Friday, October 30, 2015

The Call Came...

RtoL: Uncle Richie,Aunt Gerald,Aunt Betty, My Dad!
note: only Aunt Betty is alive

Matt. 8: 26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.

The Call Came…

Let me say first, if you have recently lost a beloved soul, read no further as I don’t want you tearing up and opening old wounds. God be with you.

The call came last night after we had just finished watching Casper. Poignant lines rang throughout the movie such as:

Kat: What's it like to die?
Casper: Like... being born, only backwards. I remember, I didn't go where I was supposed to go. I just stayed behind, so my dad wouldn't be lonely.

Amelia Harvey: James, I know you have been searching for me, but there's something you must understand. You and Kat loved me so well when I was alive that I have no unfinished business, please don't let me be yours.

Kat: “My mom. Just certain things. The sound of her making breakfast downstairs. The way she'd put on her lipstick, so carefully. I do remember, she always used Ivory soap, and when she'd hug me, I'd breathe her in, so deep. And I remember before I'd go to sleep she'd whisper in my ear, "stardust in the eyes, rosy cheeks, and a happy girl in the morning."

This brought memories flooding back; like my dad wearing Old Spice, his favorite cologne; after Bethlehem Steel closed down him and I spent many mornings home and he’d often make his famous Omelet, never leaving the fresh vegetables and dashes of this and that out; the aroma of the kitchen while said breakfast was being cooked but most of all I remember his tight hugs where puffs of cologne would kiss my cheek.

After the movie ended my mother called. This was one of our nightly calls when she got home from the hospital where she would tell me how my father was this day and I’d remind her to take her medicine. My dad wasn’t good this day. He slept through my mother, sister, brothers and aunt who were visiting. His hand would twitch, his toes would move and he squeezed my mothers’ hand as she whispered memories to him. She told him she would be okay and that it would be okay if he passed. Her last words to him were, instead of I’ll see you tomorrow, “I’ll see ya when I get to heaven.”

Everyone left the room and the halls fell silent as visiting hours were over. She went home and called me. She was finally eating some food and sounding like her old self (no, not with her mouth full), feeling not so sad and just trying to make peace with letting go of the man she adored for sixty years. I didn’t cry too much and tried so hard to stay stoic and in charge of my being. I again reminded her to take her medicine; we said our ‘I love you’ and I told her to call me if anything happened. She was exhausted.

I don’t even think 20 minutes passed when the phone rang again. I said, “There’s the call.” I knew who and what it was going to be and sure enough it was my mother in tears, pain leaking through the phone like a raining night and a hole in the umbrella. She told me how she had just laid down and was falling asleep when she felt someone touch her foot, she jumped and the phone rang with the devastating news of her husband, her best friend, had passed away. I guess that was my dads way of saying goodbye to her.

She made the necessary calls, me being one of them. I then called my brother, then my mother called again. We sat on the phone until 11:30 est. time when she said she wanted to rest. She just wanted to be alone; alone with her thoughts. I understood but I didn’t want to let her go. I wanted to be there hugging her tightly and NEVER let her go.

It’s been a long road my dads illness, and the last two weeks of him wanting to go home but the doctor not allowing it have been agonizing pain for all involved but I felt a blessed comfort wash over me when I knew, the call came…he was called HOME!

Be at peace, Dad…inhale the breath of heaven.

Psalm 23:1-6 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

To my father...

from google images

Psalm 46:2 ~ Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

I cannot stand...

I have our heartfelt memories
Stored inside my heart
I cannot stand and watch you
Being slowly torn apart.

There is a soft wind blowing
A fragrance in the air
Heaven calling out to you
I cannot stand to bear.

I cannot stand and watch
The lighthouse falling down
Brick by brick dismantled
Without its shining crown.

I cannot come and be there
To stand right by your side
I’m in the best place for you
And that is right inside!

I stand along the shoreline
And watch your light go dim.
I see the angel’s calling out
In a radiant glorious hymn.

I love you, Dad!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Letting go

Isa. 38:18 For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.

