Moments with Mama… I’m not Motherless.

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Just recently, I was at Mama’s, and on occasion, Daddy and I will go through a cabinet or drawer and see what in the world she’d tucked away.  In a cabinet we’d been in before was this photo, really big photo, hard to miss, but somehow we had.  I don’t know that I’d ever seen it before and I had to stop and take it in.  This is my Mama at the age she began dating my Daddy, just 18.  The date indicates it might be her senior photo, a time when her family struggled so desperately, I’m not even sure how they had this done but thank God they did.

 

Earlier this week, I posted on Facebook about my first motherless Mother’s Day approaching.  That word motherless nagged at me all day and I finally started to sob.  I realized what I had said was not true.  I realized that Mama probably begged to differ and probably shook her head and thought, “Well, just because I’m not there doesn’t mean I’m not… ‘there’.  I didn’t live with you all these years, invest in your life, raise you, love you, to not leave my presence with you now that I’m gone.  You’re not motherless nor will you ever be.  I’ll always be your Mama and I’ll be your Mama when you get to where I am.”

I realized at that moment that I was far from motherless and would never be close.

No one could ever be motherless, right?  It’s like the chicken and the egg, and I still don’t know which came first, but you get my meaning.  We all have or had to have a mother to get to this place.  She was the vessel by which God created us, He formed us in her womb. She was His before we were; she was His so we could become His.  That’s sort of the biggest job on earth.

But back to motherless… never.  Mama may not be walking on this planet in bodily form but she walks on this planet in everything I do.  She watches me as I write this and cry like a baby, desperately wanting to hold her hand or see her smile or hear her tell me how to cook, a daunting task that never really worked.  And she laughs.

Mama is in every room of her house, our house, the house she raised me in.  I think for a while I avoided going there for that reason and it’s still hard.  I see or talk to Daddy every day but walking in that back door is still the hardest thing on earth for me and I know that will change but for now, it’s hard.  Tomorrow we will spend the day there and it will be hard.  Yes, we’ll laugh and cry and remember, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy, just where we feel closest.

All those knick knacks, those darn roosters, which make me laugh, all those little odds and ends everywhere, she touched them all, she chose them, why we don’t know, but she did, so she is there.  Mama’s lipstick, one I kept because I sent the other one with her, still rides in my car.  She’s there.  Her chair still sits on the deck right where she left it, her car is still in the garage.  Her room remains untouched, her bed unslept in, her clothes still in the closet, her jewelry still in the drawer along with her makeup.  And Mama’s pajamas are still on the shelf….and sometimes I just go open that closet and look at them, lay my hand on them, and remember helping her into them, buttoning her shirt, and her smile as I did.  Sometimes in later months she’d give that quirky look and throw her hands up as if to say, “I don’t know why you’re doing this but, well, okay” and sometimes she put her arms on mine and would hold on to me as I held on to her, tighter as her strength faded away.  She is there.

Mama’s at the beach in the house she helped choose, the house she helped fix up, the house that she worked Daddy on every time they went, poor Daddy.  He’d fuss and she’d find something else for him to do.  She was there the first time we went as a family in 1999, so excited for her grandbabies to have a place to go, and every year since.  She fussed about the pink carpet that came with the house which according to Daddy was too nice to remove; thankfully we did:).  She is in the kitchen whipping up lunch, in the knick knacks again, the little boats and odds and ends, the signs she found, thankfully no roosters, but she’s there.  She was there in July when we walked her on the beach for her very last trip…. she is still there every time we pull in the drive.

And last Sunday, we visited, or should I say we went back to, Long’s Chapel, our home. We had no idea they were going to mention her in the service along with others who have passed this past year but they did, flowers up front, and chimes as they said her name.  And she was there, in the halls where she spent time, loved on others, served her Lord, and in the kitchen and fellowship hall where she cooked and served alongside some of the most Godly women and Mamas I know.  She was in the room where she helped me get ready for my wedding and on the front pew where she watched Daddy walk me down the hall.  Yes, she’s buried beside that wonderful place, but she was in that place.  I felt I was with her on Sunday and it felt good.

Some of these things are earthly, things we can touch, and some can only be felt with the heart.  Memories….

With Alzheimers, memories are just hard to explain.  It may be the same for those who’ve watched loved ones sick for years with any disease but for me, for us, it’s the pre-Alz memories and post-Alz memories.  Right now I still struggle to get back to the memories before Mama faded away, it’s like we lost her so long ago and maybe grieved that loss to a certain degree.  But right now I cling to the last few years Mama needed us so much.  It was a time that we could give back to her a small portion of what she had given us.  I’ll live in those right now, even those years have some of the most precious memories I possess, and time will bring it all back together eventually.

I am blessed while on this earth without Mama, she left many friends, and I have many Godly women, who have treated me like their own, who are always sending me a little message or card, or just sharing a hug when I see them.  Because of them I have lots of Mamas who love on me in this time I am without my own, and I am grateful for every one.  And I hope to do the same for others…. I can pass out good ol’ Mama hugs too and will share mine any time you need one especially until you get one from your Mama one day, you just let me know if you need one.

Today, I apologize to Mama for saying I was motherless.  I know better.  I know that because of her, because of the life she lived, because of the good Lord putting me in her life,  I will never, ever be motherless.  I’ll always have Mama.  And on earth this weekend or in heaven one day, you’ll always have yours.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you.  Hug a little tighter, laugh a lot more, take LOTS of pictures, and if you need to cry, do it, but remember the memories and make new ones, so when you and I leave this earth, we’re still here, really, really here.

