Grace to Carry On

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I wrote the post titled “Life and Death” on June 15, 2018. I never dreamed, could never have imagined that two years later I would lose yet another person I love so dearly.

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This quote from that post is so true –

“We fear it (death), yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.” – from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Chuck didn’t fear death. He knew where his hope was. I knew that, too. I know that. But, the sadness is still here. Sadness that his face will no longer light up when his children or grandchildren enter the room. Sadness that we talked, dreamed, and finally planned for his retirement and our return home to Jacksonville.  That return was overlaid with sorrow. For him, that return lasted one month. Now he is truly home, and I’m left here to carry on.

Hebrews 4:16 – Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

“I Wish You Never Left Me”

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June 13th

As I look at this list of times I’m making tonight, I think back to almost 40 years ago and another list.

Tonight I am keeping track of what time I give medicines. Medicines to try to keep my husband out of pain in this wretched losing battle with pancreatic cancer. In two and three hour intervals I give him the tiny pills with sips of water to try to ease him into sleep and ease his pain.

Many years ago, on the back of an envelope, we wrote down times. These, too, were times of pain, but pain that led to great joy, the birth of our firstborn. I still have that envelope tucked away.

Across the years we have counted minutes, hours, days and years. We marked off days in anticipation of our trip to California. We looked back at years of marriage, and so often my husband would choose the perfect gift accordingly : pearls, agate, ruby.

 

June 15th

Two days after I wrote the above, my husband was gone. It’s been only two weeks and I have wanted to write but I just can’t find the words. My world has been turned upside down. Less than three months ago we were selling our house and planning for retirement. Now I am moving once more, just me and my dog, and starting a life without the one who has been by my side for over 41 years. 

I stayed up until 3:30 one night last week, reading all the texts on his phone. All the little conversations we had about what to eat for supper, reminders to feed the dog, ideas for the weekend, don’t forget eggs.  Then I found a 43 minute clip that was unknowingly recorded. I’m pretty certain he never knew it. It was us – going through a drive-thru near our house, eating fries until we got home, talking to the dog, laughing, burping, just being. Just being together. 

 

June 29th

And though I can’t find words, my seven year old granddaughter found some. Beautiful words. This is what she wrote:

 

Sunshine

You’re the sunshine in my heart

I wish you never left me…

I sometimes wish you are here

Why wouldn’t you stay?

Wait until dawn for you to arrive…

Sunset – you should be here!

I guess you don’t belong here

My heart is beating hard as a drum

Sunshine in my heart

You are part of my family

 

New World

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Spring – 2014

 

we talked of a new normal

as we hid in our homes

but, the old still abided

in the hearts of those who love

good news cheered us everyday

the drive-by birthday greetings

teddy bears on display

meals freely delivered

a husband who stood outside the window

of his wife’s room

where he could no longer go

there, on either side of the glass,

they sang Amazing Grace together

this was a sweet new normal

I didn’t  want to lose

but then that normal

changed for my world

the words pancreatic cancer

turned my world upside down

now we are back home

but not the way we dreamed of being

our days are filled with tests and procedures

and the endless repetitive questions

name? birthdate? 

have you had fever, chills, change in taste or smell?

and I see the hollow look in the eyes of my love

the one who has been by my side for over 41 years

the one who protected me

kept me from falling when I lost my way

and all I want to do is to

take away the sadness

 

A lot of of packin’

 

A lot of movin’, A lot of rollin’
A lot of drivin’, A lot of strollin’
A lot of leavin’ here
A lot of arrivin’ there
Trying to go just about everywhere
A lot of thinking about where I’m going next

I could add a whole verse here about a lot of packin’ :

A lot of packin’, A lot of sortin’

It’s nerve rackin’, We’re transportin’

A lot of leavin’ there

A lot of arrivin’ here

Goin’ on a lot of love and prayers

A lot of thinking about where we’re goin’ next

 

I’ve wanted to write a post for a while but have been so overwhelmed by life. To try to make a long story short, I’ll share my husband’s facebook post.

From my husband…

As some of you are aware, I put in for retirement effective June 1 and we placed our home on the market. The house went under contract immediately and we close on 5/19/20.

Unfortunately a few weeks ago I was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. We have consulted with UAB oncologists and decided to return to Jax, FL as planned and I have an appointment at Mayo Clinic this Thursday.

I wish all of you the very best in all life as to offer. Angie and I covet your prayers for strength, wisdom and that the Lord be glorified in our circumstances.

According to the Scripture all ‘our days are numbered’ so whether mine are few or many “I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for my sins…”

Please forgive me if I ever offended you in anyway, it is never intentional but still there is no excuse.

I pray his blessings upon each of you.

