Mar 3, 2013
Feb 19, 2013
I suspect we all have a list of things we are "meaning to do". Some of those things we mean to do are not important (in the grand scheme of things) ...like getting all the photos in scrapbooks, hanging pictures, etc. - yet others are more important than we know - like visiting family and friends. We always think there is more time, but I learned over the last year there isn't always more time.
I started to write again last year when I found out my sister was dying - she passed July 25, 2012. I was writing about "saying goodbye". It was the fifth time I'd had to say goodbye in my life. Not "so long", but "goodbye" - at least here on this earth. I just typed and typed - it hasn't been edited yet, but I think I'll post it anyhow - I feel a nudging of the Holy Spirit that someone out there right now could use this - and while there is "more to come" on this subject (completely edited and with scriptures) - for now this might help someone...
Here is what I learned and how I grew in the goodbyes – and in the coming chapters, I will expand on these:
Chapter 1 – Saying Goodbye to my Mother
(This is where I stopped - other than my handwritten notes below)
July 20, 2012:
The trip to the airport early this morning was a jolt into the reality and finality of my trip...I was going to say goodbye. This would be the last time I spent with my sister - ever (at least until I got to heaven). Wow, just writing that word made it all the more real - "ever" as in "forever". All the way to the airport as both my daughter and her fiance slept, I thought of my family. I tried to imagine and prepare myself for what I'd be facing. I knew my brother-in-law was having a very hard time and so I wasn't sure what I'd be facing. I prayed silently to God to give me courage, wisdom and the right words to be whatever small blessing I could be to him and my nieces and nephew, as well as to the rest of my family. After all, I wasn't going through this alone - we were all going through it. I was so lost in thought still when I arrived at the airport I completely forgot to tip the sky cab and as I sat on the plane pulling away from the gate, I was sure my bag wouldn't be on the same flight - I deserved it. I made a mental note to try and find him when I returned and apologize.
The security line was the longest I'd seen in awhile - and I've seen quite a few with all of my business travel. It was about a 45 minute wait and I tried to occupy my mind - weary of thinking about what lay ahead. I wondered how many others of the hundreds in line were going to say goodbye to someone they loved, too. Maybe they were and just didn't know that it would be their goodbye after all, no one is promised tomorrow.
I wasn't my usual cheery self in line or at the gate and I decided to absorb myself in an iBook instead. I just didn't feel like the usual pleasantries -- "on your way home or going somewhere?" "business or pleasure?" -- on and on - the usual ice breakers I'd use to open up a conversation, hopeful that I'd get the chance to share my faith. No, today I was being a selfish and "bad" Christian - I wanted my silent conversation with God. Then again, I needed to draw close to Him right then.
My question to myself in line - about others who were going to say goodbye - as answered on my flight. I didn't talk for a long time, but about an hour into the flight I needed to get out of myself and talk - even if it was just idle chit-chat with a stranger. There was a beautiful woman next to me- I guessed her age to be about 49 - I was very wrong, she was in her early 50's. Her and her husband were heading to California for a weekend retreat. They traveled a lot. Her mom was terminal as well - same thing as my sister, breast cancer. Her mom was 70-something. For a moment I thought, "at least she's had 30-something more years than my sister". Then I felt awful for thinking it and was very glad I didn't say it. We both enjoyed turning the conversation to anything but "death and dying." We chatted about work, God, kids and in the end I told her they should try and get tickets to the Pageant of the Masters and go to the Sawdust Festival since they were staying in Laguna. As the plane landed we said goodbye. As I type this today, I say a silent prayer for her and hope she is finding healing after her mom's passing.
I headed to the rental car counter, got my car and put my sister's address in the GPS. I thought how funny it was that 45 years ago I was born here (in Orange County California) and I'd spent the first 22 years of my life here and now I was using a GPS to get around my "old stomping grounds". In truth, I probably didn't need it, but it was a comfort nonetheless. I needed to call my sister and tell her I was on the way - stupid California nanny state cell phone laws. Just as well, I was hungry and in bad need of coffee. I stopped at Starbucks and called - the answering machine picked up - funny, my sister is the only person I know that still has a land line let alone an answer machine - well, make that my sisters and brother. I left a message - knowing she could hear it but couldn't get up to answer it.
I bought some coffee for me and a caramel frap for her, along with some cakes for everyone else, and then I was on my way. Five minutes later I arrived at the house and paused in the car for a moment, taking a deep breath as I said a silent prayer for strength. I was glad I had when I walked in.
