Monday, December 30, 2013

My Mom's Last Weeks

My mom was placed on hospice in May of this year.  She was given 2-3 weeks to live.  Those weeks were filled with love and peace, tears and sadness.  The greatest gift she was to be with her Jersey family who made flights at the drop of a hat to be with my mom.  I will never forget this sweet act of love and devotion.  It meant so much to my mom and all of us.

The weeks turned into months which allowed so many people to shower my mom and family with love and kindness.  Phone calls, visits, cards and flowers all out of pure love never slowed.  They made her day and made her realize how loved and important she was.  These months summed up her life in a nutshell that was surrounded by friends and family and love.

Our family became closer.  We supported each other, learned to laugh at our various quirks or needs.  How grateful I became for my dad, sister, Jason and Danny during this time.  Without their devotion, understanding and great sacrifice of love and kindness, we certainly would not have gotten through this time with the peace, happiness and joy that we were able to share and feel.

A couple of weeks ago, it was evident that my mom was tired.  She had a hard time talking, could no longer get out of bed and her quality of life greatly diminished.  She had fought for so long and so hard; I am sure because she wanted people to know how much she loved them and didn't want to leave. She lived for her family and pushed with every fiber of her being to continue living for them. That is just who she is and why we love her so.

When it got to the point that she couldn't interact with her family, that we could tell life was just so hard for her, none of us wanted to see her suffer any longer.  I could connect and feel her spirit, but she had distanced herself from this world and these relationships; I am sure preparing for the next world.

I had a great conversation with her the Tuesday before she passed.  My kids magically played with each other upstairs, my dad had gone out for a couple of hours and my mom was amazingly present and able to talk unlike she had been able to do for a few weeks.  I will forever cherish this last real conversation with her and feel like it was a true gift from a loving Heavenly Father and a loving mom.

The family was all together the Sunday night before she passed.  My sister, her family, my dad, Betty and Bob and our dearest friend Pete.  I know that is what she wanted.  I spent the night at her home with my family. Danny got up early to go to work.

Her breathing was more labored and rapid. I asked if he would give her a quick blessing before leaving for work.  I felt the power of the priesthood blessing like I had never before felt.  She was blessed to reflect upon the beautiful life she lived, have a quick and painless transition and be welcomed and surrounded by family members on the other side.

The breathing continued to become labored.  My dad and I gave her some morphine and other medication to help calm her and drain fluid from her lungs. She began to call out to her mom, repeating, "mom, mom, mom" over and over again.  I know her mom was on the other side waiting for her and ready to give her a big hug.

I stepped away and returned to very slow, spaced out breathes.  She took two very slow breaths and peacefully slipped away. Her passing was as peaceful and calm as can be.  I didn't even acknowledge that she passed.  Maybe in some ways she was still there, present in spirit for a time.   The room was peaceful.  Her body lay there, no longer suffering from the pains of cancer.  No longer needed for her mortal sojourn.  Her spirit was free.  I envisioned a glorious reunion on the other side.  I knew how hard it was for her to loose her mom and I can only imagine how wonderful it was to see her again.

I will forever miss her, but grateful to a ministering angel so close by.  An angel who I know will watch over, love and protect my mom just as she did in this life.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Heart Full of Gratitude for My Mom

Saying good-bye to a loved one is probably the hardest thing we will do in this life.  It is filled with so many emotions; heart-ache, extreme loss, peace, comfort in the Savior, and  pain.  Pain of not being able to hold them again, look into their eyes, hear there voice and so much more.  Loosing a mom is essentially loosing your biggest supporter.  Someone who has been with you since the beginning.  Loves you unconditionally, no matter the many mistakes you make along the way. Drops anything to be by your side.

I am so lucky I was blessed with my mom in this life.  I certainly don't feel like I deserved such an amazing mom as she was.  There was never a time that my dad, sister or I didn't come first in her life.  When I worked at Aquabears, she arranged her work schedule to go in early and even skip lunch, just so that it would be more convenient for me to not have Scott.  She flew out to Arizona at the drop of a hat when Heather needed her.  She flew to all my swim meets because she loved cheering me on.  She was proud of me if I got my best time or worst time.  She bragged about us non-stop and while it embarrassed us at times, deep down I knew it was because she was so proud of us.  She brought us to all our events, always working behind the scenes, simply because she cared.  She never did things for others out of selfishness or needing praise, but out of true, unselfish and Christlike love.  She instilled a confidence in us that we were beautiful no matter our appearance or style (hence my ability to go to high school in pajamas and without make-up).