 

So, here we are in Jacksonville. We are home. One more night in a hotel and we move into an apartment for six months.  This is not the move we planned. We were going to buy a house -our last home -in Jacksonville with cash so we would have no mortgage payment going into retirement. God had others plans. And He has provided for us.

My husband will start chemo next week. Our lives will be much different. But I look forward to a sweet time.

There have been many silver linings in all of this. I have seen God’s providence. Had there not been this “pandemic” our two daughters would not have been free to come help us as they have. We have seen amazing things with these two girls. Young women. Their love and care for their dad and me has been overwhelming. From cooking, packing, and making phone calls for me to massaging feet, taking vitals and tracking meds and food for their dad, they have been here for us. I could never have done it without them.

Our sons, too, have poured out love and help on us. Our oldest with his nursing skills has been a comfort to lean on, traveling back and forth from Tampa, which is NOT a hop, skip, and jump away.   The younger son, thankfully working a new job, maintains constant contact and cheers us up. A few weekends ago they were all at our house in Bham. It was the first time we had all been together in over 13 years.

Silver linings and blessings from God.

 

 

That’s Good

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My Juliette – 2019

Back on April 5th, the prompt for NaPoWriMo  was quite complicated.

“It’s called the “Twenty Little Poetry Projects,” and was originally developed by Jim Simmerman. The challenge is to use/do all of the following (the list followed)  in the same poem. Of course,  if you can’t fit all twenty projects into your poem, or a few of them get your poem going, that is just fine too!”

I got most of them in. Stuff like: Begin the poem with a metaphor. Use the proper name of a person and the proper name of a place. Use a word (slang?) you’ve never seen in a poem. Create a metaphor using the following construction: “The (adjective) (concrete noun) of (abstract noun) . . .”.   Refer to yourself by nickname and in the third person. Use a phrase from a language other than English. And a bunch more.

Here’s the final product:

That’s Good

today is a loaf of bread
the sky’s fresh-baked goodness calls out
and lures you, Juliette, to come and play
to Siesta Key’s pure white sand
today is a pie
it’s chocolate-pecan-apple all over
today is a mere slice of bread
just a taste of life in the sun
I closed my eyes and you were gone, Juliette
it gave me the frissons
the tender band of hope reached out
but it didn’t touch
Juliette, you soar above the ocean
you will rise above us all
Mae watches helplessly
knowing you will come down
but not knowing where
your jellied wings will melt
Ca c’est bon
the pie speaks of love
the bread rises again 

April in my Heart

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Helena, AL

 

April. The month of poetry. The month we used to celebrate our mothers’ birthdays. The month we moved to Birmingham six years ago.

I’ve been writing poems everyday this month. In the midst of corona-craziness, it’s one of the things that calms me. Not to give them equal value, but God’s Word, poetry, sunshine, and fresh air get me through these uncertain days. I’ve been using three different sites for prompts each day: Writer’s Digest PAD, Poetry Super Highway, and NaPoWriMo.

The following poem was inspired today by NaPoWriMo.

 

I Love Us

 

Sometimes it’s hard to say it

I try to convey it

I try to show it

Though I know you know it

 

I love us

The very thought of us

We are two peas in a pod

Though we are flawed

I am awed

At how we are still in this together

 

I love us

We are more than love like the movies

We are groovy

Stuck like glue

Each day new

Who knew?

All those years ago

We saw each other across the dance floor

And you asked for

My number

 

You weren’t so great at disco

We didn’t want to go to Frisco

But oh those Redwoods trees

The Pacific ocean breeze

We make each other laugh

In all those photographs

And memories

 

I love us

We made some precious babies

Grand-babies

No maybe

About it 

 

I love us

We’re an A-plus

Top grade 

Like a sweet dessert

A crisp dress shirt

A little bit introvert

A little bit extrovert

 

I love us

We’re a Pulitzer Prize

Flying blue skies

Over Montana’s mountains

And Savannah’s fountains

Our love

Fits like a glove

Just a couple of

lovebirds

 

I love us

Our records and roses

Touching noses

A glass of fine wine

Hearts intertwined

 

I love us

So romantic

Hearts gigantic

Peanut butter and jelly

Lots of belly

Laughs

 

I love us

I’ll always love us

For-e-ver

 

Four boys born in the days of COVID-19

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I know four little boys born within about a week of each other. Each one precious in the sight of the Lord. Each one with families who love them. It keeps reminding me that yes, life goes on.

First is Ryker, born to a young man, Jarrod, whom I have known since he was about nine months old.  He holds a special place in my heart. Jarrod has had a lot of ups and downs in his life, but he is now a wonderful father who is following Christ.

