Friday, January 29, 2016

Facebook and Tragedy

I know a lot of people complain about what a time-suck Facebook can be. I will not dispute that statement...in fact, most of the time that's about all it amounts to. It's a convenient way to keep in touch with people that otherwise you wouldn't keep in touch with as well. I mean really, Facebook has made the high school reunion almost pointless. And there are groups where people sharing a common interest or activity can chat and share ideas and get to know each other...so it can be quite useful too.

When something bad happens in your life, it can be an amazing place to bring Christians together to pray as well. I got to witness this first hand with everything that happened this month with Pam. From the day it all began, and each day thereafter, I use Facebook to keep people informed of what was going on, to covet their prayers, and update those who I knew were on their knees on our behalf. It helped. It comforted. I felt every one of those prayers. I will be honest - you come to a point during something like this that you're so mentally exhausted, and your heart hurts to much, that you almost lose the ability to pray yourself. There's just nothing left in the tank...so to know that all it takes is a simple status update on Facebook to have a few friends praying for you is a wonderful thing.


Because I use this blog to document life, I'm going to document my Facebook during that time:


  January 1 at 1:44pmSaginaw
My stepmother has suffered a massive stroke. Would appreciate all the prayers you can muster.

80 people commented, sending thoughts and prayers our way.

  January 1 at 3:54pmPlano
Pam (my stepmother) is headed into a 4 hour-ish procedure to break up the clot in her brain. We are   with my dad at the hospital now and are very grateful for the prayers!

  January 1 at 5:10pmPlano
Waiting room hour 1: watching Telemundo and trying not to go crazy. Si.

Seriously. There was one spanish-speaking woman in the waiting room, and she had taken over the remote, switched it to Telemundo and was talking on the phone, not paying the least bit of attention to the TV, the whole time we sat there.

Pam is out of surgery. They were able to break up both clots and everything looks as good as can be expected. She does have some tissue damage from the stroke that is irreversible but blood flow is restored and looks good. Thank you for your continued prayers!

  January 2 at 7:02amSaginaw
If you're awake right now it's because God knew we needed some prayer warriors today. Please lift up my family and Pam. We are not out of the woods by a long stretch.

  January 2 at 11:19am

Rather than type all of this again....

Heather Adams
CT scan this morning showed swelling and bleeding on the brain. She is on meds to help that. She is having another scan around 1 to check the swelling. She still cannot open her eyes. She has been moving her right leg and arm more. There is no movement on her left side. So many unknowns right now.

  January 2 at 2:50pmPlano
Pam update: her brain swelling has gone down since this morning which is good. They're keeping her sedated slightly so she doesn't get agitated. Not out of the woods, but better than we were.

  January 2 at 4:53pmPlano
Today's creations, ready to hang on the wall. Thank you so much for your continued prayers. Nothing new to report...which isn't necessarily bad.
  January 3 at 1:09pmSaginaw
You know how you have stress and a million things to do and a heavy heart, and really all you want to do is take a nap until it all goes away? Yeah, that.

  January 3 at 8:55pmSaginaw
Just to update my friends on Pam... There hasn't been much change today, which is both good and bad. Not much worse, but also not better. Swelling and bleeding are still a primary concern and she is in critical condition. We all appreciate your prayers and offers to help in any way you can. Times like these really make me appreciate my friends and family.

One day at a time. Not much has changed with Pam's condition. Tomorrow they are doing a procedure to hopefully relieve some of the pressure in her brain. Then we wait some more and pray for the best.

  January 6 at 11:00amPlano
They are getting ready to transport Pam to surgery. Thanks in advance for your continued prayers! I also deeply appreciate all of the birthday wishes today. It's not how I planned to celebrate today, but your posts and texts have helped bring a smile to my face.

  January 6 at 1:08pmPlano
Pam's procedure went well! Thank you for your prayers. Now we play the waiting game a little longer.