Love ya’ mean it:)

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Mama’s Shoes…

Mama will be gone a year next week.  As many of you can relate, it seems like ten years and it seems like last week.  Since she passed, we slowly but surely go through things of hers which never gets easier.  It’s funny what you learn about someone, even those you’ve loved your whole life, from what they leave behind.  Lord, the recipes and magazine clippings of things she wanted to buy, usually obvious gifts for someone (like me, her favorite😊) and little handwritten notes, tucked in every drawer, photos… And most of all, the cards she’d kept from people, including all of us, was unbelievable, drawers full, and sweetly, the blank cards were just as many, those she’d bought to send to others, notes she’d written to herself to send this person or that person a card.  That was my Mama with that sweet distinctive handwriting of hers.

The odd thing with Alzheimers though is that those things seem frozen in time.  They were there from the time she lost her memory years ago and were never moved unless she moved them, which she did in her fidgeting, but they were there for her right where she left them…. twice.

We’ve not brought ourselves to go through the closet in the bedroom yet.  We’ve tried.  Daddy and I have opened the door maybe twice, stood there in tears, and we shut the door.  It’s almost as if as long as her clothes are still there, she’s still with us in the house.  Time will allow it but not now and they’re not going anywhere.

Daddy and I opened her bathroom closet the other day where we had all kept her pajamas in those last years and the two or three pair of shoes that she wore, those that didn’t tie or zip, that could easily be slipped on, easy for Mama.  I won’t let anyone touch her pajamas yet….  for some reason, those pajamas… I can’t think about them or touch them without feeling Mama’s presence and crying.  I guess those are what I see her in those last few months as she puts her hands on my shoulders, as I help her slip into the pajama pants or button the top.  I still see her looking at me so helplessly letting me help her, confused but loving me, scared but loving me, and just letting someone else take care of her.

As we stood at that closet last week, there sat her black leather clogs I’d bought her.  She lit up when she saw them, much like she did everything, even if she didn’t like it, lol – it’s a Mama thing, right?  But they were so easy for her to slip on and she wore them.  They looked a little worn, not much, but for some reason I wanted them.  The next morning before church I kept thinking about those shoes and as I got ready, I knew I was going to wear them.  It’s hard for me to even type this now but as I started to slip them on, I couldn’t.  I stood and looked at those shoes and sobbed as I’m doing now.  I can’t explain it…  All I could think was wouldn’t it be incredible if we could put on other’s shoes and feel what they were feeling or think what they were thinking and maybe that’s what scared me.  I didn’t want to feel the fear she had to feel, the sadness she had to feel… if only I could have taken that away.

After a ridiculous amount of hesitation and walking around the house before leaving, I finally went back and got the shoes and put them on tears streaming down my face.  As silly as it sounds over an old pair of shoes, there were my Mama’s…. I was so glad I kept them.  If they in any way did allow me to feel her with me, those old shoes weren’t going anywhere.

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Moments with Mama… and the Godfather

279 days ago, Mama went to heaven.  Part of me wanted to run behind her and part of me left with her.  Alzheimers did all it could to take from us, and yes, it succeeded in taking two things most precious ~ Mama and her memories.  But she won in the end by gaining back her healed body and all of her memories; we won in that we still have our own, faded or not.  We still have our wonderful friends, some of whom we’ve never met in person, who have been where we were and where we are, who have comforted and encouraged us.  For those who have said the pain will never go away, it will just change – so far, so true.

I don’t cry every day but simple things get me started.  Because we live a half mile from our church, I ride by it every day, and I never miss saying “Hey Mama” as I do and I throw up my hand.  For some blessed reason, I can see her headstone and bright flowers all the way in the back and it makes me smile.  Mitch is not a crier (I told you he’s always been the oddball:) but he hurts.  He was Mama’s boy and it’s not something he wants to talk about often.  Daddy still cries almost daily and takes a rose to Mama once a week. He’s told us we’re in charge of continuing that as long as we’re able and I guess if he goes before us, we’ll have to take him little tractors or something when we take Mama’s roses.  But all in all, we are grateful, grateful Mama was able to take a ride seven days before she left us, that she was only bedridden six days, that we have each other, that Daddy is still 100 mph, okay, maybe 98, but he’s speedier than me and Mitch combined and has a much better memory.  And we all still laugh and cry together as a family just missing the puzzle piece that was part of the heart.  Eventually in God’s time, we’ll put the entire puzzle back together.

One of the things Mama always wanted to do was see the Grand Canyon.  A few months ago, Daddy talked often about wishing he had taken her.  One day I said, “Why don’t we just go?!” and as the words left my mouth, my heart raced at the thought of a plane crash, Daddy’s driving, my driving, Daddy’s ear-piercing ringtone going cross-country, being on a bus with strangers, figuring out the whole plan, but yes, “let’s do it!” So, come heck or high water, or should I say no gall stone or kidney stone, Daddy and I are embarking on a 16 day bus trip to the Grand Canyon!

Next week our adventure begins with 22 sites on the trip (and I sort of anticipate being the youngest one on the bus so that’s a bonus ego booster).

√ Housesitters lined up, Bald Eagle in charge (he seems rather excited, not sure why)

√ Tinkerbell taken care of (Daddy’s cat), she’ll be lost without him.

? Clothes… how do you pack for 16 days?!

√ Nerve pills

√ Camera

? Activity bag for Daddy on the bus… any toddler Moms got suggestions?

