, noting it’s a house of large square footage and he has a solo state (read no wife, no kids), and his 100% travel job, he figured 2 acres wouldn’t be a good fit either. My other brother lives thousands of miles away, so he didn’t desire my mom’s house, and I just don’t have a heart that wants to live there……so selling the house it is.

That conclusion lead to about four solid days where I did absolutely nothing but clean out her house (more days have occurred and more exist, but these are the number where I did absolutely nothing else but clean out). I sat down only to nurse my baby and to drive junk to Goodwill. I did so much hauling out that I would load my three kids in the car and then add in more stuff for the dump or for giving away. It was maddening, exhausting, frustrating, lonely, and sad, but also a bit therapeutic, cause every item that left was a step in the direction of closure. Not the type of closure that means I forget my mom and move on, but the type of closure that means I no longer have to worry about a house that is full of stuff but empty of a person. She was a keeper of things, for better or worse.  I literally feel like many days I can’t take a full breath due to the burden that all her stuff puts on me. I kinda have lived in a place of anxiety over her cats, her plants, her mail, her HVAC system, her plumbing, etc. A vacant yet occupied house poses worry all on its own. Being rid of the house will also help me be rid of some of those pressures and strifes.

While walking this journey, I realize that not everyone grieves the same, and that is truly okay. For one of my brothers, the idea of keeping everything the exact same, museum style, is comforting. For another, breaking ties and not dealing  much at all seems to be the way of coping. It’s truly hard when 3 people are left to decide and all 3 have different opinions, hearts, lifestyles, and abilities.

Mostly, I just seek to be able to have my head out of water again. I consistently feel like I am drowning. It’s been an unimaginable year. 2012 wasn’t easy, combining a unexpected move, a miscarriage, two job changes, and Thomas entering grad school and beginning his own business. 2013 was worse, providing my wreck, two surgeries, two months of food through a straw and wired jaws, 6 months of no driving for me, financial gridlock from my loss of job due to my injuries, and my mom’s diagnosis and chemos. 2014 dealt much as well, with the adding of baby Hazel, two more surgeries for myself,  Thomas’s intense final months of grad school, mom’s radiations, chemos, hospitalizations, and the worse blow yet, her passing, which lead to a whole new set of challenges. I even left stuff out of that list folks. It’s incredible really, and not in the exciting type of way.

I keep a lot of this floating through my mind often. It’s just so much, and Thomas and I find ourselves saying often, “This can’t be life can it???” We’re ready for a nothing at all awful happened type of year, to say the least.

Then, today, I encountered two things that I think I will cling to in 2015. Oddly, one is a Rocky clip. That’s right, Rocky Balboa baby!

If you don’t actually watch it, let me just clue you in to these lines:

Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.

Well said, Rocky. Well said.

I just have to keep moving forward, cause that’s what I must do. I am better than that. As Rocky said, “if you let it…” so I am just not going to let it. I’ve been called to walk in Him, no matter how tired I get, even in the messes of life. It’s my faith journey. As put forth by writer Ann Lamott on Twitter:

Faith includes lots of mess, zits, bewilderment, cellulite, separation & limbo, & letting those be there until a little more light returns.

2015, a year for the light to return. I pray it happens.

Can I get an “Amen!”?

Journeying the Tens

In college, fall of my sophomore year, I broke my leg in three places, resulting in a thigh down, no bending your knee, neon orange cast for 6 weeks and a walking book for 3 or so more.

The day it happened, our co-ed intramural soccer team was out on the field practicing. We had advanced to limited soccer skills, with me falling somewhere in the high middle of that skill set. Being it was just practice, some of us had shin guards on while others did not. You can guess which part of the pack I was in at the time. My shin-guardless shin met square on with my friend Eric’s shin-guarded shin and created an explosion of pain.

At the point of impact, I remember seeing stars and crumpling down on the field. After testing the waters of walking, we opted for someone to carry me back to our college ministry’s house. Little swelling or bruising existed, but lots of pain certainly did. A look-over from an off duty nurse gave the diagnosis of “just a sprain” and to “go gently” the next few days.

That night, my roommate later told me that I talked in my sleep, mostly indiscernible mumbles. The next morning, I couldn’t take it anymore; the pain was becoming simply unmanageable. After Thomas, my then sweet and new boyfriend, transported me to the ER, he went inside the to get me a wheelchair. I remember getting out of his truck with my broken leg having spasms, flopping uncontrollably from the knee down, while all three breaks in my bones rattled and I winced and fought back tears, completely unable to make it settle.

Once inside, I was asked to rate my pain. This was an activity I had never recalled doing before. The worker sat before me a laminated chart with faces to help me choose my level 1-10, with 10 being the greatest and deepest pain. One thing I knew for sure was that it hurt. The level of that hurt was the most I had ever encountered. After thinking briefly, I declared, “All I know this is the worst pain I’ve ever felt. But there has to be something in the world that hurts more………..so I am going to say a 9.”

All the people I encountered treated me like some whiny little college girl, for my leg still wasn’t overly swollen or bruised. The doctor that asked the initial questions and examined my leg before x-rays literally said, “This isn’t really a big deal here. If you will just sit still and let me look at your leg, it won’t hurt.” A few x-rays later, the doctor came back into the room and quickly spoke the words “I’m so very sorry. I really did not think your leg was broken at all. You actually have three separate breaks in your left leg.” Turns out I had a valid reason for the pain. The visit ended in a temporary cast and a pain shot in my butt, at which point I made my new and dear boyfriend turn his head and look the other way.

This event successfully stayed at the top of my pain scale experience until August last year. Breaking your face can rank pretty high as well apparently. I never remember anyone asking me at the scene, during the life-flight, or in the ER about my pain level. I guess when people can visibly see a break in your jaw, with your mandible split clear in half, along with a few open wounds on your chin, they don’t need to question too much about 1-10, cause they don’t want you to talk and the existence of pain is obvious. Later, however, when I would want some pain meds, the scale became a point of conversation. When my headaches were debilitating, while my jaw was wired and pressed so tight my teeth ached in every space, crevice, and place, when the site of the titanium plate insertion itched on the inside of my mouth, and within that closed mouth I vomited due to the pain, I wanted to say 10 but never could. I always, at least to my memory, said 9….cause something worse had to exist.