No matter how many times I'd been through this, it was always still a shock to see someone you love so much so weakened and frail. She was not the sweet, happy Margie I remember. She was no bed-ridden, unable to do anything for herself and in constant pain- when she wasn't in and out of consciousness from the pain meds. Her hands were frail, more like those of an 80-year old woman and not a 49 year old woman. I felt my heart sink and my knees weaken. It was all I could do to keep from breaking down right there - but I knew I couldn't. She didn't want my pity or my tears, I'm sure. I looked at Terry - he looked like crap (sorry, Terry) -- yes, I said that. He looked like he hadn't slept in days - and he confessed he hadn't. I dismissed him to the bedroom to get some sleep and told him I would sit with Margie.
"Sit with??" I thought - "wow, was this how life ended? like we began it?" Helpless and needing constant care and attention? IN that moment I half way understood doctor assisted suicide. It's not that I approved of it, but I could just empathize with it at that moment.
While Terry slept I talked with my sister a bit - as much conversation as she could muster. The lack of conversation was not just from her medicated state of sometimes coherency, but because the chemotherapy had caused severe neuropathy that took her voice, most of the use of her hands and feet and certainly some of her dignity.
So many times I had to fight back tears. The kids and I looked through old albums. I laughed and smiled at the old pictures of my sisters and me from the 80's - wow - poodle hair and blue eyeshadow. Margie was so beautiful, so tiny and petite, so frail in a beautiful way - not like now.
Terry woke up a little before 1pm and we got her ready to go to radiation - it was just to shrink the brain tumors so she wouldn't have anymore seizures - nothing more; it wouldn't save her life.
I talked to one of my friends from high school, Denise, while my sister was back getting her treatment. The conversation was a good distraction and Denise is a realist - who always keeps me grounded. Others might think her "harsh", but I loved her honesty and frank matter-of-factness. She was the kind of friend that told you the God's honest truth - not what you wanted to hear, but what you needed to hear. I didn't need a "yes man" (or woman as the case may be) in my life - I needed friends that would keep me grounded. This was Denise. Of course, all of my friends did/do. I am lucky that I've always had some pretty awesome friends close to me to get me through these times - and unfortunately I'd been through similar times before.
I opted to stay the night at my sister's house next to her, rather than at my brother's as I usually did. I loved my brother and was going to stay there at least a couple of nights - that was another goodbye for this trip. He was planning on selling his house - the house we all grew up in. The only that that was always a constant - we could always go "home", back to our roots, when we needed to - but no more. I didn't blame him and I wasn't mad, but I was still sad nonetheless. After years of moving around (nearly fifteen years in various parts of Illinois, the last nine in Texas), our childhood home was the only place I felt I still had roots, and now I was saying goodbye to that, too. Things change. That's the only thing that doesn't change. Part of me wished I had won the lottery so I could buy the house, but for what? a museum to our lives?? I have no desire to move back to California. Well, maybe some small part of me does - but the majority of me is a Texan now - even more so than I ever was an Illinoisan where I'd spent more time.
When we got back from radiation I took my youngest niece out and bought my sister a few sundresses to look pretty. Our cousin was coming over the next day and I was determined to help her feel as beautiful as ever. We also picked up some fingernail polish to do her toenails and fingernails as well. We stopped and got Panda Express for everyone and spent the rest of the afternoon talking.
I am not one to sit still, so later I proceeded to help out around the house as much as I could. Cleaning was interspersed with conversation with my brother-in-law while Margie slept. he was finally talking about wills and arrangements - thought it was still hard. We made some small talk here and there about nothing to break up the seriousness. Thought I was staying there to help them, I crashed out hard about midnight and felt like I'd been very little help at all. I woke up very few times during the night when my sister was stirring and then I went right back to sleep.
The next morning I woke up at 6:30am and Terry was already by Margie's side. She was getting close to needing meds again. Terry left for the gym and Margie and I talked - or rather I talked and she "acknowledged" my comments. She was hungry and she wanted McDonald's oatmeal. I woke up the youngest daughter to sit with her while I ran and got it. I needed a chance to cry.
Through all the stop lights, it seemed like it was 20 miles away - it wasn't -but I would have driven 100 miles to get what she wanted. My friend Karen texted me - along with others - all my prayer warriors, which was a great comfort. Karen was in California, too - she had just landed but was in Los Angeles. She commented on the smog. "Yeah, I don't miss that part of California" I texted back. I often wondered if that was part of what triggered the cancer here. My dad had thought so with my mom's cancer - he had said as much. My dad had blamed the California environment for her death. I would think that if that was true, though, that cancer would occur at a higher rate here than the rest of the states, and that didn't seem to be the case. Either way, smog was icky.