I joke but I know we’re going to make some amazing memories.  We are anxious about 16 days on a bus since neither of us are ever gone long, but Mama, she would be so excited. And I believe as we step up to the rim of God’s breathtaking creation, she’ll be looking at the canyon with us and take a breath herself, and she’ll cry, so happy that we made it.

I do ask for prayers for safety, peace, amazing sites, great people to meet, and lots of memories, lots! And that we’re still speaking when we get off the bus, hahaha.

Over the years, the grandkids and all of us have jokingly called Daddy the Godfather, not even sure why, but it stuck.  So as my journey of {mis}adventures with the Godfather unfolds, I’ll share a few updates along the way.  I apologize in advance!

Let the healing begin…. ♥

 

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Little notes…

Caroline’s birthday is next week and so odd it’s timing, I opened a journal this morning I’d not used in a while and in it was this note Mama had written herself obviously as a little reminder we needed to or were taking Caroline out on June 23rd.  The odd squiggly lines around it, so not Mama, can almost tell me what stage she was in…hard to think about…. along with the other things on the list like calling her doctor. I even miss that special little handwriting of hers (and those darn little crop notepads Daddy had everywhere:). Sometimes I write things and as I finish, I see little similarities in the way mine is changing over the years and it makes me smile. Miss you Mama…

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As the tassel turns…

20170612_073027One of my favorite writings is the one about the dash. I’m sure most of you have heard it but essentially it talks about the dash on our tombstones.  The date before the dash is of course the date we entered this world and the date after is the date we leave it.  The dash represents our life in between those dates.  Ever since I read that years ago, I never look at a tombstone the same.  I always find myself glancing at the dash, wondering about the person, what their dash contains, like the one on my sweet Mama’s headstone.  I think about all the memories crammed into that little line.  If you’re reading this, we’re all still in the dash and cramming it full of something every day….  I say wow to myself, what in the world am I putting in that dash every moment I live.  What will my kids see when they look at my dash years down the road (hopefully a lot of years down the road!).

But back to my point… you know I’m a drifter.

As I think about graduation, the Dash comes to mind, and the similarities between it and the tassel.  No, the tassel doesn’t represent something as extreme as life and death, although to some high school students the parallels may be there, but what if each strand, each string on the tassel did represent memories, life as they’ve lived it so far, much like we’re doing on the dash right now.  There’s a strand for each year of school, the one for kindergarten graduation, for first best friends, and others along the way.  Maybe there’s a strand for each time they got an award, broke a bone, played in a ballgame, or scored a goal.  There could be strands for each concert or play they were in, dance recitals, sleepovers, Mama coming to eat lunch at school until they weren’t allowed to anymore.  There could be strands for the times they got caught doing something not quite right, the day they got braces and the day they got them off.  Strands for first loves, first heartbreaks, second loves, second heartbreaks, you get my meaning.  And there are strands for dances, proms, nights at the ballgames with friends, faces painted, crazy outfits for spirit week, meeting at favorite places to eat and laughing until they couldn’t laugh anymore… each strand a moment.  The list could go on and on and each child’s strands, while similar in some ways, each is uniquely theirs, each holds their memories, our memories, and there aren’t enough strands…. no doubt.

As my little boy’s hand reaches up tonight to move that tassel from one side to the other, as your son or daughter does the same, I’ll see my five year old turn into the young man he’s become.  I’ll see him clutch a whole lot of life in that big strong hand as he turns it to the other side, like turning the page to the next great adventure.  Yes, the tassel will come home and lay in a box or hang on the wall, or maybe hang on their mirror until it’s not cool anymore, which will probably be five minutes after graduation, but it will always hold that huge giant chapter of pages, the biggest chapter yet, but the first of many to come.

For those who have others still in school after this, I envy you.  I remember when my girls graduated, I was so thankful to have one more coming along, “a few more years with one at home” I’d say.  That was yesterday. For you, though, just remember that every day of these precious years, they are adding to their strands, to the tassel they will wear on graduation which, trust me, is really like tomorrow.

For months, I’ve joked about how much I was going to cry, how hard it was going to be, but you know, in jest is often the truth.  I know Dave’s retirement has played a part in my emotions, not the act of retirement, but the goodbye, the double goodbye, we’ll be saying.  Talk about a big chapter. Yes, the girls and I all walked those halls and made memories during high school but Chase’s chapter is different.  He walked those halls too, but he also ran them, hid in them, bounced basketballs in them, climbed on the roof of them, heard the loud speaker call his little name in them almost daily, from the time he was 8 years old.  Teachers adopted him, some probably tried to get rid of him, LOL, and a few saved him, I am sure.  I am grateful for every single one, just makes his tassel that much more full.

Good luck to all the graduates and prayers for a life to be well lived.  Fill your dashes with all the joy you can find, kick all the bad stuff off the dash every chance you get, and depend on the good Lord to balance you on it when it gets wobbly and you feel like you’re falling.  And every time you see that tassel, even years from now,  I hope you smile and remember every single strand.

Class of 2017…. Love you all!

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Moments with Mama… the Gift

mama-5281Twenty-four days ago, my Mama went to heaven.  It’s taken me these three weeks to put this on paper because it’s so precious to me and it’s hard to share right now… it’s on my heart every day.  When someone passes, there always seems to be interesting things that happen, signs either not noticed before or which appear afterwards as gifts.  And this was my gift.