When mom was diagnosed and we began her frequent doctor appointments she was asked to choose her pain level each visit. I would sit next to her and try to spy on her pain scale choice each week. Mostly, mom would circle a 3. I wanted to often jerk the pen and clipboard from her and yell “that’s BS mom!” but I never did anything that dramatic. Some days though, the 3 actually was believable, thankfully. I never saw her circle lower and rarely saw her circle higher. One day, when she was not breathing well, aching, not eating much, and overall in a poor condition, I saw her circle a 7. That very day she was admitted to the hospital and stayed a full week. I think she might have told doctors and nurses a higher number when I wasn’t around, but 7 was the highest she ever admitted to in my presence, and 3 was her average. Eventually, I ended up telling her, “Mom, you can’t keep circling threes on the scale. It’s just not believable.” Her reply? “I know, but right at that very moment it doesn’t hurt too bad and I don’t want to be a trouble patient.”

A few months later, after Hazel’s arrival, months after mom’s diagnosis, I finally got around to reading a book, _The Fault in Our Stars_ by John Green, that my sister-in-law let me borrow when I was a on driving lock-down and still eating all my meals through a straw. I knew the premise “kids have cancer” but that was all. I ended up reading the book in 2 days, and that was not fast enough. Something about three kids to take care of made me put the book down here and there. Turns out, the main character’s name is Hazel, which is something I did not know of before naming my girl. Little did I know at the time that this book would prepare me for so much that was to come, such as mom’s “Last Good Day” and, ultimately, her passing. It was in this book that my choice of 9 finally became clear. If you haven’t read the book, you absolutely should. If you haven’t seen the movie, it is one you need to watch. But if you want to not be spoiled about it, just stop here…… cause in the book, there is a loss, and with that death, Hazel reflects upon the pain she experienced in the ER with her emptiness from losing Gus:

I called it [my ER pain] a nine because I was saving my ten. And here it was, the great and terrible ten, slamming me again and again as I lay still and alone in my bed staring at the ceiling, the waves tossing me against the rocks and then pulling me back out to sea so they could launch me again into the jagged face of the cliff, leaving me floating faceup on the water, undrowned.

The weeks since mom has died have been full tens at times, thrashings against rocky cliffs. Those moments that sneak up on me are the worse, such as Hazel beginning to crawl and me instinctively beginning to send mom the video. Some things you mentally know will be emotionally draining or sensitive, such as Daniel’s upcoming birthday, her birthday this month, Thanksgiving, etc., but those unexpected occurrences are the worse it seems, and this is a journey I’ve only begun.

It makes me figure, too, why mom kept shooting so low on the spectrum when choosing her numbers. I guess when you lose your husband suddenly, while you have 4, 6, and 12 year old children to care for, your pain scale is completely and irrevociably skewed.

I hate that the pain of losing mom is so great, even if we had some time to expect it and prepare some for it. 62 is still just too early to die, even if others have gone much sooner. And in the sadness, I get angry, cause 32 is just simply too young to not have any living parents, yet that is currently my lot.

I’ll never be able to forget her, feel nothing at the significance of my loss. There really isn’t a pain pill that takes away the pain of loss; the pangs in my stomach will always reside. Amidst the 10, however, I find peace knowing she can’t even fathom the concept of a pain scale now. I’m grateful for a faith that she shared with me that tells me this is true.

It is while journeying through the tens that I cling to scripture that can restore my soul, most recently John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

HE has overcome, and therefore I can claim the same. I will take heart, even on 10 days, and know that I can have a peace in troubled times.

Punctuation, Anniversaries, and End of Life

I am a bit of a grammar nerd. It hasn’t manifested itself yet into a love of sentence diagramming, and I doubt that it ever will, but I do place great value on proper punctuation and magnificent word choice that can make plain and simple text come alive. These little bits of dots, commas, apostrophes, and lines should not be taken lightly, for their application can totally change the premise of a sentence.

Take for instance this classic example of comma usage: “Let’s eat Momma” or “Let’s eat, Momma” have two entirely different meanings. The first is asking for mom to be ON the dinner plate AS the feast, while the latter is requesting her to join you IN dinner by taking a plate and eating the feast as well. One small little swish of a pen or press of a keyboard button makes an adaptation to the sentence that can alter everything.

A little over a week ago, there was an event at church, and I couldn’t remember if lunch was provided for the kiddos in childcare or not. I texted a friend that was in charge and asked “Do I need to pack a lunch for my boys?” Brooke kindly replied “No, food is provided.” In the midst of busy morning, I gave the text a hasty read and quickly began packing lunches, cause after all, “No food is provided.” Turns out I, the English nerd, didn’t take proper notice of the comma she typed. No, accompanied by a comma, means I didn’t need to pack a lunch, cause one would be provided. When my kiddos showed up with their thermals, it all sorta clicked with me on my critical misread.

Punctuation matters, you see.

Commas aren’t the only critical elements. There are colons, semi-colons, even just a simple period. None seem overly important, but when you try to read a piece of writing where none exist, you realize that them being there is essential. If you don’t have any personal experience with such, just trust me on this one, for I have graded enough essays that have missed the mark in these concepts. It’s simply maddening.

I often teach the rules of punctuation in my classroom, yes even the collegiate one, especially the elements that are most easily confused and misused. The period, called a full-stop by the British, is where you stop reading and complete a sentence. Most can handle this one. Frequently avoided or misused due to lack of knowing how to have the right application is the semi-colon. This little gem works to combine two sentences together. When a sentence could have ended, it doesn’t; details continue on thanks to the punctuation combining with more details. Typically this element is applied in order to create a stronger, more effective sentence.


A year ago today, my life could have very well ended
. I blacked out. I wrecked. I was life flighted to the ER. A year ago today, the baby that was in my womb could have very well ceased to exist any more. Instead, today, I look at a beautiful 6 month old child, healthy and happy, even if a bit drooly from some teething. One year ago, on August 19th, my life could have been a period, ending with no continuation. Grammatically speaking, I could have been a “full stop.” Fortunately, God did not see it fit to call me home, and I was allowed a semi-colon; a possibility for things to end existed but ultimately I was given a continuation. I even have a scar on the middle of my chest, formed by shards of glass and the seatbelt, that oddly enough resemble a semi-colon when I look down at it: a small dot on top with a swoosh underneath.

