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My mother died yesterday. I got the call at 4:30am. She’d been hospitalized for an infection and couldn’t beat it this time. She went quietly and quickly.
Mom lived her life as if it were an ordained ministry. She wanted to touch everyone she met with love and encouragement. This she did in many different ways over the many decades of her life. Even in her advanced years, she pounded the hallways of her retirement-living facilities poking her head into every door to spread her special brand of cheer. She was much-loved by everyone.
Mom’s been “ready to go” for years. She’s had her share of serious maladies, has been hospitalized and has failed to die on several occasions before. That pissed her off. Today, she couldn’t be happier.
Esther brought me to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ way back in the 1960’s. She’d been a bible class and Sunday school teacher since the age of 16 and had spent many many hours counseling believers and in other ministries for the Lord. She became my mentor and the closest of friends.
There was a practical side to Esther’s life. She shared her personal recipes for Christmas Cake and for non-alcoholic punch. Both were a big hit every time I had occasion to make them. When we were relocating from New Jersey to North Carolina in 1973, Esther showed up with hot coffee and juice and sandwiches which helped us get through the tribulations of our moving. She also made it a point to call me every year on my birthday at 8am no matter where in the world she happened to be.
I had the privilege of visiting with Esther last week in Florida. She’s ninety-six now and her memory isn’t nearly as sharp as it was until just last year when she taught her last bible class. Until then, she continued to drive, shop, cook, clean and entertain. But thousands of people like me have been touched by this strong woman over the years and we carry her many lessons in our hearts, like:
- We can’t have anything negative in our hearts for a person for whom we pray. We must accept them unconditionally the way they are.
- We are to be grateful to God first; then to others.
Esther is one of the most spirit-filled friends in my life and I’m grateful to God and to her for her love, concern and compassion. She prayed for my family as if we were her own. She honored God with each and every one of her steps.
May all of us be as willing, able and as productive for the Lord as Esther was.
A storm was coming. There was anticipation, preparation, excitement and anxiety enough for everyone. It’s unusual for it to snow here in the south.
It fell last night taking branches and powerlines with it. Driving is still difficult. But for all the calamity, there is also this:
I am blessed with a gorgeous woodland view from my windows and balcony. And the lawn before that is a stage for endless entertainment. I’ve watched through my binoculars all manner of species cavorting and gathering food. I’m always amazed by how different a squirrel or bird or deer is from another of the same species. Every petal of every wildflower is matchless. Something about the uniqueness of each of His creations comes to mind.
The berry bushes seemed more productive this year than usual. Someone told me that happens when there’s going to be a hard winter; the animals still need to eat, after all. Something about His provision comes to mind.
And now, everything I see is covered with snow. The sky is blue and the sun shines brightly causing a glistening on the surface. All by itself, it’s the loveliest thing I’ve ever seen, and I could happily leave it at that. But I can’t help but think … when He covers nature with snow, we can’t see or know what’s underneath it.
He does the same with our past; when we receive forgiveness, our past is packed into luggage and sent to some faraway place. There is no benefit in our trying to find it; it’s gone. What’s left is a covering of His love and the warmth of His peace. And that’s cause for a new hope, and excitement for the future.
“I am not a caregiver,” I said. Every head whipped around and looked at me as if I were loony. We were in the van on our way home from church. The conversation roamed from this to that and somehow got around to caregiving. The van’s occupants all live in the same Independent Living facility as I do and they see how I conduct my life. So they thought it odd that I would make such a contradictory statement.
An explanation is in order. Except for the care of immediate family, I cannot care for others because I can actually feel their pain. This I learned very young. I caught a boatload of fish, but the fish were in pain. So I turned the boat over and released them in the hope that they’d recover. I haven’t fished since.
So what were my church-going friends thinking? Perhaps they were thinking about yesterday when I walked through our maze-like hallways to visit someone who is sick. She was sleeping, so I just stayed there for a long time and prayed. When her son entered the room, I left and walked the halls for exercise. I encountered another resident and we chatted for a while. Further on, I came upon someone who was lost.
I’ve come to realize that even when I’m just walking, there is a potential to do something that ministers to others.
We’re all made differently. Every day, I wake up excited: Can I be a blessing to God or to His children today? Whether I stay in my apartment or take a walk or whatever, His itinerary for me is always fulfilling.
I’m looking forward to another year of being productive for Him.
There is another aspect to my God-given empathy, however. I receive so many negative reports, that they could outweigh the joy I’m experiencing in life. There is no way this tiny 81-year-old can carry all the pain. I have to constantly give it to Him.
I’m frequently overwhelmed with the strength and care and love of God for me. And His love for each one of us is equally great. If we could have just a sliver of that in our lives for whomever He puts in our path, it would help.