Mama was one of the kindest people I know.  She did for us and others more than we could have asked, she loved on people daily, and people loved her.  But that being said, Mama was not a real sharer of feelings.  We didn’t have in depth conversation about how much we loved each other, although we told each other often, we just knew it. I’m just always pouring out my emotional bucket and she held hers closer which makes my gift so much more special as I would have never expected it.

The week before Mama passed was spent by her bedside as many of you have experienced with loved ones.  There were long days and nights, hours of sitting, dozing, watching her breath, making her comfortable, holding her hand, talking to her, brushing her hair….here I go again. None of that seems real now and is still hard to think about. It’s nothing anyone wants to do but I will treasure being able to spend those last days with her.  A couple of nights before she left us, I was just walking around the house lost, looking in random drawers for pictures, anything she’d touched or that mattered to her, anything with that distinctive handwriting she had…and that’s when I saw it and I saw my name.  It sort of took my breath for a second because I’d been through that particular drawer many, many times. I pulled the folded piece of paper from the drawer and on the outside it read…

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I even love the way she scratched out “my” Mother’s Day.  It reads “This is from Tracey on Mother’s Day 2005.  It is the sweetest letter and made me cry, and also made me grateful that she loves me this much.”  She was grateful that I loved her that much…  I barely remember writing the letter but I did it the year before Mom started experiencing visible symptoms of her disease.

In the last week of Mama’s life, I struggled with what I couldn’t do for her, and I still do. I fight feelings of whether we did the right things, could we have done anything to make it easier, to have kept her longer, but for what…  to live the life she was living which was a life she didn’t know?   I know deep down she knew I loved her but these last years, could I have done more, been there more?  I’m sure we all go through these feelings.  But to know in this moment as she laid in the bed a few feet away breathing in the last hours of her life, to know she knew is worth more than I can ever have imagined.

Thank you to God for giving me to the Mama He did. Mama, I miss you more than I can put into words. I want to call you, sit with you, hold your hand one more time, give you another cookie or a bite of ice cream…  I just miss you with all of my heart.  Leave me a trail of lipstick blots…  I sent it with you just so you could.

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The letter I wrote to my dear sweet Mama on Mother’s Day 2005, the woman I was so proud to call my own:

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Moments with Mama… the Bouquet

I share this here so I can keep it with memories I’ve kept of Mama.  I wrote it a few nights ago, a short time before she left us.  I was watching her breath, her little heart struggling, andScreenshot_2015-12-27-21-40-04-1 I was trying to envision her journey as she left us here and went to heaven. Daddy then asked me to say a few words at her funeral (me, a few words…) so I felt led to share this but as we were entering the chapel, I realized it had not printed entirely.  I gasped, literally, but then a peace came over me only from Him or her that reminded me I’d written it from my heart so I shared it the best I could from my heart, I could still see it there.

….for my Mama.

 

The Bouquet

As your soul leaves this earth, I see you entering a field.
Its vastness is to the horizon, the sun is bright.
The field is full of the most beautiful flowers as far as you can see, too many to count.
I can see it.

As you start to walk through, the flowers seem to be calling to you.
You stop to pick one.

As you look at it, you see a memory.
You see your Mama rocking you as a baby.
And the smell of the flower is so sweet.
You smile and hold it to your heart.

You walk a little further to pick another one, not sure what is happening.

As you choose the next one, you see in it yourself sitting in your Daddy’s lap.
And the smell of the flower is so sweet.
You smile and hold it to your heart.

As you continue ahead, flowers in hand, your steps get faster because
you see one beautiful memory in each flower you choose.
Your heart races to see the next one.

There is one of your Mama helping you with your wedding dress,
and another of Daddy standing at the end of the aisle.
You smile and skip to more.

You pick another one and in it is the day you moved into your home where
you would raise your family.
You hold it, you smile, and continue ahead.

There’s one for the day your son was born and then your baby girl.
These make you so happy.
The smell of the flowers is so sweet, you bring them to your heart.
You smile.

Suddenly, ahead, you see six glorious tall sunflowers, standing far above
the others in the field.
You run to them, your heart beating faster, and in each one is the day
a grandchild came into your life.
You smile, and hold these close, the joy overwhelming.
And the smell of the bouquet becomes so much sweeter.

You choose one flower after another until you don’t think you can hold anymore.
You stop, you turn to look behind you, and the flowers
are spread out like eternity, too many to begin to count.
You realize they’re all memories, a life well lived and loved.
You smile.

As you turn to walk ahead, you realize there are still flowers
but they are fewer and farther between, sparse in the field ahead.
Your heart is still full but you are not sure why there are less.

You slow your step and pick one that’s beautiful.
In it you see Mitch coming through the back door calling out
“Hey Mama” and handing you a bouquet, you hold that one to your heart.
You smile.

You walk a little further ahead and you pick the next flower.
You see Tracey driving you around town, giving you a cookie,
and singing a silly song.
You chuckle.

A distance ahead is another one you feel you must have.
You choose it and in it you see your brother holding your hand,
tears in his eyes, and you feel how much he loves you and will miss you.
You smile because you love him too.

And spread throughout this field are random flowers,
each one holding a memory of people who held you close,
whom you held close…..
the special people who married your children,
your friends and family whom you loved with all your heart and who loved you,
each sweet lady who cared for you in your darkest hours.

As you start to get closer to the end of the field,
the flowers coming to an end,
you look up to see the most magnificent flower of the field.
It draws you closer and you run, your heart racing…

As you pick it, you see Daddy holding you, and singing
“I love you a bushel and a peck.”