I have more life to live.

This day has been on the horizon for me, a day I emotionally welcomed yet dreaded, a year anniversary of one of the most life-changing, miraculous, and yet scariest days of my life. At one point I had plans to try and fly in a helicopter, since my first experience in one was a vague memory of floating between consciousness and unconsciousness, restrained by a neck brace and an IV. With life’s craziness though, that idea seemed less of a potential. Sometimes I envisioned being alone on this day, reflective and worshipful; I had big plans to cry.

Yet, a bit unexpectedly, Mom’s sickness and cancer battle suddenly was expedited towards its close. That day definitely trumps the impact of this one. She didn’t get a semi-colon, she got a period, a full-stop. My mom died, sooner than a year after her diagnosis. Just like that, her sentence was over. Period.

Or, maybe not.

There is this one element of punctuation called an ellipsis. Often the ellipsis is used in informal writing to show that the thought has been left a little unfinished, not fully ended or complete. The sentence doesn’t continue on like it would if graced with a semi-colon. The sentence doesn’t end like it would if bestowed a period. It instead trails off, in a series of dots to represent the ongoing nature of the idea.

Mom, being a believer in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross, had hope of an afterlife, a better place to call home. Her passing isn’t as simple as a full-stop period, nor is it a physical continuation here on earth like a semi-colon might provide. Now, rather, she operates with an elliptic life, one that has trailed off from here on earth only to continue more in heaven, free from suffering and pain. My momma knew of the Everlasting Life that can only be found in God and a life lived in Him.

Although I mourn that there is not time with her here, I rejoice that I will have time with her there….

When Someone You Love Is Sick….

When someone you love is sick, like long term sick, it sucks. Some of you have the non-privliedge of knowing such. For that fact, I’m sorry. If that is the case, you will read this and likely agree with much of what I write, and you will perhaps have something even more to contribute. If you haven’t really had someone you love dearly be seriously sick, but someone you know has someone that he/she loves that is sick, well, this post is for you. This is what those people in your life that are managing a sick parent/child/spouse want from you……or so I think…..

My mom is sick; she has cancer, stage 4., along with some other medical conditions that affect her overall well being. I’ve not really made note of it in the blog world. I’ve mentioned a thing or two on Facebook. Many people local to where we live are aware of her condition/diagnosis. With that point in mind, I wanted to share some things that I have learned since her diagnosis in August of 2013, just a week after my wreck and wiring of my jaw.

1. Limit questions.

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Mom’s fresh cut.

One of mom’s biggest issues at the start was that she would be asked questions. “What kind of cancer is it?” “How long did they say you should live?” “When do you expect to lose your hair?” and any other potential inquisitive line of thought that might enter someone’s mind. She’s a private person, more often than not, so potential questions made her worry. At first, those opportunities made her want to skip out on events. In September of 2013, just a few weeks after her devastating news, she tried to skip out on a local street fair because she “didn’t want to talk to people about it.” That was when I was in full wired jaw and no driving mode, so ultimately she decided to go, just so the kids and I would have a ride there since Thomas was working. At that point in time, my news was more readily known, so people were asking ME questions about ME, and I responded via wired jaws. At the close of the day, I told mom, “and you were afraid people would ask YOU questions!” Regardless, she held tight to this question fear. Before her first chemo, I posted a picture of us together on Facebook, from the day we preemptively cut her hair short, full of expectation that it would soon fall out. FB friends near and far pulled through in a resounding way that day. There were hundreds of comments and likes on that single picture. Before she went back for her infusion, I clicked on the comment portion, loading them all for her view. As her eyes filled with tears I said to her “Read them mom. All of them. Each one. There are over 100 comments there mom. And guess what……not one asks you what kind of cancer. No questions, just love and prayers.”

2. Avoid Texts/Calls/Emails That Require Action

For some reason, the whole community in which I live and everyone that I’ve ever been related to seems to have my cell number. If they somehow missed out on those phone digits, they seem to have FB access through which they can send messages. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is totally amazing. I love connecting with people, and I love knowing that people care about her and my family. One thing that is sometimes exhausting though is navigating and managing the needed replies. Often, I know you are just checking up on her and me, that everything is spawning from a good intention. When you ask a question, however, you are by default asking for a response. This then requires action from me. Now, I have a few select friends that I expect questions from about her, cause they are my places of refuge to vent and worry and cry if needed. Outside of those few people, it becomes overwhelming, even when it comes from the right place.

So, rather than text me “How is your mom? Is she feeling well? When is her next chemo?” try phrasing things like this instead: “Praying for your mom today! Hope she is feeling well. May her next chemo go smoothly!” Do you see the difference there? It’s subtle really, but one means I *have* to respond, cause you asked a question. The other means I *can* respond but it’s not inherently necessary. And check this out…..the same reply can be given for both: “Mom has had two good days! We go back to the doctor next week.” So, if I feel like responding, have time to respond, or manage to remember to respond, I can do it! If I don’t, just know the message was received and appreciated, but since no question was asked, no response is required. Same premise applies to voicemails: “Just checking up on your momma!  Praying for a good day for her!”

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All of us before mom’s first chemo treatment.

3. Don’t Ask or Offer, Just Do

People want to help her. People want to help me. I want people to help her, and believe it friends, I want people to help me! It’s been an incredibly stressful time. There aren’t really words to put into perspective how challenging the past near year has been for my family. I’ve had 4 surgeries since August 2013. There has been a stint of physical therapy and a full 6 months of no driving. I’ve added an baby girl to my family. Mom has had chemo treatments, radiation treatments, surgery, a stroke, and two hospital stays. not to mention multiple and reoccurring scans, tests, blood draws and doctor appointments. At one point, I foolishly pondered how many times Hazel had visited the hospital since her birth, and she had averaged about 3 visits a week for her first 4 months of life. It makes my brain spin. So, when you ask me “What does your mom need? How can I help?” my reply tends to be “prayers!” Now, that is a fully true response, cause she and my family do need them, rest assured. But often I just can’t remember immediately. When you say “Let me know if I can help watch the kids!” I appreciate that more than you know. However, when it comes time for the kids to be watched, sometimes I forget who said they could/would, cause I am operating in a brain fog.