I lost it on the way back and in that moment for the very first time in a very long time, I wished there was a man in my life to just hold me and let me cry. A song came on the XM country station that didn't make it any better... "if you get there before I do..." It's about a man that loses his life-long mate.
I wiped away the tears the best I could and went in the house. My sister wanted oatmeal and I needn't keep her waiting for it. I said another prayer for strength and was comforted by a text from my pastor that came at that moment with prayers of strength and grace. God surely still speaks to us in so many ways.
and this is where I ended it - everything happened so quick after that - perhaps I'll tell the rest of the story soon. Today, however, I am missing my sister and would rather member and cherish her life, than remember her death. It has been said, "We all have an appointed time. We begin dying the moment we are born" - I have learned that our challenge is to live the "in between" the very best we can.
Sep 11, 2011
Sep 10, 2011
I was thinking as I was driving this morning about tomorrow and how important it is in not only our country’s history, but world history. Then I got to thinking about today – or rather what I was doing 10 years ago today. The sad thing is, I can’t remember. Ten years ago tomorrow I can remember almost every detail as it plays like a movie in my head, but ten years ago today – nothing. I know it was a Monday. It was probably a work day like any other Monday – you know, where you dread going back to work after a nice weekend. I’m sure I went out and called on clients around Chicago, where I was living at the time. I’m sure that night my girls and their friends were hanging out at the house after school - well, actually, I’m not sure because I don’t have any recollection of that day in my life. I would venture to say that most of us don’t.
September 10, 2001 truly was the last day of innocent ignorance. On September 10, 2001 most of us were probably going about our lives feeling safe and secure that America was a pretty great place to live. We were prosperous – sure, we were in a small recession (that started in the Clinton years with the burst of the “dot com bubble” – sorry, had to throw that in), but nothing like the economy we face today. We didn’t think about terrorism in our daily lives – after all, terrorism was something that happened “over there”. And aside from a little saber rattling by Saddam Hussein now and again, or actions under the Blue Beret of the UN (God help us) like Somalia or Bosnia, the world was not at war on a large scale. Sure, there were always the “rock throwing” and suicide bombers between Palestine and Israel – not to diminish it, but, again, it was something that happened “over there”. Not to us. Not to America. We lived our lives in blissful ignorance; innocently going about life thinking we were relatively safe in America and these things would never happen to us. We didn’t worry about walking onto a bus, train or plane and being killed at the hands of a homicide bomber –these things didn’t happen here. Sure, there was Ruby Ridge, Waco and Oklahoma City – and I definitely don’t want to diminish those – but it wasn’t an “every day fear” for most of us. We went about our lives relatively sure that unless the train, bus or plane we were on crashed, we were going to get to our destination safely.
I am not saying we weren’t suspicious of “suspicious looking people” – but most people were not suspect of others based purely on their race. Not to say that there weren’t still very small groups of people that were still racist in one form or another – of EVERY race – but for the most part, our country was actually starting to get past the old days of racism and stereotypes based on race. If you looked and acted like a thug, you were still viewed suspiciously –but if you were in a business suit and tie, we assumed you were safe – regardless of the color of your skin. What strange stereotypes and assumptions we had on and before 9/10/2001 – no one would have looked twice at that 20-something Middle-Eastern young man wearing khakis and a dress shirt. They would have assumed he was going to work or school just like the rest of us. And then, within 24 hours, everything changed.