You smile.  You laugh.  You cry.  You clutch the bouquet to your heart.
You look down and realize your tears are on each flower.
But you smile, the smell of the bouquet so sweet.

You realize this vast field, the magnificent bouquet,
represent more love and memories than one person can hold.
You know you were blessed.
You smile.

You leave the field and hear your name.
You look up to see your Maker waiting, arms outstretched, calling to you.
You run to Him bouquet in hand, so full, and He holds you.

You thank Him for the flowers, the memories, the love.
And He holds your face in His hands as He says,
“Child, you are welcome. I planted each one with only you in mind.”

You smile because you are home.

 

Mama, I love you with every ounce of my soul and I already miss you more than I ever thought was possible.  I thought I missed you so much these past few years as you left us but it was nothing compared to missing the touch of your hand or seeing the smile on your face.  I pray that I can be at least half the person you were and would want me to be but I’m not sure it’s possible.  Be there waiting for me,  I’m counting on it!  

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Moments with Mama…the Gift

This week, I experienced something that may seem so insignificant to some, especially if you’ve not seen how much Mama has changed this summer, how little she’s responding in her movement and expression, but to me, it was the memory I’ll cling to past the end and I’ve learned if I don’t write it down, well, you know.
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Dave and I arrived at Mom and Dad’s as Patty was feeding Mama a little ice cream.  Mama was in Daddy’s recliner which she has now hijacked from Daddy and which we find comical; it’s become her spot.  As is the norm now, she had almost no movement, other than to turn her head to look at us; she had no attempt to hold the spoon, no attempt to wipe her mouth.  She just took in the little spoonfuls and tried to swallow.  When Patty finished, I went over and sat beside Mama and held her hand.  As the TV was going in the background and the others were talking, I looked her in the eyes and talked quietly to her as she stared at me intently.  I’ve found so often lately the quieter we talk to her, the more she “hears” us and focuses on us. She would occasionally try to smile or even chuckle which can be her automated response at times and then immediately turn it off as quickly as it came.  I told her how much I used to love laying my head in her lap and her rubbing my hair and I asked her if she remembered that knowing there would be no response but we still ask.  She stared at me.  I then started to rub her hair, that gorgeous gray hair of hers of which she’d be mortified it was not frosted as it has been all those years, but she seemed content. After a few minutes, I stopped, and just laid my head down on the arm of the chair beside her and looked away from her thinking she was about to doze off.  I was lost in thought, in the TV, in the conversation in the room, when I suddenly felt Mama’s hand move and then feebly, she raised it and laid it on my head.  I can barely type this…. it sounds so simple but to my heart, it was monumental, because those movements are gone and have been gone.  I froze.  She raised her hand enough to lay it on my head and in her feeble effort, tried to rub my head, and grasp a curl next to my face.  I didn’t want to move or even breathe because I didn’t want her to stop but I called for Daddy to see it and we couldn’t believe it.  It didn’t last long and her hand shook as she did it but it seemed an eternity to me.  When she stopped, I let her hand stay there a moment, and then I turned to look into her eyes and said, “You remember, don’t you?” and she smiled.  She smiled.  She smiled.  I know she remembered…
I can’t adequately explain all that was going through my mind at that moment.  For so long, she’s been drifting further and further away, no responses other than occasional attempt to say something, unable to raise her hands to hug except feebly on occasion… imagine hugging your Mama and she is unable to hug you back…  but to know her mind allowed her for those brief moments to not only understand what I’d said but to remember what I’d said long enough to respond with a physical act of love… it makes me want to jump up and down, cry, hang on…  such tiny moments that created the greatest gift!  I am thankful to Mama but I’m so thankful to God for giving her those few moments, for giving me those few moments.  It’s the little things that become the biggest things… I love you Mama.
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Moments with Mama…letters to Linda

Mom’s doctor made a house call today to see what had changed with her in these last couple of weeks.  When he left, we were all changed.  He told us he’s fairly certain she’s had a stroke.  We were not really shocked because a couple of weeks ago, we saw drastic changes pretty much overnight.  She began swallowing less and with more difficulty, eating less, she began swaying and almost falling, she began responding less, and her weight has dropped more, along with other changes. And that Linda smile is almost gone entirely…I will say the day at the beach, she smiled, and she smiled a lot, that was a good day.  But we knew something new was taking place in that frail body of hers.

Anyway, her doctor has Hospice coming tomorrow to get us in their system and routine, to help us know what’s coming, to help us help Mama.  This does not mean she will be leaving us in the next few weeks, or even months, we really don’t know at this point, it’s not in our hands.  All we can pray is God’s mercy gives her peace and she feels loved in whatever time He has planned for her on this earth.

On a joyful note, today of all days, after Dr. Letvak left, my brother, Dad and I were trying to fix Daddy’s computer, a never ending and funny story.  And while we were in his room, something led us to a cabinet we’ve been in a hundred times.  In the cabinet, we found a tin Mitch and I swear we’ve never seen before, or never noticed, and in it were these….Screenshot_20160803-183734

all the letters and cards Mama and Daddy wrote to each other when Daddy was in the Army the first four years of their marriage.  I cannot tell you how ecstatic I am, how it feels to see Mama’s handwriting on the envelopes, the pages, to read HER words, to touch the paper where she wrote, and to know my Daddy took the time to write all those letters, the man who never slows down.  Knowing Daddy, I may be embarrassed to read a few of them, and some of you are nodding your head right now:), but I will read every word and I’ll soak it all in!