She loved my dad unconditionally.  She and my dad were committed to each other and gave me the greatest gift a child can receive; the gift of a stable and loving home.

She was a friend to all.  She didn't care about status, dress or being in the in-crowd.  She simply cared about the heart of someone.  She would give her heart to all, no matter who or where they came, no matter how they treated others or there many quirks.  And she was a friend that would go above and beyond.  

She was so generous.  Generous with her time and talents and all that she was blessed with.  If someone needed a place to stay the guest room was made ready and hot meals were provided.  For most of my life there was someone else staying at our house.

She just had so much love in her heart that it oftentimes overflowed.

She gave her all to everything she did.  Spending hours finishing meet entries or inputting times into the old fashion time cards.  She stayed up late making gourmet meals to dinner would be perfect.  She went to Shadelands in the middle of the night to shut down a wild party.  She opened our home to our friends, stocked the pantry and gave all of my friends a safe haven to grow up.

Saying good-bye is never easy, but saying good-bye to a woman who you know could't have lived a better, more fulfilled, loving life brings great peace.  There are few things I think she would have changed in her life.  She taught me resilience.  Not to dwell on the past, but learn from it and move on with a big smile.

Instead of mourning her loss, I feel a heart full of gratitude and comfort at this time for the life that she lived and legacy she has passed on.  Gratitude that my mom was blessed with such a great life.  Her upbringing was everything but typical, but she always found the goodness and cleaved to the love that surrounded her.  Her mom and her cousins were a great source of love for her.  They filled her and I am so grateful for them.

I am grateful that I am a better mom, wife and friend because of her example.  I am grateful that she blessed me with the skills to have a stable marriage, endure trials and find the joy and love in life.  I am grateful that she taught me the love that comes from service.

I am grateful for my knowledge that she is in a better place, surrounded by family and loved ones.  I smile to think that she is with her mom and dad and grandparents and Carl.  I rejoice to know that she is freed from the pains that her body so gracefully endured in this life.  I rejoice that someday I will be reunited with her and that families go beyond this grave.  I am especially grateful at this time for my testimony and knowledge of these things.  I am grateful for all who helped me gain this knowledge for myself, especially my God and Savior.

I will miss my mom everyday, but I know that she is close by and her power will continue to bless and touch my life and the life of my family.

Friday, December 20, 2013

My Mom's Cancer

Many people often ask how my mom is doing.  Some people wonder but don't want to ask.  They see posts on facebook which show the slow and drastic decline in her health. Writing helps me but I have been busy with writing a bible study and hesitant to write for various reasons.

One, I just haven't had or made time.  Some of the reason is to be sensitive to others who might be going through something totally different. Lastly, it is hard to process your emotions let alone put them into words.

Cancer is such a hard thing to see someone go through with chemo, radiation, an uncertain prognosis, loosing your health and faculties along the way.  My mom always remained so hopeful and optimistic, which was a huge example to me, but I know it was hard and scary for her.  It was so hard to see her lose her ability to be the mom, friend or grandmother that she always envisioned herself being and wanted to be.

Everyone that knows my mom, knows that she is a bundle of energy.  She has enough energy to power 10 people.  She also has a giving heart.  She lives to help and serve others.  When her body could no longer do what her mind wanted was so hard and sad to see her go through.  She never complained, but I could sense how hard that was for her. Facebook was such a huge blessing to her during this time because she could still interact with people from a chair.  Being with friends and family has meant so much to her and kept her going.

I have been so grateful for my dad and sister.  My dad is amazing.  He has been by my mom's side through all.  He helps her and meets her every need.  He is sensitive to our kids and family needs.  My sister is a saint.  I am so grateful that she understands, listens and I have her by my side.

When a family is dealing with a chronic or critical illness, in many ways your entire world shifts and changes to spend time with that person, help them and cherish the time you have together.  That has been such a blessing.  You wouldn't change it and it reminds you what life is all about.  I will be forever grateful for this time that I have had with my mom and family.  I have been blessed with such a great family who has been my support and strength.  I have learned that it is ok to say no to things that once priorities.