I do not live in the flow of excitement and busy-ness of so many others; even of my own younger days. Now, I am content to be what I am. Even when I catch a bug, I’m content. We can talk about happiness: yes, there are times of great happiness. But 90% of the time, it’s joy, not happiness. Joy is experiencing His deep-rooted peace in all circumstances. The joy of God and His peace are His greatest gift to me. Happiness is an occasion short-lived. Joy is knowing that you are in the right place at the right time by His will.
We live in a world of feelings. “If it feels good, do it.” Fine. Feelings are an important way for us to receive guidance. Our ability to correctly interpret feelings must be called into question, though. One might feel that this is not a good situation, causing you to run from it. But character would have you stay put and see the situation through to the outcome. It’s hard, but in the long run, it’s worth it.
On the other hand, you may feel it’s a bad situation and run from it – and this could be a good decision because the outcome could have been destructive for you.
The point is that we can’t go by our feelings because we’re not always right in our interpretation of them.
I avoid this problem by taking time to be alone with Him; to know who He is, because He’s God in me. I spend time to know His thoughts and not my thoughts. If I ask Him for guidance, He answers me.
For all of my life, I’ve taken time. I think of war-torn Europe and how God gave me peace while I walked through it. I’ve had the privilege of being underprivileged; of not having parents and having no one else to turn to but Him. This always energizes me and gives me confidence. His way ultimately will be for His glory and my best.
I have been blessed with so many friends for whom I would lay down my life, and who would do the same for me. One of the God-directed ways I got my friends was by being interested in what’s happening deeply inside them.
At the same time, I have never truly shared what’s deep in me. Perhaps that’s what ElderBlog is for. We’ll see how He directs me.
When ElderBlog started, I wasn’t thinking about an end. I’ve written almost 200 posts in the past 3 years: about transitions, illnesses, events; the things of death and life. We’ve shared extraordinarily intimate details, some tears, and more than a few laughs.
But my posts have not been as frequent in the past year because, frankly, Mom’s life has settled into a more normal pattern than in previous years. She’s surging now. Proof? Two long round-trip flights in the past several months and another one coming up in a couple of weeks. She’s actively participating in the Residents Council at her Independent Living facility and readily joins in scheduled events. She dines with old friends off campus, and shops for herself as needed.
Mom would be the first to tell you that her earthly life is better now than at almost any time in the past.
So I’ve been wondering: Rather than my constantly thinking about what I could share with you about Mom’s experiences, why not let Mom share herself with you directly?
After only 60 seconds worth of resistance, she understood what could be accomplished by writing ElderBlog herself and she embraced the idea. I have no idea how often she might write, nor what she might write about. But ElderBlog is hers now.
If events warrant, I’ll pop back in as necessary. Until then, the next posts you read will be written by my mother, Edith, age 81.
The management of Mom’s facility found and distributed this lovely New Year’s sentiment.
The new year has begun,
Another chance to start again;
Another chance to make more memories,
Another chance to make more friends.
The end of the year always seems to bring
regrets for things left undone:
Spend more time with the family,
Make more time for yourself,
Allow more time for long walks in the sun.
We should never take a day for granted
For no one is promised tomorrow.
Time is stingy and will not wait.
It will not lend or borrow.
Do what you can with what God has given you.
Don’t put something off for another day.
Make things right with those you love,
and be full of nice things to say.
Make this year your best one yet;
Set high hopes and dreams.
And always remember no matter how bad it gets:
Nothing’s as bad as it seems!
— by Misty Horner
Since the beginning of ElderBlog, I’ve been encouraging my siblings to post their own entries…to no avail. This time, there was no choice. Elizabeth, my Baby Sister, had to write it.
So, my brother is making me write a blog post about Mom’s and my adventure to Houston this past weekend and I didn’t want to do it. But since my big brother told me to and I didn’t have enough battery charge left on my cellphone to text-argue, the time that elapsed essentially committed me to it by default. Here’s the story.
I awoke Friday to a thunderstorm and this was my queue to get my guard up to the airline challenges ahead. I got to BWI and found that my flight was cancelled due to missing equipment. That means an airplane broke somewhere and couldn’t come to pick us up. Some time later, BWI had eight of us on a shuttle to DCA and switched our airline to one that had an airplane that could take us to Houston. I’m a seasoned traveler and live by the credo that you have to be flexible when you travel, so I didn’t get my knickers in a knot over the situation.
What twisted my knickers was the realization that my 81-year-old mother was at GSO with a cancelled flight (just what are the odds!!!???) and I couldn’t reach her driver, my sister-in-law who is also an experienced travel agent. Where was her cellphone? Why wouldn’t her number take messages? How would I hook up with Mom at IAH and when? What flight would she be on? Would Mom get food and drink? Why does Nordstrom’s call it a “half yearly” instead of a “semi-annual” sale? Long story short, Joy drove Mom 1.5 hours to Charlotte to arrange for another flight and became the hero of the day! Fred became the messenger.