Next is Elijah. His daddy is also special to me because I got to know him as we went through the new members class at our church. Then he got married and is now a father of two. Elijah’s mommy, if she has her way, will be sure he grows up to be a Harry Potter fan. 🙂

Born the same day as Elijah, Henry is sorta related by marriage. Henry was born with a fairly severe birth defect and has already undergone one surgery with flying colors. I’ve known Henry’s daddy since he was a boy and he, too, has grown into a fine young man.

The last one is closest to my heart. My niece, Ella, had baby Wyatt at only 27 weeks. He weighed two pounds, 10 ounces. I love every picture I see and can’t wait to meet him.

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I was cast upon You from birth.
From My mother’s womb
You have been My God. -Psalm 22:10

 

In this time of fear and uncertainty, we can be sure of one thing:

The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed,
A refuge in times of trouble. – Psalm 9:9

 

Except for that pesky virus…

Hurricane  Andrew

from Los Angeles Times

 

August, 1992, was when we moved from Orange Park to Lake Wales, Florida. The  second week there our youngest celebrated her third birthday. Then south Florida was hit by Hurricane Andrew. Though it was south of us, it was frightening watching it unfold on the news, tracking its path, just in case. Which is what we always do in Florida.

 

“Except for that pesky hurricane, Andrew, the summer of 1992 was magic.” – Rick Bragg

 

Today we are once again watching a story unfold that is bigger in scope than the hurricane. It sometimes seems distant, this coronavirus, but not for long. Most times it seems like it’s at our doorstep. But, we couldn’t stop the hurricane, or all the other hurricanes, so we just prepared the best we could. Same as today.

In 2004, we hunkered down with our newlywed son and his bride when Charley came barreling toward us. This time it was one day before that youngest daughter’s birthday. And the same day our older daughter arrived home from overseas, landing in Orlando in the midst of the chaos.

That was the year that three hurricanes crossed over our home in Winter Haven. Charley – Frances – Jeanne.  Ivan also hit Florida north of us.

I don’t really know what point I’m making here except that I am grateful God has brought us through all these storms. I am praying he will bring my family safely through this current storm. I want to be able say, like Rick Bragg, that except for that pesky virus, the spring of 2020 was magic.

 

Bookcase Browsings #6

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Boy and Dog Snuggled in Blanket (C. 1925) – from Norman Rockwell’s American Children by Marian Hoffman

“William’s mother always said, ‘The illness just has to run its course.’ This may have been true, but there were comforts that could be provided to help pave the way to better health.” 

In the front of this book there is an inscription:

To Papa Graham  

From Benji

Christmas Eve Dec. 24, 1990

My dad really enjoyed this book and I plan to pass it on, or back, to the giver, my son, Ben. I love the picture above. It reminds me of my Ruby and what a comfort she is. I don’t need to be sick to enjoy her snuggles. Of course, she benefits, too, as she gets to be on the soft, comfy bed.

I wish we could just say coronavirus “just has to run its course”. In a way it does, but it’s not a JUST when it’s affecting someone you love. Hang in there,work and pray, get your sunshine and fresh air, and snuggle your pet.

Bookcase Browsings #5

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Girl Sick in Bed (1937) — from Norman Rockwell’s American Children by Marian Hoffman

 

Kids are home, or at grandma’s. Teachers (including substitutes like me) are home.  It’s not a vacation but I am seeing some of the upside. Yesterday as I walked Ruby in the neighborhood I saw two young teen girls walking a dog. I’m pretty sure I recognized the dog, which means these girls were probably staying with their grandma. I saw two tiny boys walking with their grandma. On two roads where, in six years, I’ve never seen a kid, I saw boys on bicycles. Seeing all these kids makes me happy. I know they are home for a very uncomfortable reason, but it is heartening to see them getting the sunshine and fresh air that is so good for us.

In chapter two, Sick Days, of  Norman Rockwell’s American Children by Marian Hoffman, the picture above  is accompanied by a story. Here is an excerpt:

“During the time Julia was sick, Joanna stopped by after school to drop off the day’s homework. Julia wondered why she still had to do homework when she wasn’t allowed to do anything else. “

I’ve seen a gazillion different takes on what kids should be doing during this time. I understand that not all homes will be concerned about the kids’ education while they are home. Some are just wondering how to survive the financial crisis. My opinion, as a teacher and mom and grandma, is that I’d much rather see a kid on a bicycle, or reading a book of their own choosing, or just hanging out with grandma, than plowing through a bunch of meaningless worksheets. For highschoolers, maybe they do need to keep up with some of the academics.

As a sub, a sort of “fly on the wall”, I can tell you that there is so much wasted time at school that if you added it up it would probably be about as much as the time these kids will be home. But the time at home will be better spent.