A New Chapter

I really dislike it when so much is happening in life that I’d like to write about and share with you and I don’t seem to manage to sit down and do that. Ideas and experiences start stacking up. Life becomes a run-away roller coaster. I seem to be processing things on some delay mode that makes it impossible to catch up. When I do finally sit down to write, there is so much I want to say that I just look at the blinking cursor begging for a title, then click that little “x” and close the whole thing down.

But get ready for a whole lotta run-on and fragmented sentences, cause here I am again, staring at that taunting cursor and wondering what in the world to title this post because I want to tell you about coming back from that east coast trip in February…about how everything felt very different. About how Jack seemed to know his time was near, but I thought I had it all figured out. He was hurting because of a pulled muscle in his back. He was weak because he wasn’t moving because he hurt. He had horrible side effects because of the new drug the doctor prescribed. He got worse because we stopped the drug all at once. He would get better. He would teach me to play pool. Things would go back to normal. We just needed to make it through. Then that Sunday morning I felt we would lose him if I didn’t get him to the hospital, where they could at least help us make him comfortable.

Even though he didn’t want to go.

He was the commander. How could I make him go, if he said he didn’t want to? This frail 91-year-old man who had been giving orders all his life…in his weakness he looked at me and said “I trust you.” What a morning that was…

Then the tests and the x-rays and the excruciating pain followed by a diagnosis of “stomach virus”.

And we were giddy with relief.

Only it wasn’t a stomach virus. And it wasn’t the drugs. It wasn’t even a pulled muscle. Everything I had held on to to make sense of what was happening…was wrong.

On Tuesday they diagnosed the cancer in his liver and on his spine.

On Wednesday we worked on setting things up with hospice to bring him home to die.

On Thursday, with Grandma and his brother Sam and his grandson Nick and me standing beside his hospital bed…he stopped breathing.

And before I could catch my breath…suddenly my tiny ancient grandmother was a widow again. She couldn’t comprehend it. Her confused mind could not at first allow her to believe it. She does not remember those few long days in the hospital… staying beside him, holding his hand and telling him how much she loves him and that she needed him to be well. When she talks about how badly she feels that she wasn’t there, I show her the pictures that I so awkwardly snatched with my phone’s camera as I wondered if it was really “okay” to take at the same time I was wishing I had my “real” camera with me.  She shakes her head and says, “Isn’t that something. I don’t remember it at all.”

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There may have been a brief hush before the whirlwind…but I didn’t notice. So many phone calls and arrangements and questions. So much grief in hugs and eyes and voices. So many family members from each coast – beyond and between. Neighbors dropped off food and offered lodging. Everyone was taken care of. The service at the fire house was well attended. There are very few in the area that remember this community before my grandparents came.

The day after everyone left, Grandma, Mom and I drove to Mom’s house, and Grandma and  I stayed in the guest house that is now known as “Grandma’s house”, for soon we will be living there.

Death is complicated. Not for the one who dies. They get to miss it all. All of the hours on the phone with agencies and departments and official this-and-thats. All seem to feel bound to say, “May I start by offering my sincerest condolences.” which is a very nice gesture, but after the first half-dozen times, I wish we could dispense with that.

And why does paperwork have to be so confusing?

And why does signing anything give me the heebee jeebees?

And how many times can you tell an old woman that her husband died before your heart feels like a stone that will never have emotion again?

And flowers come. And cards. And gifts from complete strangers who offer kindness because “it was the right thing to do.”

Before we knew it, Mom and Scott and Jesse and Tera and Anna came to help pack up furniture and fix the boat dock that had been damaged in the winter storms. And we talked to more agents and representatives. And did more paperwork.

And you just do the next thing, because if you try to think two steps ahead of you nothing seems possible, but if you do one thing at a time progress is made. Most days.

And somewhere inside of the numbness you begin to realize that you’ve grown to love this place that at first you hated. And you know you are going to miss the people who you held at arm’s length for the first two years you were here. And the house that you thought meant nothing to you all this time suddenly feels comfortable and…yours. And you wonder if winter will never end.

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And you just have to give it all to God….and know that He is in control and that all of this is happening in His perfect time. And you think that maybe He is keeping you in a constant state of out-of-your-comfort-zone unsureness so that you are sure to stay completely dependent on Him. And in that dependency you find peace. And in the peace – a knowing that all of this is going to work out, and that this is what life is about and that He loves you more than you could ever dream and that you will have the strength to do what you need to do and when because He promises that His strength is made perfect in our weakness. And that’s a beautiful thing.

And just when you think you might have a plan, they are showing the house to a couple before it’s even listed. And that couple makes an offer the same day, and with some back and forth, it looks like the house will be theirs by next month. So even though that seems too fast and you weren’t ready and didn’t even get a chance to stage the house or touch up paint or rake the driveway, it feels that that is God’s way of taking all the worry and stress of that out of your hands.

And now when it seems that maybe moving so soon isn’t the best thing to do (even though you KNOW that it IS the best thing to do) you just think of how God put that together and know that you don’t have to doubt or second-guess yourself. You can truly believe your Father did that out of His love for you. And that, too, is a beautiful thing.

So now…we will enjoy our last days at the lake. And we will soon start again going through 94 years worth of precious possessions. My family will come back in a few weeks and we will have a sale. And we’ll move The Ancient One to Oklahoma where she will never have to be alone. She loves it there, and is so happy to be with her daughter and son-in-law, who she has come to believe is perfect in every way, and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It will be a new chapter. Her last adventure.

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I pray that it will be a good one.

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