Houston had grown up since I left in 1984 and even the airport had evolved into five terminals. I found Mom two terminals away (hallelujah) and was so grateful for the wheelchair assistance since we had to pick up luggage at her terminal and then return to mine. Navigating was a dream, and tips with blessings were handed out liberally to everyone who helped. We rented a car and made it in to the Hyatt near the restaurant with just enough time to primp up and get to the party.
Oh, did I mention that we went to Houston to surprise Mom’s friend of 58 years Mae Malone, who turned 90 and had a party to celebrate the day? Mae didn’t recognize Mom when she saw her and we weren’t prepared for that. Maureen, her daughter, was expecting me, but was shocked to see Mom. We had to remind Mae who Mom was. Also surprising Mae was her son and his family who flew in from New Mexico, and that presented quite a reunion for Mom and me. Mae greeted everyone, spent time with every single guest, danced and danced again, and seemed to have limitless energy. I sure hope I’m like that at 90. All the while, I took pictures of Mae with each of her friends which will be scrapbooked later. It’ll be a big surprise.
On Saturday, Mom and I went to two yard sales, a thrift shop, and a Goodwill, before we went to Mae’s apartment for ’90th Birthday Party, the Sequel.’ Drop in, meet, greet, smile, rush, and repeat. By now, we were all old friends with the couples who enjoyed a feast at the retirement center’s dining facility.
After all her guests left, Mae had me take her and Mom to the Mall where she showed us the carousel that she likes to watch when she goes there. Of course, I bought tokens and all three of us enjoyed a carousel ride adding to an already huge stack of happy weekend memories. Then Mom and Mae visited Yogurt Land and sampled nearly every flavor of frozen yogurt available. Finally, we brought Mae home and found our way to our final hotel stay before leaving for our own homes.
It was always my intention to be there for Mae’s 90th birthday since she started telling me about it 3 or 4 years ago, but it was only 2 weeks ago that I asked Mom if she wanted to go with me. After some consideration Mom decided that it was a good opportunity to share the gospel with Mae and help her along the way of making the choice to follow Christ. Mom was satisfied that she accomplished this mission and that Mae will indeed be in heaven with us. Mom was happy that she went and felt the time and money was spent wisely. I did too. But never again will I let my Big Brother force me to write another blog post!
Mr. Squeezable is Christopher – Mom’s great-grandson, my grandson, Kim and Jeremy’s proud creation. Christopher and his parents live in Tulsa, a bazillion miles away, and Mom can’t wait anymore. So she’s getting on a big Delta jet right now.
It was all Marsha’s idea. Marsha is Jeremy’s mom, and she wants to squeeze her grandson, too. She lives pretty close to Mom and thought it’d be a fun trip for her. So, she made the arrangements, bought the tickets, and off they go.
Mom has always loved traveling, but hasn’t been able (or willing) to do much of it in recent years. We’ll see how she fares, but I think that the next five days will be heart-warming and wonderful for all. They’re even going to see a live performance of Veggie Tales. Can you picture Mom surrounded by singing, jumping toddlers? It makes me giggle just thinking about it.
As if hospitalization for her human maladies wasn’t enough, Mom returned home to find a deactivated voice-mail system. It’s part of her phone — the very simplest I could find at the time of its purchase. I figured that if it ever needed fixing by me from a distance, even Mom could push the buttons as I instructed.
I spent most of two hours trying to talk Mom through the simple process of turning the answering machine back on. This worked about as well as climbing a slide coated with Jello: it couldn’t be done. So I called in the facility’s management team and, with my instruction, they fixed it.
…until three hours later when Mom called to inform me that the answering system had turned itself off yet again. How does this happen?
I have reached the limit of my vast communicative resources. I am now calling in the one person on the planet who, with a keen eye for problem-solving, will linearize the variables, parse the user manual, and laugh in the face of adversity. That’s right…I’m calling in my Baby Sister.
Elizabeth will be spending Easter weekend with her mother. In the meantime, you may find Mom’s telephone answering system willing to accept your message. Or not.
There was no fever overnight. The kidney ultrasound was normal. The UTI antibiotics have been prescribed in pill form, and a little home-health physical therapy has been prescribed to help regain full control of balance. Transportation is ready, and the ranch has been alerted.
So, it’s all set…Mom gets to go back home this afternoon. She’s a happy camper.
Mom had a fever overnight and, as a result, did not sleep well. This is a matter of some concern for the doctor with whom I have spoken each day. He has ordered an ultrasound of her kidney and will likely have the interpreted results in the morning.
The doctor wants 24 hours without a fever. That, and a slight imbalance while walking, will keep Mom in the hospital for at least another night. So, since she’s staying there, the IV is staying in. The correct antibiotic is already being administered.
As before, Mom wants to focus her energies on getting well…so she requests no visits or calls. Thanks.