This task brings me joy… so I thank Jesus for a light on a very dark day.

Who knows, maybe I can share Letters to Linda once in a while (and just censor Daddy when necessary:).

Prayers for Mama and for Daddy….

 

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Moments with This Mama…

Well, it’s Mother’s Day, and I am grateful.

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To my first born child, the squeakiest baby I know, I love you.  You taught me how to hold your head, while Mawmaw and Pawpaw kept saying, “Now hold her head.”  You taught me carpet was not important, spit up was just spit up, and red hair could glow in the dark.  You taught me that eye rolling should be an Olympic sport and that you possibly missed your calling for Nascar.  You taught me you can possibly be the one to keep your siblings alive. And you taught me that God is so good… I know He is because He gave me you.  You are one of the kindest, most caring, funniest, most beautiful, and sweetest hypochondriacs I know, the steady in our family, whether you like it or not, a soul I love to watch, and you’re a friend anyone is blessed to have including me.  I am so, so thankful you are mine.  I could not be more proud of the person you are, honestly, and I feel you are a gift God gave us and there will be lives touched because of you; I know mine has been.  I love you Caroline.

To my middle sandwich child, my Sassafras, my Cassie Lou Eyes So Blue, I love you.  You taught me what I did to my parents and how to appreciate my parents more.  You taught me that being adventurous and daring is a good thing.  You taught me that throwing an ice cream cone is funny while chasing someone with a dangerous item in hand is not.  You taught me that independence is scary and bold and what life is all about.  And you taught me that God is so good…  I know because He gave me you.  You are one of the giggliest, prettiest, most soft-hearted, free spirited souls I know, a friend to make memories with, the one in the family that keeps us all on our toes and guessing what’s coming next while carrying on five conversations at the same time, and I am so, so thankful you are mine.  I could not be more proud of the person you are and I feel you are a gift God gave us and there will be lives touched because of you; I know mine has been.  I love you Cassie.

And to the baby, the spoiled, the anointed one (right girls?), I love you.  You taught me that boys are different, their sounds, their thoughts, their curiosities, that boys are fun in a different way… and you taught me that a boy can just envelope a Mama’s heart and hang on.  You taught me that bruises and knots on your forehead are normal and okay, that you can bat your eyes and have anything you want, that cooking Quesadillas for you at 7  in the morning are for my baby and something I’ll miss, and that watching you try to jump and touch the ceiling fan to touching the ceiling with a slightly outstretched arm were like watching a marathon runner run a race, and that you could love another girl but still love your Mama.  And you taught me that God is good…  I know because He gave me you.  You are one of the kindest, funniest, best hugging boys I know, handsome and big-hearted, and the final piece of our five part puzzle, and I am so, so thankful you are mine.  I could not be more proud of the person you are and I feel you are a gift God gave us and there will be lives touched because of you; I know mine has been.  I love you Chase.

p.s.  Oops, Chase’s paragraph is longer… sorry girls but you know how that goes:)

p.s.s.  Oh my gosh, God has been so good to me!

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Oh Mama…another Mother’s Day

As I sit here in the dark, Mama is asleep in the next room.

Mother’s Day is, well, not the same anymore, to say the least.

When I think of what Mama has lost, I can’t even take it all in.  69 years of a life before Alzheimers, 69 years gone.  Thankfully, we were part of those 69 years and we remember a lot of those.  But I think it’s the 8 years since that are the hardest, the things she’s missed as if she’s been gone…

not remembering Tyler graduating from college and seeing him move to Texas to start a wonderful career;

not remembering Caroline graduating from college and seeing her teach her own students;

not remembering Cassie living abroad and then coming home to work in our school system;

not remembering Evan graduating from college and now be in law school;

not remembering Haley graduating from high school, dance at ECU, and now be in nursing school;

not remembering Chase go through middle school, now high school, get his drivers license, and go to his first prom;

and not remembering all the millions of moments in between, eight Christmases, eight Thanksgivings, 64 birthdays between the twelve of us, eight Mother’s Days and Father’s Days, eight years of laughter, gifts, the potato soup, the spaghetti, the sweet tea, other things we’ve tried to make like yours and then the things we won’t attempt… but you don’t remember.  You’ve been robbed.

We’ve been robbed not getting to see her enjoy the absolute best years of her life, of seeing her enjoy her grandchildren, watching her travel with Daddy, take pies and casseroles to those who are sick or have lost loved ones, picking up friends and taking them to lunch, answering the phone to just remind me how to cook something, or what to do about this or that, seeing the flowers she planted in our yard without our knowing, seeing her hide presents for us that were found months after the holiday was gone, from just having our Mama and Nana… we’ve been robbed.  The world has been robbed of a sweet, sweet woman.

As I sit here in the dark, I desperately want to hear her voice one more time.  I can’t remember it anymore, it’s gone, what I would give to hear it just one more time.

But I sit here in the dark and know Mama is sleeping in the next room.

I am grateful to still be able to pick up Mama’s hands… the hands that tied our shoes, wiped our tears, changed our clothes, brushed our teeth and combed our hair, bathed us, led us wh20160508_060314ere we needed to go, drove us thousands of miles as needed…. all the things we now do for her.  Mama would rather not be here on this earth than to have someone do those things for her but we do them because inside, somewhere in that mind of hers, Mama’s there, and every once in a while, there’s a glimpse and even in that very brief moment, we just want her to know we all love her and miss her terribly and will for the rest of our lives.