I am the first to admit that this is challenging and you just strive to figure out a new routine as you go.  In many ways the rest of your life gets put on hold.  You don't have the time and energy you once had for friends, even your own family unit or other activities. Life becomes an intricate balancing act. Naps and routines go out the window and emotions are heightened.  Everyone feels these stresses and as you strive to help a dying parent you strive to keep yourself and your little family unit in tact as much as possible.

Through it all, you recognize other blessings that come, time together and lessons learned.  You learn to hold onto faith and the importance of family, love, sacrifice and helping those in need.

The beginning of hospice was filled with a lot of emotions, spirituality and saying good-bye.  We were told that my mom had 2-3 weeks and so prepared for that.  The weeks turned into months and you realize that you just can't plan or know what to expect.  We have been forever grateful for this time. Through most of it, my mom was very coherent and able to enjoy her visits with friends and phone conversations with loved ones.  She was showered with love from near and far that meant so much to her.

A couple of weeks ago, her ability to communicate and interact has really declined.  She started to remove herself from this world.  Perhaps it was too hard, perhaps she is just tired and of course the cancer and drugs affect her.  When she wants, she will interact and I cherish those times.  They are such sweet tender experiences, but also hard.  Saying good-bye to someone is hard.  There is no way around that nor should there be.  Seeing them suffer is hard.

My mom sleeps most of the day. When we move her to change her or rearrange her bed, she is in a lot of pain.  That is sad to see her in because that is the time she is most awake and alert.  You have to remember that when she is sleeping she is most at peace. When she connects with me or anyone you can see and feel an immense love as well as feel a sadness and fear to say good-bye.  I can't describe it in words, but it is so sweet and yet so hard.

I am so grateful at this time for my knowledge of the Savior and His wonderful plan for us.  I know that there is a much better world awaiting her.  A world filled with loved ones and friends who miss her and yearn to see her.  A world where her spirit will be freed from a body that no longer works well.  A world where she will one day be blessed with a perfect body.

I don't know what I would do or how I could cope without this hope and my heart hurts for those that don't have this.

Saying good-bye to someone with cancer is a process.  In many ways, the kids have already lost the grandmother that they know and love.  Kira used to love giving my mom hugs and kisses and now she doesn't.  I don't know what or how they process things. The mom who is lying in her bed, is still my mom who I love with all my heart, but in many ways, I have lost bits and pieces of her along the way.  That is hard, but it is all part of a bigger plan.  A plan that reminds you that it is not all about this life.

Someone recently told me that he spent the last months of his wife's illness mourning the loss of his wife.  When she passed he was somewhat relieved that she no longer had to suffer and that came with a certain guilt.  I have thought a lot about that.  I can't imagine what it is like loosing a spouse or even not having my mom physically here, but a slow death has you mourn certain losses along the way.  As you see someone decline and get to a point that there is not much more quality of life left, you begin to slowly let go of hopes and dreams for this life and look forward to new hopes and dreams in a better world, free from the pains and suffering of this world and a reunion to be with the mom once you had. Free from the pains of cancer.

I look forward to Christmas with my family and time with my family.  I look forward to building lasting memories. Thanks for your continued prayers and thoughts.  We feel them and are so grateful for your kind notes, flowers, phone calls and notes.  You realize that it is truly the small and simple gestures that mean so much at this time.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tylers Heart

Tyler had his annual cardiology appointment.  All things looked good which is such a blessing. I usually can tell based on Tyler's behavior and energy level how he is doing, but it is always a relief to hear he is stable and no surgeries needed for now.  Except for the expense, I love that his appointments are usually around Christmas.   It is always a time to reflect on our blessings and the miracle of life.

He lives a very normal life.  He is doing great in school...actually amazing considering the rough start to life that he had.  He doesn't like doing PE because they run laps in the beginning so opts to usually just watch.  I am glad that he chooses what he wants to do.  Other than that he is your typical, energetic kid.  I want to sign him up for baseball, but he wants to do soccer, which of course wouldn't be a great fit for him, so we are still working on figuring out why he wants to do soccer.  He could probably get away with doing any sport at the level that a 6 year old plays, but his cardiologist said to set him up for success in the future and I know that putting him in soccer would not be a good fit in two years when kids are running non-stop.