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Hazel visiting her Grandma in the hospital.

 

The alternative? Command it/Schedule it/Provide It. Here are some examples of what I mean in action, two of which are from my in-laws, one from a friend:

Soon after mom’s diagnosis, my Mother-in-law gave my mom a gift card to Olive Garden. And guess who else she gave one to as well…..did you guess???….she gave one to me. Do you know what she did there? She arranged time for me to be with my mom by giving us both gift cards for food. At the time, it was even more thoughtful, cause my jaws were just unwired and I needed soft food only, which pasta could provide. She took a meal prep off my hands and off my mom’s. Perfect indeed.

After mom was most recently hospitalized, my Mother-in-law and Father-in-law came down to the house for a full Saturday so I could go and be with mom without having to juggle childcare for Daniel and Wesley. By the time the week was coming to a close, I felt like I had already tapped into all my resources. They didn’t ask to do this, they just said they were coming, even if mom was discharged. They wanted me to have a break. Mom ended up going home that day, and Hazel and I brought her from the hospital to her home and then we traveled back to my home. Once there, my in-laws began to pack up for their hour and a half drive home. As I walked them out to the car, I had a little melt-down. I was five streps past exhausted. They hugged me, encouraged me, and offered to stay longer, until Thomas got off work. I told them it was fine, I would go for a walk with the boys and then put them to bed early. In a completely uncharacteristic move, my mother-in-law takes Hazel from my arms and says, “I’ll hold the baby. You go for that walk–or a run–all by yourself!” Running is a major stress relief for me, and as a mom to three, it is hard to manage logging miles these days. “I’ll be back in 23 minutes or less!” I told her, cause I knew how long it would take me to run the route I had in mind. They had action, which lead to relief for me.

So,  “Let me know if I can watch the kids!” can become, “I would like to watch the kids on Thursday for a few hours” (my cousin Leitte is actually pretty spectacular at this one!). “If I can make a meal, let me know!” transitions to “Wednesday night I will bring chicken soup to you for your mom.” It’s action, and all I have to do is receive it, not think about it. Does that make sense?

10514904_10204467142497988_1158381533_nHere is the final example……a gifted photographer friend from church, Michelle, told me that she would like to take pictures for us. I was floored folks, cause she is talented, and I know taking pictures and editing them takes time. That’s not the kind of trait you just give away……unless you are looking to bless someone tremendously, a person who doesn’t know how many family portrait years might be left. My brother John was in town for a few days, and despite mom not feeling the greatest, she got spiffy looking and we all went across the street to the farmland across from my house. Michelle put forth her best effort and captured some beautiful moments of Grandma with Grandkids, Mom with each kid, My family all together. This was something that I didn’t even have on my radar, but someone told me “This is what I am willing to do…..let’s do it!” and we did! The results are pretty stellar considering the circumstances.

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10510297_10204467142457987_31182829_n4. PRAY & Encourage

The power of prayers has sustained me so much the past few months. Sometimes, I knew that the Holy Spirit was keeping up the promise to intercede for me when all I could manage was groans in my spirit. I never want to minimize this part in the process, and I will never think that you are sitting idly beside as we manage if all you do is pray. Without prayer, I would certainly be lost. May you not stop, but increase, your prayers for my mom. She needs them on the good days and on the bad. We need them when healthy, but most definitely when sick. Encourage her and encourage me in this process, for I feel like it is becoming very easy to grow wary and weary of what is to come. Point us all towards God’s glory.

Please know I don’t write this to then expect you to do these things specifically for me and my family. I write this cause I feel like often we don’t know what to do for others, so with a shot in the dark, we throw something out there. Sometimes, we stifle what God wants us to do for fear of doing the wrong thing. I want to welcome you to move on behalf of Christ, to be his hands and feet, to those near you that need comfort, whether that be me, my mom, or someone else. Just be a blessing. 

 

“Hazel, Sister”

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We’ve had our sweet Hazel in our life for exactly 3 whole weeks one full month, almost 5 whole weeks (yeah, it’s taken me that long to begin and complete this post). What a joy she has been, honestly. I am quite amazed with how smoothly she has added to our family. We’re getting a decent amount of sleep at night, sans those two nights where she thought being contentedly awake from 2:30-3:30 after she nursed as a fun idea. She nurses like a champ, the boys love her to pieces, and she is generally just full of a great disposition, even if a bit gassy at times (which makes me think of the line from Frozen: “Don’t know if I’m elated or I’m gassy. But, I’m somewhere in that zone.“). Little girl clothes are adorable, she makes the greatest faces, her hair is amazing, especially when freshly washed and fuzzy, and we just couldn’t be happier with our new addition. Since the birth, I have felt great, and she is healthy. We’re bless, indeed.

 

I wanted to share why we chose the name we did for our little girl, our “Hazel, Sister” (sang in the tune of “Hey Soul Sister” by Train).

hazel name graph

My friend Julie shared a link that helped people find the trends behind their given names. Turns out Hazel was obviously very popular “back in the day.” Frequently, middle aged people have said “Oh, that was my grandma’s name!” or “That was what my great aunt was called!” I have not, however, heard of anyone young in age going by this name, whether it be from personal connections or from others. Actually, I take that back. three days before my Hazel was born, my friend Tiffany sent me a text to show that Jim from The Office welcomed a Hazel into his life.

20140325-130444.jpgSo, John Krasinski beat us to it on record, but I am sure we picked it first!

 

Why did we pick it? Well, for one, we like it, despite the fact a few crotchty 60+ people don’t appreciate it (and yes, they’ve let us know that fact, but fortunately we don’t care!). The whole idea of her name comes from the Smoky Mountains. This location has served as a great respite and memorable place for us as a couple. We went there for 20140325-141258.jpgour honeymoon. After what was at that point in time the hardest year of our life, full of a miscarriage, an unexpected move, and a job change, we took a long weekend there together. Then, for our 10 year anniversary last year, we ventured there once again. While there celebrating our 10 years married, as we dove away from our cabin and took a final view at the lovely mountains, Thomas jokingly said, “If we have a daughter one day, we will need to name her Hazel, because of the haze on the Smoky Mountains.” Turns out, it was a grand idea, and being that I was never going to agree to naming a daughter Rebekah like he would want, that is just what we did.

