If You Could See Us Now

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Our prayers have all been answered.

We’ve finally arrived.

The healing that had been delayed has now been realized.

No one’s in a hurry.

There’s no schedule to keep.

We’re all enjoying Jesus, just sitting at His feet.

If you could see us now, we’re walking streets of gold.

If you could see us now, we’re standing tall and whole.

If you could see us now, you’d know we’d seen His face.

If you could see us now, you’ know our pain has been erased.

You wouldn’t want us to ever leave this place,

If you could only see us now.

Our light and temporary trials have worked out for our good,

To know it brought Him glory when we misunderstood.

Though we’ve had our sorrows, they can never compare

What Jesus has in store for us, no language can share.

If you could see us now, we’re walking streets of gold.

If you could see us now, we’re standing tall and whole.

If you could see us now, you’d know we’ve seen His face.

If you could see us now, you’d know our pain ihas been erased.

You wouldn’t want us to ever leave this place,

If you could only see us now.

 

adapted from “If You Could See Me Now” by Kim Noblitt, or Don Moen

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Looking at Her Face for the Last Time

My memory of the next two days is somewhat blurry in my mind. There were phone calls to family members, final arrangements with the funeral home, packing her things at the nursing home, and so much more. My sisters and I shared those responsibilities, but still there was a lot to do. My emotions during that time were for the most part ‘on hold’, and I went through these days almost ‘roboticly’.

I went to Mother and Daddy’s house looking for something for her to bury her in. I knew what I wanted, but wasn’t sure I could find it. Sure enough it was there, among her clothes. It was a skirt, blouse, and vest that she had worn on many occasions. If fact Mother is wearing this outfit in the last formal portrait she and Daddy had taken. This outfit was just typical of Mother. The pieces just didn’t quite ‘go together’ or match. The color of the blouse didn’t match the vest and the neckline of the vest didn’t match the blouse. The color of the skirt was just a little off as well. So typical of Mother.

I remember going to the funeral home early on the day that we had the family visitation to have a few minutes alone with Mother before everyone got there. It was my first opportunity to see her since the funeral home took her body the night she died. I remember walking to the door and seeing her white hair. It looked just like her, until I walked around and saw her face. Well, everything was all right. She just wasn’t totally natural. You see, Mother had many lines in her face especially around her mouth, and chin. The mortician who had prepared Mother’s body would have no way of knowing that. Somehow he smoothed most of those lines away and by doing so, the expression on her face, particularly her mouth, was totally unlike her. I was was caught off guard by the way she looked, and I wanted to be upset by it. Realizing that nothing could be done, and my anger would be for naught, I decided to just ‘let it go’. Yes, it was easier said than done, but nevertheless, I did it and I have no regrets.

At Mother’s funeral, there was no organ music. Instead a pianist played and the music he chose was perfect. It was a mixture of traditional ‘funeral type’ hymns and very upbeat, happy, songs Mother loved. Lisa again played her violin. This was very fitting because Memom, as the grandchildren called her, always ‘canived’ ways for Lisa, as she was growing up, to play her violin in church services. So Lisa played one last time….for Memom.
There was also a quartet that sang. The members of this quartet own the bakery where Mother worked.They were very special to Mother and she was special to them. They sang, “I’d Rather Have Jesus”. As daughters we selected this song because it truly described how Mother lived her life. There were many things that she did not have. She never had a nice house, or drove a nice car. She never seemed to have enough money and always worked very hard for what little she did possess. However, she did have Jesus and her heart’s desire was always to live for Him. Somehow that was always enough.

They also sang, “Will There Be Any Stars In My Crown?”. This was our ‘cradle song’. Mother sang it to us when she was putting us to bed at night, whenever we needed to be comforted, or whenever she felt like singing it. I can still hear her voice…..singing that song.

Just as with Daddy’s funeral, after the service, after the congregation files by the casket, the family has their opportunity to say good by. It was just as hard to turn away from Mother’s face as it was from Daddy’s, knowing that once again I was not going to see her face this side of heaven.

Mother and Daddy are now buried side by side in a small country cemetery outside the community of Tuscola, Texas.

Her Battle is Over, Her Victory is Won

It was Thursday morning, and Mother had been in the Hospice Unit of Hendrick Medical Center in Abilene, Texas, since Sunday afternoon. Her breathing was gradually becoming more labored, and shallow. Her heart rate was going up as her blood pressure was going down. There had been no output from her kidneys in over 24 hours. Her kidneys were shutting down. Her feet and lower legs were growing cold, especially her left leg. There a condition called ‘marbling’ that began in her lower legs. I recognized it immediately because Daddy had it before he died. She was now unresponsive to any of our comments to her. She seemed to be relaxed and not fighting at all. We knew she was ready for her coming passing from this life into the next.