Probably the hardest thing about his heart is that when he goes, goes, goes to keep up with Scott and gets agitated.  Its like having a kid that needs a nap or more sleep but doesn't take one.  I need to grow in patience and in many ways I laugh that the Lord sent me a heart kid to teach me patience.

His cardiologist is returning to UCSF after being with Kaiser for probably 30 years or so.  It is heartbreaking to me.  We just love him and have been so blessed to have him.  But I am grateful that we were able to get the critical years with him and our surgeon before they moved.  Medicine is changing a lot and Kaiser, UCSF and Children's Hospital are changing how they are tied to each other. Even though I'll miss him as our cardiologist, I know he is close by and is still at least at UCSF.

So overall, very blessed for his health and the time we have with him.  There isn't a day that goes by that I don't realize what a blessing his life is.  I often think about those that have gone before him or were born around the same time as Tyler who are now angels.  My heart is filled with the lessons that they taught me and continue to teach me.  My heart is full of love and compassion because of them.   They are not forgotten during this Christmas season.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Utah Thanksgiving, 2013

Made it home from Utah late last night.  Heidi and Blake stayed in Walnut Creek with Jacquie and I took Scott, Tyler, and Kira.  We left Monday night and stayed in Reno.  The kids were adequately stimulated with the iPads (see Nitroblue Investment about one of the iPads) and did very well in the car.  Additionally, the van ran well and the driving conditions were ideal.  Now, some pictures:

Mr. T playing table tennis.  He surprised me with his good ability.

Dad and Scott playing the double shot

The Ogden, Utah temple was demolished and this is the new one--almost done.

Kira was none too pleased at the cold Utah weather.  I thought she looked cute in her coat, but we realized she didn't have any closed toed shoes.  I subsequently had to purchase her some from DI.

There's lots of kid-friendly museums in Utah.  This one was in Ogden and had lots of hands-on activities.  

I wanted the kids to see BYU campus and I was surprised that they agreed to come.  I treated them to some cookies and cream milk, which during my last semester, was a Wednesday staple.  In fact, in my zoo 373 lab, I would eat two jalapeno bagels and one bottle of said milk and then leave the empty bottles in the lab.  You can get away with stuff like that in the lab because someone's always culturing something.  College.  Good times.  

The kids really enjoyed climbing on stuff and jumping, and that was probably the highlight of their whole week.  

Dad came with us and got some laughs out of Kira.  

The simple things:  Observing the steam output near the Eyring science center.  

Good old BYU campus.  The grounds are very well-kept, and there is always some renovation in progress.  I have mixed feelings about attending BYU.  I feel I did receive a great education, but socially, the BYU spat me out.  It seemed like the single ladies were only interested in men bigger and better, so there was a lot of sizing up and dating was challenging.  Heidi disagrees with this and said, "That's just because you didn't have confidence in college."  Maybe, but after I got married, I was at the Che house doing some work on the yard.  One of the girls from my student ward walked by and I said, "Hi, Amy."  She looked up and said, "I hate men.  Men are scum."  Without a pause, I said, "You know, things around here haven't changed that much."   

At temple square in Salt Lake City.  The kids enjoyed walking like this.  

I was pleased at this picture of the Salt Lake Temple.  The lighting was just right and the grey granite looked tan.  

I was amused at Tyler and Kira's sad faces.  

You gotta hand it to the pioneers for building this tabernacle.  I believe they built the dome first, with no trusses, and then built the walls underneath it.  

With Lisa's kids

This was at a huge trampoline center in Kaysville.  The kids had a great time with no injuries.  

I still need to scan it, but Tyler wrote the things for which he was thankful:  His strength, his house, his family and friends, the food he eats, and his cousins.  On another thankful tree we made at home, he put "the future."  I am surprised at how he can come up with these abstract concepts.  Very mature.

The kids did well in Utah, especially in the van, even though Kira had diarrhea on the way home and made us stop twice.  Then she fell asleep and peed herself, but after we changed her, she was fine.  Between the iphone and two ipads, the kids didn't fight much and I could drive in peace.

Originally, I was going to stay in Reno.  We were making such good time and the hotel fees were not in my price range, so I decided to just go all the way.  About thirty minutes after Reno, though, I was feeling pretty tired and wondering if I had made the wrong choice.  The kids went to sleep right about then and the drive through the sierras required more concentration so I didn't worry about dozing off.

We finally pulled into Walnut Creek at 10:40 and met Heidi and Blakey.