Most of us remember exactly where we were when we heard the news – we probably have an eidetic memory of that day – even if we aren’t typically blessed with that gift. I know that morning I was getting ready for appointments for the day in my little apartment in Carol Stream, Illinois. My girls were getting ready for school – in fact my oldest had already decided to take the bus to school with her friends rather than wait for a ride (she was too cool now for mom to drop her off). My little drama llama was sitting down watching the Cartoon Network (if she’d been watching anything else, we might have known sooner than we did). I know I was wearing khaki slacks, a nice short sleeve buff/off-white sweater and low heeled casual pumps with a string of faux pearls – simple for the appointments I had that day near the house out in St. Charles and the surrounding area. We piled into my company car (a blue Ford Windstar) and were headed to drop my youngest off at school on my way out of town. We turned on the radio – Kiss FM 103.5 (funny however area has a Kiss FM) expecting to hear or normal local morning show, but instead, we were hearing what at first we thought was another “bit” by morning radio DJ’s – a plane had hit the World Trade Center – there was confusion come from the AP – was it a small plane? Did it accidentally hit? Then, word came that another hit the other tower . No one had to wait for any confirmation – we all knew in an instant – the whole country new that instant. It was terrorism. Hysteria ensued as people were shocked and in disbelief. They didn’t know what to do – was the whole country under attack? Should we continue about our days? Cities (including Chicago) were evacuated, planes grounded. My daughter was sitting next to me crying as we drove to school. She knew in that instant that whatever it was, her dad would be going to war – maybe not tomorrow, but he would be going. Her dad was (and is) in the Air Force. I don’t know why, but I dropped her off at school. Kids and parents and teachers were all out on the playground comforting each other, trying to figure out what was going on and what we should do. I wasn’t sure if I should leave my daughter or take her and go and pick up her sister as well. The teachers assured me they would call me if anything was wrong so I left to head for my day – not knowing every place was being evacuated – it was just habit. It provided me some sense of normalcy to assume my day could go on. On the way to my first appointment I kept trying to call my office in Springfield, Illinois to see if they had any news or what we were doing – what was going on. Our COO was a former State Senator – maybe he would know something. I couldn’t get through on my cell phone so I pulled over and called from a payphone at a gas station. I talked to Sandy and then Dennis. In the end, I decided to turn not to go to my appointments. I went to the nearest hospital hoping to give blood – I have no idea why. Like everyone else in line it made me feel like I was doing something. As we all waited hoping to give blood we watched the towers fall on the news in the little TV in the waiting area. Eventually the nurses came out and told us they couldn’t take anymore blood today, to come back another day.
I headed home and picked up my daughters along the way. The youngest was still very upset and it was obvious she’d been crying and sat most of the brief time in the nurse’s office. We sat and watched the news all day – and into most of the night. We’d go outside once in awhile – we had the sliding glass door open – normally it would have been the perfect fall day. Blue skies – not a cloud one – not even a trace. But something was different and very eerie. We couldn’t hear any planes. Not one. We didn’t live too far from the airport – not close enough to be a noise problem, but close enough we heard them in the distance overhead. Not that day. Just silence – except for the occasional fighter jet scrambling by. It was like that for days.
That weekend I went to see my friend’s band play. They were originally going to cancel the gig, but I think everyone needed some kind of distraction and to be around friends. The place was packed – complete strangers were hugging. On Sunday we went to church – not just we “my family” but we as in the majority of the country. It was a great spiritual awakening. Temples, Synagogues, Churches, and Cathedrals – they were all packed with record attendance. We needed assurance. We needed faith. We needed God. We were all one – it was “us” against “them” – even though we weren’t quite sure who “them” was; some terrorist group that most of us had maybe heard of once or twice in the news before but didn’t pay much attention to because it was “over there”. Over the next ten years, Al Qaeda would become a household word and our world, our country, in that instant, didn’t seem so safe anymore…the age of “innocent ignorance” had ended.
Oct 19, 2010
I’ve often said before (if not here, elsewhere) that God puts me in a place where I am frequently in a plane so that I draw very close to Him. To say I was a “nervous flier” would be an understatement – I used to be that person that you avoided sitting next to. You know the one. I would white knuckle the arm rests and take deep breaths every time there was the slightest bump. These days I am a much calmer flier. That may be because familiarity breeds content (or something like that). Though more likely it is because I spend a great amount of time talking to God in the days before flying and during the flight – especially during take-offs and turbulence. Sadly, like quite a few others, my prayer life when I travel becomes much closer to what it should be every day. I know that’s because at that moment I have to fully trust God – but the same could be said for everyday life. I think sometimes we only think to trust Him for the “big stuff” and forget we can trust him with our “little stuff”.
Yes, I’ve heard all of the cliché statistics – “flying is safer than driving” and so forth – but ultimately, to me, it’s a total and complete faith and trust in God that He’s blessed the pilots, the engineers, the mechanics and everyone else involved with keeping that plane up in the air. And it’s a complete faith in Him that He doesn’t just want to smack the plane out of the sky (admit it – you have that visual right now of a giant hand coming through the clouds smacking the plane to the ground, don’t you??). It’s a amazing to me that God revealed the secrets of flight to man – which started the wheels turning in my head as I was praying so intently while we were sitting on the tarmac waiting for our turn to take off.