As for Karen, her middle name, we’ve known this to be our preference since right when we got married. Karen was the name of two beautiful women that the world lost all too soon. Karen O. was the wife of our college minister. She was quiet and wise and introspective. Thomas and I were engaged to be married when she received the diagnosis of melanoma; it seemed like we lost her all too quickly. However, even in her struggles of health, she remained faithful to God and did not waver, at least not before our eyes. At the time she officially passed, it was honestly the hardest thing we had to deal with at that point in our relationship. Walking with each other as a couple through that grief was memorable. I can still remember crying on Thomas’s shoulder in the back seat of our friend Eric’s car as he drove us all back to campus after we received the news that her moments with us were mere minutes. A woman like her deserves to be honored.

Karen W. was my second mom growing up. She was loud and funny and affectionate. So many of my childhood memories involve her and her daughters. When Thomas and20140325-141320.jpg I became engaged, we actually stopped at her house to show off the ring before we made it back to my mom to show her. On that day, Karen pulled back a small bandaid on her calf and showed me a mole that had recently been biopsied. It was just a casual conversation that day on something of minor significance, but in reality it was melanoma.  Before we left her house, as an accomplished baker, she proclaimed with joy that she would make our wedding cake, as her gift to us. She was at our wedding in May, and before I walked down the aisle, Karen brought to me a blue handkerchief that belonged to her mother. It was to be my “something blue.” I bawled like a baby into that little piece of soft fabric as I recited my vows. After, I bit into a delicious cake made just for us by her diligent hands. Our cake was the last cake she ever made, and when I look at my wedding photos where she is present, I can tell from those pictures that she looks so sick and tired, which at the time was less evident.  The next year, in February, Karen passed. We spent our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple at the funeral home, grieving. Until her last day, Karen remained a Godly pillar. A woman like her deserves to be honored.

Karen is also a name to serve as my restoration. Although I never initially chose this name for a daughter based off this reason, it is fitting. Job 42:12-15 are the near to last verses in the book. There reads the following:

12 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.

20140325-141335.jpgAfter Job’s losses, he was restored what he once had. No, it wasn’t the same daughters and sons or oxen, but God gave him back what he painfully had taken. When we miscarried our third child, cause Hazel is technically our fourth, it was devastating. Very few people knew about it as we were walking it, and few know the details today, although we do openly share that it occurred. Thomas and I had both felt like the lost baby was a girl. Although we did not ever get a confirmation of that, we didn’t need it. Our hearts said it to be true. A few weeks before we became pregnant with Hazel, I was out for a run when I felt God telling my heart that I would be restored a daughter. It was a peaceful assurance.  So, when the pregnancy test was positive, I already had a feeling it was a girl. As I battled the first trimester fears of miscarriage, God kept prompting me to recall the restoration He was promising. Two weeks into my second trimester, I wrecked, and a whole new series of fears and worries had to be surmounted. Even still, in that chaos, I felt God telling me again that He would restore what I had lost over a year prior and that this baby would be fine. I had to spend days, weeks, and months with positive self-talk to recall the peace of that spring run last year, but God proved himself true, and we were given a daughter. Likely, had it not been for my friend Jennifer that named her daughter Keziah, I would not have been overly familiar with the names of the beautiful girls he was blessed with by the Lord. With a name Karen already chosen before any pregnancies, and especially before any loss, it is neat to see that the name Keren/Karen was already laid out as a fulfillment of what once was.

So there you have it: Hazel Karen.

We love her dearly, and I hope that if you are in real life friends that you would come by and visit, snuggle with her, and share in our joy! We’re so proud of our little miracle.

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2014 : Quotations to Ponder

Happy New Year!

Thomas and I have talked the past few days how neither of us have come up with any real goals or “resolutions” for 2014 other than the “survive it” goal. We had quite a 2013, one that we will never forget, and some of those good things and bad things follow us, in various ways, as we flip the calendar anew. For 2014, a few big  and good events are on the horizon—such as welcoming a third child into the world and Thomas completing his Master’s of Nursing and becoming a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner……..and me finally being able to drive again :o)…..and we will wait until those dates greet us in time by continuing to rely on God and feel loved, blessed, and supported by our friends and family.

Even though there are no resolutions to share, I’ve had a list of poignant (at least to me!) quotations that I’ve been collecting for a bit, and I want to embed these in my spirit for this new year. They all impact me and speak, in some small way, a version of what my soul feels, wants to feel, needs to adhere to, or was designed to emit. So, take a moment and read them, for they may very well resonate with you.

“If we isolate our kids from the world until they are adults they may appear to us to be spiritually minded and strong in character. However, it is how they ultimately engage the world that proves their spiritual resilience. This is because sheltering does not transform the human heart – it merely preserves it, temporarily.” ~Josh Harris

‎”Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.” -Erica Jong

“Every soul has its unique nuances. Each of us is uniquely formed in our mother’s wombs…However, there is one thing we all share – the need to connect. To dine with someone is to connect with that person. The table experience with your spouse, family, friends, and colleagues – and even your enemies – has the potential to begin bonding human hearts in a new way, a deep way that brings spiritual connection, a bonding that life’s circumstances should not break. During meals hurting hearts heal, sad hearts are made glad, depressed hearts get new vision, and divided hearts come to peace.” – Devi Titus

“[T]here’s a difference between guilt and conviction. The guilt is what causes that lump in your throat, where you can’t decide whether to swallow down your apathy or puke it all up in anger. But conviction is that stirring deep inside you, when you acknowledge that guilt-like feeling, and instead of letting it fester, you mold and shape it into something productive. Conviction causes action. Conviction leads to hope.” ~Tsh at simplemom.net

“There will always be people who see everything in the world as a measuring stick of their worthiness, instead of as a burning bush of God’s gloriousness. If your life looks like a mess – to them — they whip out a measuring stick and feel confident of their own worthiness. If your life looks like a monument – to them — they whip out a measuring stick – and start cutting you down for their own empowerment. The world isn’t a forest of measuring sticks. The world is a forest of burning bushes. Everything isn’t a marker to make you feel behind or ahead; everything is a flame to make you see GOD is here. That God is working through this person’s life, that God is redeeming that person’s life, that God is igniting this work, that God is present here in this mess, that God is using even this. Walk through life with a measuring stick – and your eyes get so small you never see God. Pick up a yardstick to measure your life against anyone else’s and you’ve just picked up a stick and beaten up your own soul.” -Ann Voskamp