I like to imagine while her body is here that her mind is already celebrating the victory in heaven, that as her mind fades, God takes that part of them on ahead to be with Him.  I can only imagine.  But all I know is the long goodbye is the hardest goodbye I’ve ever had to say.

For those of you just starting this journey, make recordings, write everything down, take pictures, ask questions… for in a moment, they’ll be gone.  Prayers for all of you as you start, go through, or finish this journey.  It’s one none of us ever wanted to take.

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Moments with Mama…and Little Debbie

My Mama was a great cook, she just never wanted anyone in the kitchen “under her feet” when she was cooking – that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.  Seriously though, Mama worked full-time as long as I could remember and came home tired and just wanted to get supper on the table.  At the time, I didn’t mind, but man do I wish I had followed her around a little more.  Much like many great cooks we all know, she was a “dash of this and dash of that” kind of cook.  Recipe?  Maybe.  Follow it?  Not likely.  I remember calling her many times after I got married and asking her how to fix this or not (it’s not cook, it’s “fix” y’all) and she’d tell me to just throw in this or that and I’d ask her how much.  She’d again say something like “just enough until it tastes the way you want it.” She did not get the concept that I was a 1/4 teaspoon, 1/2 cup kind of girl, and I still am. Granted, I venture out and throw in an extra dash of something now and then when I feel really brave but it often backfires… just ask my family.

Anyway, last week, our wonderful caregiver angel, Sharon, saw Mama go into the kitchen as she often does and mention the word supper.  She decided to stand back and watch Mama and as she did, Mama took out two paper plates and set them out carefully.  She got out two forks and two glasses, all meticulously and with thought in the process. Then, of all things, she went to the pantry and got out six packs of Little Debbie Swiss rolls and put three packs on both plates, a plate for her and a plate for Sharon.

About that time, Daddy came in the back door and asked her what she was doing and she mumbled something and again, the word supper appeared in there somewhere.  And then…

She got out a third plate, a third fork, and took a Swiss roll off each plate so they each have two packs each.

Another lucid moment, perhaps…. but it warms my heart to think of her for just a fleeting few moments remembering what she used to do fussing over supper if you will.  I miss all that fussing.

p.s.  We don’t know what the soup bowl on the left was for but she was probably thinking about serving another dish on the table:)

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Moments with Mama… God-sent moments

The Moments with Mama are ever changing and always hard to absorb.  Every day is a learning experience to which many of you can relate.  For going on a year now, we’ve not been able to understand Mama’s sentences or communication hardly at all.  We occasionally catch a word here and there but those are rare and we have to do a lot of guessing what she’s trying to say.  Night before last, however, we believe we had a God-sent moment, call it a clear spot in her brain that was lingering for just this moment perhaps, but nonetheless, God-sent.  Mama looked at Daddy with such clarity and said, “I want to talk to Bobby.”  My Dad’s name is Bobby but Mama also has one brother named Bobby with whom she’s always been very close until even he left her memory last year.  It’s been months since she would touch him on the arm and say, “you’re my brother.”  Unsure of which Bobby Mama was referring to, Daddy asked her,  “You want to talk to your brother, Bobby Cobb?” and she nodded yes.  Daddy got Uncle Bobby on the phone quickly and told him he didn’t know what was going on but his sister wanted to talk to him… still hard for me to take in.  Daddy handed Mama the phone, which is a tool she’s not recognized for years, but she held it to her ear.  Daddy watched her listen for a moment and then as clear as day she said, “I just wanted to make sure you’re okay.”   My Uncle Bobby has had some significant health issues in the last few years and I know it’s broken his heart watching Mama and her not knowing him but for this moment, whether it was for him or her, or even all of us, she did. We believe she did.   There’s not much more to add to this but thankfulness, truly.  We pray for more God-sent moments, and I’m sure we’ll look back and realize we had more than we even realize, but we’ll cling to this one for a long time.1970909_10201692512136130_231554371_n

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Moments with Mama…Linda and the Lipstick

Last night, Mama and I made our usual route around the big metropolis of Mebane.  Oh, occasionally, we’ll head to the big city of Burlington (have to pack a lunch:) and get a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee or a Zack’s Hotdog, one of her favorites, but usually, it’s just around Mebane.  We ride “out to the Walmart”, maybe check out a little Dollar General, we check out people’s yards, maybe wash the car, you just never know when we might show up at your door (or judge your landscaping).

One of the things I always remember about my Mama is her lipstick. She never went anywhere without her lipstick.  Growing up, I was not a big makeup wearer and I can still hear her saying, “At least put on a little lipstick” as if to say “My gosh, you look like the walking dead” which I often did but it would just go in one ear and out the other along with most of my education.  But the other thing about the lipstick is we’d find her lip blotting imprints everywhere, those little lipstick kisses, on church bulletins, receipts, napkins, you name it.  You could always tell where Mama had been.

When Mama started with this disease or when it started taking her over, we went through a phase much like the pocketbook where she had to have her lipstick.  We’d buy tubes at a times and they would disappear constantly, we never knew what she was doing with them.  One day we’re probably going to find a nest of lipsticks and pocketbooks, shoes and sweaters and jewelry, all of which have gone missing.  But with the lipstick, she’d have to put it on and eventually it didn’t matter if it was straight or not, she just had to have it.  Then the stage changed to where she’d ask if she had any on and we started saying yes, you look beautiful, and that was all she needed. She didn’t even check to see if she had it on or not.  Finally, the lipstick went away and hasn’t been mentioned for probably years … until last night.