During this time God gave me a personal revelation – an epiphany if you will – with such clarity. It was an answer to a question I hadn’t known how to answer previously in my Christian walk. I’ve been seeking revelations more earnestly since our ladies’ Bible study group at my church started on the Beth Moore study, Then and There, Here and Now – a Study of Revelation. It is part of our assignments each week to write something that God has revealed to us personally. Sadly, I didn’t bring my workbook to write down this epiphany on this trip (Bible, yes; workbook, no) as this was a short four-day trip to help my dear friend from high school celebrate her retirement from the Air Force (I’m still very proud of you, D). I always try to avoid the pesky baggage charges (which is a subject for another day). It really wouldn’t matter if I did have it, though, because what I’ve written so far is probably the whole 12-week study’s worth of note pages we were given to write the personal revelations – Beth doesn’t give us much room!
In my life I’ve been asked (infrequently, thankfully), “How can you, an intelligent, well educated woman, really buy that everything in the Bible is true and not just some story?” I have never really been sure how to answer that before – not in an adequate way, anyhow. To the world, with my post-graduate degree and several business designations requiring numerous hours of secular studies, it doesn’t seem logical that I would believe so faithfully. Sometimes not even to me. Though I never doubted the Word of God, sometimes I, myself, didn’t know why my faith was so strong. It really was “illogical” and without an acceptable secular answer. I would always just retort by quoting Martin Luther, “Reason is the enemy of faith.” Sometimes that satiated the inquisitor (if I was lucky). When pushed a little further I would name all my blessings, the hard times God had brought me through, the people He’s put in my life, the unexplainable sequences of events that have brought me to where I am, etc. At this point I would lose the unprepared contenders, but occasionally I would get an atheist or agnostic who was a little more prepared and a hard-core debate was in the makings. They would press further. Scriptures would come out, but still, sometimes, I would go away feeling defeated. It hurt to feel this way because I am extremely competitive – but it wasn’t just a pride thing for me. It felt like I’d lost one for the team, the “God team”. There is no greater feeling of shame than to feel you disappointed God. I’ve been asking God for years to better equip me for the next “debate” so I could be a better witness. Today, with the roar of the jet engine drowning out all that was around me (the only positive of being seated next to the engine) God gave me a revelation, partially aided through Beth Moore’s words that God only reveals things to us as He wants to and He thinks we can handle what He is revealing (paraphrased).
Centuries ago good Christians believed the world to be flat. Looking back know with all our knowledge we think, “How silly”. But then, with their limited God-given perspective and unrevealed mysteries, it really wasn’t that silly. The Earth did appear to just “end”. One day, God imparted knowledge – a revelation – to a man named Columbus – the revelation that perhaps the world didn’t just drop off at the horizon. He was ridiculed for his beliefs that were contrary to the science du jour. Fast forward a few centuries and people would scoff at other inventors because their ideas were contrary to the science of the day – Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, the Wright Brothers, and Einstein – the list goes on. God had never before in time revealed the things He revealed to these men who would seek to defy previously held “scientific” beliefs. These things – flying, the auto, electricity, and the light bulb – were outside the realm of man’s comprehension at the time. It wasn’t until God’s timing that they were revealed. Think back to when our parents and grandparents were little – if someone had told them they would be able to see live pictures of things taking place anywhere in the world at anytime or talk to someone as they watched live video of them across a continent or even an ocean via some “web camera” on their personal computer or cure some cancers (or even know what they were) they might have been shipped off to the Looney bin in a white coat with extra long arms. After pondering these thoughts, it came to mind, “Why is it so hard for educated men to believe these things beyond our understanding that are yet to be revealed to us???
Sometimes reason really is the enemy of faith. Satan is the great debater – his arguments will always sound so “logical”. This is why so many are swayed down the wrong path. The only thing I can say is the one great thing we all still believe in that defies any and all logic is love!!! So many have tried to apply logic to love in the past and have failed miserably. It makes perfect and absolutely marvelous sense to me that since God is love, both are beyond our current understanding and logic.
One day God will be revealed and with Him the mystery of love. I anxiously anticipate this grand revealing. It is so awesome that we have a God that allows some things to remain such a great mystery to inspire hopes, dreams and, yes, even persistence to discover what has yet to be discovered. I am in total and absolute awe of Him. While this revelation still may not squelch my antagonists in a debate, I feel it is beyond an adequate answer for the next time I take the podium for “the God Team”.