“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in.” -Haruki Murakami

“Lower your expectations for what is humanly possible in one day….If it makes you yell, it’s a No. Every time…If baking cookies and watching your kids sling sprinkles all over the kitchen is going to make you yell today? Then no. Don’t do it. Always choose the relationship with your kids over the  activity that makes you scream. Always choose the Simple over the Pinnable.” -Lora Lynn Fanning

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” -Isaiah 32:18-19

Becoming Free

As many of you already know, I am wire free! Since I am still dealing with some pain, stiffness, sensitivity, and awkwardness, mostly all pertaining to my right side of my jaw where I had one of my two breaks, I have as of today been assigned some physical therapy to help with healing. But as my new saying has become, “This is always going to win over being wired!” It isn’t hard to trump how you feel when you spent 7 weeks not being able to open your mouth, eat real food, or see your own tongue.

My process of getting free comes with a good story, and as my cousin told me the other day, “That Wordless Wednesday of yours is fine and all, but I like your words,” so I am going to get this post made before I am too far removed from the moment of freedom. It’s been a great two weeks of soft foods and teeth brushing, but let’s rewind to the removal day:

1391875_10151620542076765_1446051385_nThe night before removal, I posted my full bling for all of Facebook to see. It seemed fitting to give those that had not had the opportunity to see me in person a bit of a glimpse. Basically they just look like someone got confused and put my braces too high, but those babies were not comfortable and they completely restricted my jaw movement for almost two months.

Bright and early the day after, we headed to the hospital for surgery. All typical routines that need to occur before a surgery were performed and all the staff and nurses were excited with me and baby girl for our big day.

My anesthesia team came in to talk. I wanted to completely understand why this process required me to “go under” and they did a great job of explaining why this was our best option.

Once convinced this was truly the best approach, they team began to say the two options they had for putting a tube into me to help with sedation and the surgery process. One was to insert the tube into my mouth and the other was to use my nose.  Our conversation continued like this (keep in mind I am still fully wired and muffled in speech)

Me: “I have read on the Internet that I will only be able to open my mouth this far” (picture me showing about half an inch between my pointer finger and thumb)

Anesthesiologist: “Well, that may be true, but we will never know unless we try, and I would like to try first, since down your throat would be the best option.”

Me: “I don’t know. I’m really scared of trying honestly.”

Anesthesiologist: “It’s worth a try though. We’ll have the surgeon come in and cut the wires and then you will open and we will make a decision before sedating you.”

Me: “Ok, I guess that makes sense”

And then we continue on with more pre-surgery information, only to have me interrupt him and say boldly, “I’m not going to do it! Just put me under through my nose and then take it all off. I’m scared of how much it will hurt, so just do the nose. Please.” He kindly responds, “I understand, but I still think we should try and see. You just never know, okay?”

And then I am blinded by the removal of my glasses, given a kiss from my dear husband, and briskly wheeled away off to the surgery room.

Once in the sterile and cold room, everyone begins their fantastic treatment of me and baby girl. We’re kept warm, encouraged, situated nicely, and all matters in between. Everything is ready for sedation but they can’t proceed until they know the pathway of mouth or nose, so the wires need to be cut. We wait and wait, since the surgeon is who they want to cut them and he is not present yet (typically they wait until sedation to show).

Minutes pass and finally the resident appears to cut my wires, using what have to be the largest and most unnecessary wire clamps/cutters ever. It actually kinda hurts because my teeth are extremely sensitive, and I begin to mentally thank the anesthesia team for recommending full sedation. Finally, the 5-6 sets of wires attached to top and bottom arch bars are all removed, and as the anesthesia team, the surgery techs, and the resident surgeon peer over me from above, I hear the words, “Okay Summer, time to open your mouth!”

Now, rather than being sealed tight with wires, my jaws are clenched with fear. Without opening my mouth, I say, with teeth still fully compressed upon one another, “No. I can’t. I am scared. It will hurt too much. Just put me under. I’m scared.” Then I begin to cry.

They burliest man in the room, completely tatted up, gently grabs my hand. An anesthesia nurse wipes my tears. All six faces looking down on me from above begin to encourage me. So, with great trepidation, I open my mouth. And it is at that point that I think angles sang the Halleluiah Chorus from above and I lift the top teeth away from my bottom. It was magical and surreal.

“Is that as far as you can go Summer? Open as wide as you can for us” says someone in the room.

I hesitate.

“Come on, you can do it; try to open as wide as you can” they all echo kindly, flashing smiles of encouragement my way.

And then I do it, I open as wide and as far as I possibly can. In my head, I’ve opened this far, and I am quite proud of myself:

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But the next words I hear are “It’s nose; come on let’s get started,” and nearly everyone but tattooed hand holder scrambles away and begins prep. He leans down and whispers to me, “I am going to have to let your hand go because I have to get to work. You did great!” With that hand now free, I began to move it towards my mouth, since my other arm and hand contained my IV and other medical necessities that made it precarious to move. It was at that point I realized I had truly only opened my mouth this wide:

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That’s right, I basically didn’t. I couldn’t even get my pointer finger fully in my mouth. It was ridiculous. Immediately, I began to laugh at myself, for my mental vision of what I thought I had done and what the true reality was were very far apart. This realization brought me to laugh hysterically at myself, the kind of laugh where your belly kind of shakes and your mouth smiles big. Laughing so large actually hurt my jaw, so the chuckles of laughter were quickly replaced with some moans of pain. Next thing I knew, I was out like a light and the surgery had begun.

I then traded my arch bars and wires for a more socially acceptable look:

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This is a “selfie” taken the day after surgery for removal.

After seven weeks, it was great to be free.

About four days later after surgery, I was able to go to church and have many from my church family celebrate with me. While in Sunday School class, we took time to study from the book of John. In John chapter 5, Jesus is in Jerusalem and travels to a pool where the sick would go for healing. There, he encounters a man who had been sick for 38 years (John 5:5). Jesus asks a question of the man, while he lay on a mat near the ‘healing’ waters, “‘Do you want to get well ?'” (v6). Not knowing he was speaking with Jesus, the man explains how he has no one to put him into the pool when the waters are bubbling and ready to heal the lame, sick, and blind. Next thing you know, Jesus tells the man “‘Get up, pick up your mat and walk!”