My sisters were both up there that day for some period of time.  I really don’t remember when they came and when they left.  That has all blurred in my memory.  Darla, as a school counselor, had educational things to attend to, as well as the twin girls to see after. Susan, a teacher as well, had students to teach and other responsibilities.  I think from about 4:00 p.m. on that evening I was alone with Mother, though they called during the evening to check on her.

Of the events that happened that day, this moment in time stands out in my memory.  About 7:30 that evening a group from one of the local churches visited the unit and went from room to room singing.  This was a special group to our family. Some of the members of this group were Diane and Bobby,  the owners of the bakery for which Mother worked.  They had known and loved Mother for many years.  They came in Mother’s room and stood around her bed and sang several hymns.  Then, Diane, standing by the head of Mother’s bed, began to talk about meeting Mother.  She talked about the day this ‘white haired’ lady came into their bakery and into their lives.  She talked about how hard Mother worked and told a couple of funny stories about Mother and her incessant talking.  She talked about how their lives had been enriched and blessed by knowing her.  Then everyone joined hands around Mother’s bed an prayed for her and for us.  I do now have words to tell you how special that was and how much that meant to me and Mother.

After they left, my memory about the rest of the evening is unclear.  Nothing in particular stands out as being different from the previous days in that room.  I just followed my regular ‘hospital routine.’ Showered, got settled in for the night, made phone calls to family members and eventually went to bed.

About 11:30  I awoke to the sound of voices.  It was a Hospice nurse and Mother’s doctor standing by her bed, talking quietly.  When I sat up, the doctor came and sat on the couch next to my cot.  We talked a few minutes about Mother.  He thanked me for the opportunity to take care of her, and I told him how much we as daughters appreciated all he did to help her.  The conversation lasted just a few minutes, and then he left.

I dozed off to sleep and woke up again about 30 minutes later, just after midnight.  I immediately knew she was gone.  I heard no breathing.  The silence in the room was very loud.  I walked over to her bed,  and looked at her shell, the body of my mother.  I had no tears.  My primary feeling at the moment was not sadness, but relief for her.  And my thoughts were not on my loss, but on her victory.

I called the nurse’s station and a nurse came right away. She arranged Mother’s body in her bed and went to call the funeral home.  I called my sisters and grandmother, and began to pack up the room.   The man from the funeral home arrived, loaded her body onto the gurney, and took her away.

Her battle was over and her victory was won.

Kenny, update

Kenny goes back to San Antonio on Sunday to start his second round of treatments.  He had a port put in last Monday to administer the medicine which will make his treatments easier. He is feeling well right now and I know he appreciated everyones prayers.Thanks for your prayers.

Time to Say Goodby to Mother

There is a time to say goodbye.  No, it is not easy, but if you have walked down this path, the path of losing a family member to a terminal illness, then you have probably stood by their bed and told them farewell.  My sisters and I did this the day after Mother arrived in the Hospice Unit.  Though she was almost in a comatose state, her eyes would open when you spoke to her. We knew that she could hear and understand what we were saying.

Many times families don’t have the opportunity to say goodbye.  If death is unexpected or comes suddenly, often there is not time for closure.  From my perspective that would be very hard.  You would give anything to say, “I love you” one more time, or “I’ll join you in heaven someday.”

It became obvious to us that Mother was beginning to have some pain.  Therefore, after we had our goodbye moments with Mother, My sisters and I  told the nurses that it would be ok with us if she slept the ‘rest of the way’.  The nurses understood what we meant and agreed to comply with our wishes.   She was kept sedated and relaxed all the way to the end.

She did occasionally open her eyes and respond when she heard  new, but familiar voices in the room.  When her former pastor came to see her, she opened her eyes, smiled and said his name.  We all cried.

I do have one regret that I must mention.  This may sound disgusting, but because some of my readers may be in this same situation,  I must share it anyway.   One of the things I did not expect and was not warned about when we took the feeding tube away, was the effect that dehydration would have on Mother’s body.  I knew her kidneys would shut down.  I expected that.  What I did not expect was the effect dehydration would have on her tongue.  For some reason I did not notice it at first.  Perhaps because it happened slowly over about 3 days. Her tongue began to dry out.  It looked chapped and well, just awful.  That must have painful.  It could have been the main source of her pain.  We don’t know because she could not tell us.  I don’t know why, but I didn’t mention it to the nurses.  Perhaps my mind was on other things, and perhaps I thought nothing could be done to help.  I feel badly that I didn’t at least try to do something.  Sometimes I wish that we had changed the feeding tube to just come clear liquids to have prevented her tongue from drying out.  Eventually someone brought in something topical we could put on her tongue.  I don’t think it helped much though.