Letting Go…

On October 16th my dad went into the hospital. Being so far away is hard but I imagine not as much pressure as on the ones who have to be there day in and day out and watch the lighthouse of their life crumble before their eyes. When he went in he had told my mother that he wouldn’t be coming back home. She just shrugged it up to his tiredness.

Like water in a clogged drain, my father kept going down, slowly and exhaustively. My mother was tiring but kept holding on to the threads of her husband who was once vital in their daily walk of life. For sixty years they were one for each other. No one else in the world seemed to exist and he was her lighthouse that she sought out in the dark.

By the 23rd she held onto hope that he would be coming home, not in the condition he went in but much worse off than what he was before entering the hospital. Her daily visits to the hospital, by either my sister or brother, were tiring for her but she kept going on, no matter what, she was holding onto hope that he’d be coming home.

I’ve called twice a day for the last two weeks and what I heard on the other end was not good. He had slept and slept and on a rare occasion would wake then drift off to sleep. He went from ICU to a ‘room’ then back to ICU and then back to a room.

Ironically his first room number was 405. Our address growing up and where we resided for almost 30 years was 1405. The next room he was put in was 317, the time of my first child’s birth/death. Also, it was the same floor and same hospital where my grandmother died one room over in 316 a few years ago.

My feeling in my sunken heart was that this is it; this will be the week my father dies. I cried, I sobbed like a baby, hoping beyond hope my feelings were wrong. By the 25th my mother had seen a ray of hope, my dad sat up and talked. He sat in the chair (as opposed to lying helpless in the bed) and conversed. By Sunday he was back to sleeping hours on end, not looking as good as he had the day before.

By Monday the 26th there was talk of putting him in a hospice because there was nothing they could do. He was now seeing people who weren’t there and talking gibberish in his sleep. They were going to take him off the defibrillator because his heart is being overworked. The doctor said this is a painful step as his oxygen is minimal and his heart is pumping at abnormal rates. His blood pressure would drop to a deathly low then soar to an astronomical high. Would he make it through the night? The doctor’s and all around him said no!

The call came in that they had to make a decision to turn the defibrillator off. I spoke to my mother and said is this what you want. After I told her to let him go in peace not pain and the conversation ended with he’d be taken off the life source keeping him alive.

I called my brother, the black sheep whom no one has conversed with, and told him the defibrillator would be turned off and that he wasn’t expected to make it through the night. We cried, we laughed, we spoke of old times, and we mourned. I hung up the phone and drained remaining tears as I let my father go. I would sit and wait impatiently for the call that my father had passed. It never came.

Instead, at nine p.m my mother called and said they DIDN’T turn the defibrillator off. My father had awakened and said not to touch it, he just wanted to go home. This is something impossible since they can’t send the machine home with him to keep him alive. I believe there is another aspect of… affordability. The hospital has done all it can, told the family the options, and they are releasing him to the unknown. Ten to fifteen hours of sleep, the machine alone keeping him alive, pain and suffering abound, the heart and lungs trying to pump the very last second of life as the host lay waiting to take his last breath.

My mother said he was not supposed to make it through the night even with the defibrillator keeping him alive. My day and night was spent mourning like a baby who lost their first puppy.

After calling my mother twice in the early morning and not getting an answer, wondering if he was alive or dead, I waited the entire day of the 27th for ‘the phone call’ that never came. Instead at 5:30 she did call to tell me that they put him back in a room, #316 by the way, and that he was having hallucinations, unable to eat whole food because he was choking on it, then sleeping for hours on end.

I’ve struggled with the decision to put him at rest but it had to be done to face the inevitable. I woke feeling a peace around me because I had let my father go. I don’t know where his destination will end, I cannot be certain because his destination is his; it is between him and God

Today the 28th they will decide to put my father in a hospice against his wishes (remember he just wants to go home), to live basically on life support. The ones back home have had to make this heart wrenching decision. I cannot fathom what they are enduring and the guilt of not being there is sometimes overwhelming but I feel peace because I’ve done the hardest part on my end and that is… I let my father go.