Want to know what the man does after 38 years of being sick and on the mat? Does he sit there and tell this guy in front of him that he can’t do it? Proclaim that he is too scared? Explain again and again that likely, after all that time and atrophy, his legs aren’t going to work right and slow is likely the best approach? Nope. Instead, here is what transpired right after Jesus’ command in verse 9:

Instantly the man got well, picked up his mat, and started to walk

That’s right, he just moved with faith and did as he was told, without hesitation, and accepted his healing.

After reading this familiar story so shortly after my events, I gained an even greater depth to the account. I couldn’t even open my mouth after 7 weeks. I actually uttered my first few sentences wire free in the same condition I was before my freedom, through fixated jaws and clenched teeth. I only had 7 weeks of my confinement ,and here, after 38 years, the man just embraced his healing, obeyed, and walked. That my friends is beautiful, for I know he could have said a million and one reasons why it wasn’t a good idea. He could have made excuses. He could have asked for a few minutes to think on it and he could have just sat there for a bit and begin doing small movements and work slowly up to walking—-but he didn’t. He responded immediately.

God wants to heal us of so many things, yet often I think our own fear of following through keeps us on the ground, as in the case with the man in the book of John, or keeps us with clenched teeth, as in my case. We know we need to forgive someone, yet it feels good to grow bitter. To find that freedom takes some work, and we are scared to start the conversation, and we feel justified in our hate. Situations like this serve to show why Christ asked the question “‘Do you want to get well?'” Too many of us enjoy our misery. We like the comfort of our old ways. We appreciate being able to feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve been with the affliction, hateful spirit, or image of ourselves for so long, we’d just prefer to stay that way. But imagine the scene, his and mine, if we didn’t finally take the freedom and healing. What if he just sat there? What if I just continued these past few weeks to keep my teeth together? Our situations would not have changed any, but this time, instead of disability and circumstance keeping us there, it would have been pure choice. Misery is never good, but it is certainly worse and extremely compounded when you choose to be there.

So, take the freedom, preferably immediately, but if you say a few sentences before you embrace it, that’s better than a chosen prolonged imprisonment.

20131009-201046.jpgChoose freedom, and then you will be able to eat your best meal in at least 7 weeks, even if it takes you 45 minutes to eat one pancake. One slowly eaten pancake is always going to be better than drinking everything through a straw.

Wreck Recollections

(The following is not a fabricated recollection of my recent wreck. This is how I remember things to be. Although the words might not truly be accurate to how things occurred, any missteps in facts or details are due to my condition at the time. I’ve written it mainly in one sitting, to keep it fresh and to not over think the process.)

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Photo credit: http://www.lebanondemocrat.com/article/209336

Darkness.

“Ma’am…….Ma’am…..can you hear me? Ma’am……”

I open my eyes into tiny slits, just enough to see a completely shattered windshield just inches from my face.

Darkness.

I can hear the sound of crunching glass, bending metal, urgency, and lots of voices yelling orders back and forth.

“Ma’am……Can you move your legs? I need you to move your legs. Can you do that for me?”

Aware but with my eyes still closed, I wiggle my legs, immediately realizing there is no more room to move them anywhere else. They’re pinned in, stuck. Millions of little shards of glass sprinkle over my feet as I try to do something, anything with my legs. I make a mental note and thank God that I actually can move, feel my legs.

Darkness.

I open my eyes and see a small glimpse of the bright sky. I close my eyes again. Holding them open takes too much effort. Hard, firm, and sturdy, I realize I am on a stretcher. Something is on my neck keeping it still. I can hear noises all around but I can’t focus on anything.

“Ma’am, what happened? Can you tell me about what happened?”

I respond, or at least try to, but suddenly I realize that the droopiness I had felt earlier in my mouth wasn’t just because I was in and out of consciousness. There is an alarming amount of piercing pain there, and I have very little function or control. Somehow, I utter, “I don’t know… Nothing…I don’t know”

Then, as if all the terror of the situation is not enough, I realize they don’t know…..

“My baby! Is my baby ok? How’s my baby” I say with slurred, forced speech to anyone and everyone that will listen, cause even though I’m not looking at anyone, I know they are there. I need an answer.

“You didn’t have anyone else with you in the car. You were alone. It’s ok……” someone replies back.

“Pregnant” I eek out, “I’m pregnant,” I say as I struggle to lift my right arm and tap my hand on my belly.

Darkness.

Thump, Thump, Thump, Thump, Thump.

Photo credit: http://www.lebanondemocrat.com/article/209336
Photo credit: http://www.lebanondemocrat.com/article/209336

“Oh shit. I am in a helicopter. Dear God help me. This is a helicopter. They only put really hurt people in a helicopter; they call it ‘life flight’ for a reason. Oh God help me” I think to myself, eyes still closed. I begin to trace my tongue inside my mouth. I feel a gap. My thoughts run wild: Did I lose teeth? Oh wait, here is a tooth…..no, that’s not a tooth, that’s my jaw? Is that a bone sticking out inside my mouth? No, it’s a tooth out of place, right?

I stretch out my hands. I need a human. I want to touch another human, cause if I am holding tight to another person, I’m still alive and still here. To my left, I find the forearm of a man, strong and hairy. He allows me to keep a tight grip. I’m totally not letting go. I never see his face, but gripping him is helping to save me.

With my eyes now opened, I notice a woman that leans over me from the right. Her eyes are a brilliant blue, beautiful, like a perfect ocean. I can’t notice or remember anything else, just that her eyes are blue and her hair has a red tint to it. Those blue eyes and red hair look just like my friend Amanda’s sister, Sherry. It comforts me, perhaps because suddenly it feels like something “familiar” is near me. But mostly I think it comforts me because Sherry is a woman that is strong, resilient, and will fight for things. She does not give up easily, and she is determined. Having this “Sherry” with me during my helicopter transport is just what I need….someone that will fight for me, along with my unborn baby.

I close my eyes again, for I just can’t keep them open long. Too much stimulus, too much effort, too much everything.