Next post: Her battle is over.

Grieving

After the feeding tube was removed, Mother lingered on for about 3 days. I stayed there with her most of the time, leaving only a couple of times to make funeral arrangements.

Again, just as always, I began my usual hospital routine of caring for my personal needs, and asking for help when I needed it. Staying at a hospital with a family member, though exhausting, is just not much of a problem for me.

I did observe some interesting things and learned at least one important lesson during my stay with Mother on this wonderful, caring, comforting Hospice floor in Hentrick Hospital, Abilene, TX.

When Mother and Daddy were patients in the Hospital, on the Oncology floor, families talked to each other. They shared stories of their family member’s illness, hugged and cried together. I came to know many families during our stay of about 6 weeks there.

In the Hospice Unit, family members are not as open. They are much more focused on their patient, their loved one and most likely the coming moment of his/death. The average stay on this unit was only 2 or 3 days just a short time. which also made it difficult to get to know each other.They tend to be quiet and speak in soft tones. There is not much laughter in the halls, and sometimes very little casual conversation beyond, “Good morning”. I think there are two reasons why families were this way, first as I mentioned above, they were involved in the very last days and hours of their loved one’s life. They were physically, emotionally and spiritually focused on that person. The other reason, I believe, is the awareness that every family there was walking down the same path, and every family wanted to be respectful of the others.

There were a couple of exceptions that stand out in my mind and these exceptions taught me something about grieving.

Shortly after Mother arrived on this floor, there was a patient admitted to a room across the hall and one door down. This patient was a Hispanic man, the patriarch of his family. Please understand that my comments here are not in any way demeaning of Hispanic families and their strong family ties. This patient did not come alone. Oh, no, not at all. there were at least 15 to 20 family members with him at all times, around the clock, even the wee hours of the morning. They never left, or if they did leave, more came to take their place. These family members ranged in age from infant, through adult and everything in between. Their room was changed to a location that was somewhat isolated after some of the other families mentioned that the running up and down the hall of the children was disturbing to us. Yes, I was one of those families.

After about 2 days they were gone because their beloved father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, brother, passed away. Even though we might consider it to be inappropriate to have that many people present, especially children, they had the right to grieve for their loved one in the way that was appropriate for their culture. They greived in groups, sometimes large groups. I realized that my judgment of their actions was inappropriate. Well, except for the running up and down the hall.

The other experience came early one morning. It was about 5 o’clock, still dark outside. I awoke to the sound of guitar music and singing. I was angry. How on earth could someone be so inconsiderate as to disturb the sleep of the patients and their families by singing at such an early hour!!! I flew out of bed, determined to find out where that music was coming from.

I went to the door of Mother’s room and opened it. I stood in the doorway and listened for a moment. The music was coming from a room to the right of Mother’s. While I was standing in that doorway God began to speak to me. I began to understand the room that was the source of the music also contained a dying person. A person who was loved. The music was someone’s gift to that person. Why so early in the morning? I don’t know why. Perhaps that was the only opportunity the musician would have that day. I don’t know, nor is it important that I know.

There was an important lesson for me here. God helped me to understand that families need to be able to grieve and walk down the path of death with their loved one in their own ways, without being judged by me. Sigh. I closed the door, went back to my bed, and prayed for the patient in that room and his family.

Removing the Feeding Tube–The Decision is Made

When the feeding tube was inserted into Mother’s stomach, she was also placed under Hospice Care.  It is difficult for me to remember all the details at the time, but for some reason Hospice agreed to accept Mother with a feeding tube, as one of their patients, even though I don’t think they normally do.

Once she was admitted into the Hospice Unit in the hospital, however, the nurses began to talk to us about removing the feeding tube.  For me, it was not a difficult decision.  It was time for the feeding tube to go.  She had told us that she was tired and ready to die.  I had accepted her passing as something inevitable and should not be delayed by a feeding tube, especially when she was in a semi-comatose state.

For my sister, Susan, however, this decision was much more difficult.  Susan had spent hours and hours with Mother at the nursing home, talking to her and caring for her.  Even though Mother’s conversational abilities had been limited or nonexistent, she  had been Susan’s best friend and confidante.  Susan was having a hard time letting her go.  I understand. If I had been in Susan’s place, I would have probably felt the same way.

After Mother’s doctor talked to Susan, she finally agreed to allow the feeding tube to be removed on the second day of Mother’s hospital stay.  It was very hard on Susan.  There was no way we could make it easier for her. As much as we wanted to, there was nothing we could say or do that would comfort Susan.