Lam. 1:20 Behold, O LORD; for I am in distress: my bowels are troubled; mine heart is turned within me; for I have grievously rebelled: abroad the sword bereaveth, at home there is as death.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dysfunctional Family

Luke 17:3 “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.”

Family

Many know of the circumstances of my family. I’ve said over and over again we’re not a tight knit, religious in any way family but oftentimes that leaves people scratching their heads and saying “What?”

Let me paint a picture: I have an older brother, J, who is 59 and living in Tennessee somewhere. I haven’t spoke to him in about 13 years and there really is no doorway to communication for reasons I won’t elaborate.

Then there is my second eldest, T: He’s an oxycontin addict/alcoholic living somewhere in Baltimore doing the ‘house squatting’ thing ie: moving from house to house, flopping wherever he can.

Then there is Ja who I just spoke to yesterday. (more about him later)

There is M who is married to a woman 16 years his senior living happily high on life in the ‘we’re doing great ignoring you’ world.

Then there is my sister, T, who is wrapped up in her family struggling to be everything for my mother and father. I haven’t spoke to her since June when her grandbaby was born.

What a mixed up mess, eh? There you have it, altogether six non-communicative siblings and a dying father and a disabled mother. I call my mother daily and I have for the thirteen years since I left home for brighter horizons. Little did I know I’d be out here, in the middle of nowhere with the inability to ever return home ie: my birthplace.

Last week when my father fell ill, I thought he’d be home by Sunday but he wasn’t so I took it upon myself to notify Ja. (I’m using initials to protect their privacy) Ja had no idea my father was sick, no one felt the need to inform him and he thanked me.

Him and I were the closest of all siblings and as dysfunctional life proves, no one was happy seeing US get along and well, that is where a lot of resentment arose. Even my mother and father were annoyed of our friendship. And that is what it was, a friendship. I befriended the black sheep and no one else did. As always *I* was the lone warrior in an extremely dysfunctional family.

At one time in my life, I was the only one that spoke to EVERY single one of them. I was there for them, their kids, the parties, the births of their children, the godmother of two, the helper of all. Even my mother and father, I was the only one who was there for EVERY thing! When my brother Ja had a second child I thought I’d be a godmother for a third time but no, he asked my sister whom he was TRYING to be a friend to in some way. (Yeah, that didn’t work out for him so well as you can imagine.)

By the time I left home, it was MY time. I had to finally realize that there was no hope, no one left to LOVE the only way I knew how to love. I was branding myself a ‘self-imposed’ black sheep. The pain I went through the first six years or so after I left, no one knew, no one cared, no one called, I was alone without the crutch of the dysfunctional family.

Yes, *I* called, I cared and I still tried to hold onto the crutch until I couldn’t hold onto the nothingness any longer and let it slip through my fingers like liquid in a strainer. I had to let go to embrace the new family I had joined and was welcomed into with open arms. I am not judged out here in the middle of nowhere. I’m not expected to do and be more than I can be and isn’t that what life is all about really? Being accepted for who you are?

“And the day came when, the risk to remain in a tight bud, was more painful than the risk it took… to BLOSSOM.” ~ Anais Nin

My brother and I spoke for well over an hour yesterday. He went on and on about his kids, his life and how much he strives to be the father to his kids that my father wasn’t to us. He asked about the siblings and he was shocked to find out that our sister lived not far up the road from him and that three of her kids lived there with her. I did tell him that I didn’t want to come home and see my father in an urn or a coffin and he understood. Completely understood.

I did get to squeeze into the conversation that sometimes I had to walk with a cane because of arthritis in my back and he was like, “Wow, how old ARE you?” Then we went over the siblings’ ages and whatnot, finally ending the conversation with the ‘I love you’ and stay in touch jargon.

After the call ended, I was hit smack dab in the forehead with realization. None of them know me. Do they know I’m a writer? I’m the editor of a newsletter? Do any know of my pain and suffering with arthritis? Do any of them care about MY life or that I’m even alive?