“Can you tell me how old you are?” I’m asked by Sherry.

“Thirty-One” I mumble, but immediately I regret talking due to pain it causes and the energy it takes, so I then hold up three fingers on my right hand followed by one finger. I maintain my grapple on the man to my left. He doesn’t make me let go, thankfully.

“How far along are you?”

Oh Lord thank you they know and remember I am pregnant! One finger followed by four fingers is my next move, and Sherry immediately replies, “14 weeks…..congratulations!”

Thump, Thump, Thump, Thump, Thump.

Darkness.

Somehow, someway, I end up in the ER. I don’t know how I knew what hospital I was at, but it managed to get relayed to me. Maybe I just intrinsically knew. Without my grip on the man in the helicopter, I am floating in a pool of chaos, fear, and pain completely alone, unaccounted. I grab the hand of the next human that I hear near me. She allows me a few seconds of comfort but then has to return to responding to my physical needs: bleeding, IVs, removing glass.

With my eyes open, I see no one I know. “Husband. I want my husband” I utter. I don’t even remember what they tell me as a response, I just know I don’t see him, so I just begin to beg for my friend, Helen. I know that I am at her hospital, so if she is at work, I want her, and I want her now. I know she is close. “Get my friend Helen. She works with the babies. NICU. Get Helen” becomes my mantra. I say it enough to where I finally see the nurse pick up a phone and call Helen’s unit. The nurse never says what she was told, but I figure no response to me means my friend isn’t working today. I’m still alone, and I need someone. I begin to wonder: Do they even know who I am? No one has asked me. Could I even pronounce my last name well enough for them to understand me and could I give them a phone number if I had to do it?

I cry out in my heart for God to bring me someone to help me not be alone.

Soon, my love races into the room. He gently grabs my hand and cries. My neck is still in a brace, my body is achy, my jaw is throbbing, but suddenly my world becomes right, or as right as it can be considering the circumstances. “I thought I had lost you. I was so scared I had lost you” he tells me between sobs.

But he didn’t lose me, thank God. I know that I’m banged up and bruised and broken but I know that I am still here, and he is with me, and that is enough for this brief moment.

One Week Wired

For those of you that don’t know, I was in a pretty bad car wreck just over a week ago. I blacked out while driving and found my way to some trees. In the process, I got some bumps and bruises and shards of glass here and there, all basically minor. I also managed to break my jaw in two places, which is pretty major, and therefore I now have I wired jaw for the next 6-8 weeks, yielding an all liquid diet and constantly clenched teeth. I will definitely blog about what I can remember from my accident (I was in and out for most all of the evacuation and transport) but I thought for now I would share lessons from one week being wired shut.

(cue fancy intro music now….)

1. Just the thought of biting into a juicy hamburger will scare you. Later, after about my 300th serving of soup, I am sure the hamburger will be my heart’s desire, but for now, the idea of extending my mandible and chomping down on something like that gets me fearful.

2. Yawning is every bit as terrifying as you might imagine it to be. A casual yawn turns into a 6 sec nightmare as the lower part of my jaw tries to naturally separate from the top, to which it is very securely wired. When this happens, I have found myself squeaking out some sort of unintelligible prayer and flapping my hands next to my face. Fortunately, it passes quickly, and at a yawn’s conclusion, I don’t know whether to cry tears of pain or of laughter.

3. Throwing up when the opening from your esophagus to the rest of the world is blocked by wired together teeth is extremely more terrifying than you might imagine it to be. This one doesn’t need to much explanation, and I doubt you really want details. Suffice it to say, I’ve done it twice and hope not to do it again in the remaining weeks.

4. Getting cold, resulting in chills, is highly inadvisable.  This happened one night in the hospital, and the uncontrollable chattering of a broken jaw that that is wired shut is excruciating. Then, the pain and fear from the cold chills resulted in nervous shakes throughout my body, unsteady hands, tears, and ultimately a dose of morphine in my IV. After my first shower when I got home, I felt myself getting cold and immediately cried. Fortunately, we were able to warm me up before I had to experience the chills again.

5. Amidst all the pain, there will be lots of unbelievable blessings. You will see an image of your car and know that only God could have spared you from what should have been death. The police officer that was the first responder will give your husband his personal cell so that he can receive a report on you. People 5 counties away will manage to get dinner on your front porch. The glasses that you lost in the wreck will be replaced for free from your optometrist friends. Your mailbox will be flooded with gift cards to places that serve smoothies. Friends will watch your kids and love them fully. Your mother-in-law, when told the strawberry Ensure that you had in the hospital wasn’t that bad, will clear out Wal-Mart of their supply. Your brother will take off work to be with you, hold your hand. When you cry, and you say that all this seems too hard, your mom will cusp your hand, look you in the eyes with her beautiful blue ones, and speak to you that she taught you to be a strong woman, just like her momma taught her to be, and you will know that she speaks the truth. Your brother-in-law will mow your yard. Your sister-in-law will come immediately to the hospital with dinner for your hungry husband. Every family member’s pastor, including all the ones from your church, will come, driving out of their way, to pray with and for you. From the west coast, your brother will send a funny card to make you smile, along with yummy smoothie recipes. People that are strangers to you but friends to those you love will bring creamy soups from Trader Joe’s. The best man from your wedding will show up unexpectedly and suddenly make you bawl like a baby. Your phone will consistently receive texts of scripture, requests to help, prayer, and support. Your children will bring you flowers, rub your hair, and smile uncertain smiles that are still filled with hope and love.

Your husband will utterly amaze you, pray over you, cry over you, hold you up, awake in the middle of the night, wait on you hand and foot, carry all the family’s burdens and not falter. He will help rub off the IV stickiness, he will scour at a nurse that does something wrong, he will send out Facebook updates to everyone letting them know your condition, he will truly and ultimately be your helpmate and love of your life, cause he will be the walking embodiment of proving the line he said 10 years ago of “for better or for worse.”

Close friends, distant friends, strangers, family and  people in-between will pray beautiful prayers, and you will feel them, covet them, echo them, and know that your God hears them. You will know God hears them because you are still alive, and even thought things are not perfect, you fully know that things could have been much, much worse, and you’ve been blessed to live another day, and so has your sweet unborn baby that you carry inside; and that is one miracle no one can deny.