In my car, I had a new tube of lipstick I’d just bought (my discontinued Maybelline 365 Sugared Honey that I had to hunt for I might add and I’d bought three tubes when I finally found it) but I had put it in my console of the car.  Well, she saw that lipstick and that was all she wrote.  While we were sitting in a drive through, I look over and she’s going to town on MY Maybelline 365 Sugared Honey, putting it on quite well I’ll have you know, and  I laughed and she laughed.  Well, she put that darn lipstick on 7 times before we got home and I saw her reach down into a pocket of my car and lo and behold, she found an old receipt and had to blot (no comments on the content of that purchase – it was all Dave, except the V8, the V8 was mine).

I guess some things, silly or small or seemingly insignificant, are ingrained in there forever.  I’m going to miss Mama’s lipstick… I might hang on to this tube and that little receipt for a while:)

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Moments with Mama…the last prayer

I wanted to write this jubilant post about the new year, and yes, there are so many things I’m excited about. God has been so doggone good to me, it definitely surpasses my understanding, and I don’t like being down – it’s not me and if you don’t want to read my Eeyore post, I understand.  It helps my soul to write this and just being frustratingly human, I have to remind myself that sometimes things don’t make sense.

I don’t know what’s been wrong with me this Christmas, I’ve cried a lot. I’ve obsessed over how many presents were under the tree, not the money aspect of it, but the sheer madness of it all.  The night we opened gifts, I was grateful, without a doubt, but for some reason I felt suffocated and overwhelmed by the massiveness of it all.  No, we didn’t do too much, and yes, we’ve given to others, but it was all in my head, a scary place to be.

Dave’s sister being gone I’m sure has its effect on all of us.  She was like another mother to me being 20+ years older than me; his brother being too sick to come home for Christmas; his Mom being gone just one Christmas ago, all of that certainly affected what we did with that side of the family.  We got together, those of us who could, but yes, it was a different kind of Christmas, it will forever be a different kind of Christmas.

And then there’s Mama.

As we gathered at Mom and Dad’s as we always do, things there are changed forever too.  I’ve cried thinking about Mama and all she used to do, the presents she’d hide and forget about, the cooking she’d do with no recipe, it was all in her head (which is why I can’t cook:), the gifts she’d wrap, the over the top stacks of things for the kids and for the adults… how we’d always joke about her getting the biggest stack as we always tried to find things she’d like and were rarely successful, bless her heart.  I even cried thinking about that one necklace she gave me from Avon, bought it again and tried to give it to me again a couple of times… one of the signs that things were changing.

How could we have known when the last Christmas was going to be the last Christmas that she cooked or wrapped or laughed, let alone the last Christmas she’d know who we were.  I want to go back to that Christmas, to see her in the kitchen, I want to hear her laughing, I just want to hear her voice, her real voice, not her Alzheimers voice, just one more time.  I don’t want to see her sitting, not laughing, not knowing why we are there or who we are.  I want to go back just one more time, God how I want that, and it frustrates my spirit to no end knowing I can’t have it.

As I’ve gone through some of my down times this season, I’ve prayed as I always do.  I’ve asked God what’s wrong with me.  I’ve asked God to give me joy.  I’ve asked God to fix me.  And yes, I’ve thanked God for my blessings, so many undeserved blessings.  But on Christmas Day night, after coming home from Mom and Dad’s, I was getting ready for bed and it’d just been a hard day in my heart.  I looked in the mirror and usually it’s a passing glance, going through the motions of makeup or brushing teeth, but not really looking into my own eyes..I avoid that a lot for some reason. But Christmas night, I did, and I began talking to God in my head asking Him again what was wrong with me, asking His forgiveness, feeling so ungrateful.  Then I had a startling thought that took my breath.  How many times did Mama look in the mirror or lay in her bed or sit on the deck she loves so much and cry out “God, what’s wrong with me?” or “Why am I doing this?” or “God, help me.”  In our case, we never knew what she knew because she absolutely refused to talk about it so we were never privy to her fears or her thoughts. To know she was lonely in that battle tears me up as I think about it now.  She never talked to a soul about it so I can only know in my heart she had to talk to Him.

Again, as we never know when the last time is the last time for anything we do, it became clear that Mama couldn’t have known when the last prayer she said was the last prayer she’d say.  When did she lose the memory of who her Savior is?   How could she know the last time she cried out to her Savior that it would be the last time she’d know how or that she even could.  If she’s forgotten all of us, can this disease take Him from her memory as well?  Oh, I have no doubt He has her in the palm of His hand daily, and He needs no words, but the sadness of knowing that she doesn’t know how to cry out to Him as we are all so blessed to be able to do every minute we need Him tears at my soul.  It makes me want to cling to Him more than I’ve ever clung to anyone.

Well, I’ve got to pull it together, find my bootstraps as I always tell myself. While this sucky disease can take so much from my sweet Mama, it can’t take the warmth of His touch from her or the peace that only He can give her.  It can’t take our family and those of you who love her, it can’t take our prayers.  He knows we lift her up because she can’t do it on her own and for you I am grateful.  No matter how lost she may seem, I know the Shepherd is keeping her in His watch and will lead her when its time to be restored and He will tell her she didn’t have to say a word, He already knew and was already there.

I know that so many of you are going through this and worse, much worse, in one way or another.  I pray for joy for all of us in the coming year, for peace that surpasses all understanding, for the warmth of His touch to be felt on our heart and of those we love just when we all need it most.  Love you all.

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