I got the answer from my Father in heaven on whether I should return home to see my family. NO was plain and clear not much unlike my father on earth had said when asked if I should come home, “Maybe next time.”

Don’t pity me or misunderstand where I’m coming from, I am at PEACE with every decision I’ve made in my life and I WILL go on living the life that God Himself has etched out for me.

“Trust yourself. You’ve survived a lot and you’ll survive whatever is coming.”
 ~ Robert Tew

Monday, October 26, 2015

Helpless!

4 Ezra 2:27 “Be not weary: for when the day of trouble and heaviness cometh, others shall weep and be sorrowful, but thou shalt be merry and have abundance.”

HELPLESS

There is no other word to describe how I’m feeling right now. Helpless! One single word. Oh, I’m feeling a river of emotions but helpless is at the top of my list.

I’ll start with… my dad is dying. Don’t be so negative you might say but as you my readers well know, I’m the optimistic one. I always see the bright spot in any given circumstance and I’m struggling so hard to dig through the gray mire and find some sunshine to cling to here.

A little background: My dad had heart surgery twenty years ago and he’s had a stent placed on an artery of his heart, he’s survived throat cancer, five years clean now, and he also suffers with emphysema. He’s been on oxygen for quite awhile now and last week he was taken to the emergency room because he couldn’t breath, his oxygen wasn’t working. He was told to use the oxygen when necessary and my dad used it 24/7. Little did he know that THAT was doing more harm than good.

A little over a month ago when he had his visit with the Cardiologist, the doctor looked at him and said, “I can’t believe you’re still alive.” You see, all the x-rays show my dad has a heart that looks like a mangled car wreck but it is still driving.

Last Friday, as the doctor did his work, and the nurses did theirs, day after draining day I sat here feeling helpless. You see, I can’t just hop on a plane and go see my father. I’ve made ample use of my phones free minutes on the weekend and the not free minutes during the week. I have called and talked to him, talked to my mother and well… no one wants me home for fear my father will get the impression that he’s dying. If everyone comes and sees him, since no one sees him while he’s alive, coming to visit will surely speak volumes that he is near death.

Tuesday my mother had offered to pay for my trip back home but later when I told her the astronomical airfare prices, she quickly said, “I can’t afford that!” I understood but was hurt nonetheless. I think I overestimated the quote I gave her not knowing $1500 was for three adults, three days, round trip.  And that is not including the hotel I’d need to stay at or the rental car that we’d need. No, going home just isn’t an option.

Then there’s MY disability that would hinder travel. I can’t just be squished onto a tight-seated plane with the arthritis in my back. A three hour car drive to Omaha then boarding the plane to fly two or more hours only to have a layover in N.C. to take off again for another two hours of flying to Baltimore. After the flight I’d never be able to walk off the plane, with limited legroom, I’d definitely need a wheelchair. That is NOT how I want to visit my father, with not nearly enough time to ‘visit’.

Helpless! There IS no solution except prayer.

I had said on my Family Facebook page, “I might never get to see my family again.”

My sister retorted, “That was YOUR choice.”

Yes, I chose to leave Hell! I chose to find LOVE even if it took my last breath I would find and KNOW what love is, what family is all about, what my God had planned for me and I would not look back. Yes, MY CHOICE! That wasn’t my reply to her but something similar. I wrote, “Yes, I wanted to see what REAL love was and I found it.”

A dear friend who I confided in told me, “Joni, you don’t need that family, you have your family right there with you and your spiritual family to uphold you.”

He was right. As hard as it may be NOT going home to put my father to rest. I am at peace knowing that he knows I’ve found what I was looking for and he can die a happy man.

After writing, I don’t feel so helpless. Thank you sweet Jesus!

4 Ezra 12:5 Lo, yet am I weary in my mind, and very weak in my spirit; and little strength is there in me, for the great fear wherewith I was afflicted this night.

Sunshine Award

Sunshine award