  January 8 at 3:09pmSaginaw
It's been one week since my family's world was turned upside down and I'm sad to say there's nothing new to report. Pam's condition hasn't changed one way or the other much. The waiting is difficult. Dad has had a rough day today. I think his emotional tank is pretty drained at this point. Many thanks to those of you keeping us in your prayers.

  January 10 at 4:07pmPlano
Pam has some lovely artwork for her wall and we have more snacks than we could possibly eat. ‪#‎daybyday‬

In the next couple of days there will be some very serious conversations and decisions to be made that no one ever wants to have to make. We are grateful for your continued prayers as we navigate this journey as a family.

  January 12 at 2:21pmPlano
I never knew what an honor and a privilege it could be to sit with someone as they drew their final breath.

97 people commented with love, prayers, support, sorrow, and condolences to that post. Many more sent texts and private messages.

Thank you, everyone, for praying. Even if we did not like the answer God gave us to those prayers, we know that each and every one of them helped.

Monday, January 18, 2016

After

Since we were already in Mount Pleasant, we decided to spend the remainder of our weekend with Heather and Will. Kate and Olivia miss each other a lot so it is always nice to have them together. They really get along quite well about 80% of the time. Kate ended up leaving the cemetery with Heather and Olivia while Nick and I stood around talking for just a bit longer. Eventually we made our way to the house and changed out of our fancy clothes. Heather and I took the girls to Hallmark and let them pick out some new Itty Bitties together. Kate ended up getting a ton of them because they had a lot on clearance at that store. The stores around home never put the Itty Bitties on sale.
Once we got back home I changed again into lazy lounge wear. Heather had planned a yummy dinner for us with this really delicious chicken taco recipe she found. We all ate and talked again for a bit about the events of the past two weeks. I was beyond mentally, physically, and emotionally drained, but I enjoyed the company nonetheless.

The girls continued to play after bath time for a while so the adults sat down to play Skip-bo together. I really wanted to sleep, but also wanted to spend some quality time with my friends. Finally it was time to sleep, which I hadn't really done very well in the past couple of weeks. I don't know if it is because everything was finished now or if my body had just had enough (or if it was the melatonin that Heather gave me) but at last I was able to sleep really, really well. I woke up the next morning feeling better than I had in several days.

We rarely come to Mount Pleasant without getting an MP burger, so we met up with Mom, Richard and Trey there for lunch as well as my cousin Nikki and her two kiddos. Mom and Richard had stayed with my aunt for the night. After lunch we made our way out to Grandma's house where we did what we always do at Grandma's house - we sat around the table and just talked. We spent an unusually long amount of time talking about pillows for some reason, but it was just the kind of mindless chatter I needed.
Heather made homemade pizzas that night for us and we ate well again. We played two rounds of Skip-bo that night before it was off to bed once more.

Finally on Sunday afternoon it was time to make our way back home. Dad's birthday was Sunday, which was really difficult for him. He ended up not spending the day at home alone, but obviously he didn't feel like celebrating much either. He spent the day the best way he knew how, so we let him do what he needed to do.

I think we really needed the break from reality to just hang out with friends and relax before heading back to the normal routine of life, or whatever the new normal routine of life will be.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Final Goodbye

Friday morning began early. I was exhausted. I will admit that when this entire saga began, I lost the ability to fall asleep easily and then sleep through the night. My mind races at night and I just can't seem to turn it off. Anxiety, stress, worry, sadness, fear....all of these things have thrown my body into a whirlwind and sleep has paid the price. Thursday night was no exception. I think I checked the clocked once every hour or so, and just before 3 when I woke up to use the restroom I thought maybe if I played a mindless game on my phone for a little bit it would make my eyes droopy again. 45 minutes later Nick rolled over and said "You have to get some sleep" through the iPhone glow. So here was Friday morning, a huge day for us all and I was pretty much done.

Dad got ready first. The funeral home doors were going to be unlocked at 8 am, and he wanted some time alone before we all arrived. Pam's service was at 10. So he left the house pretty close to 8 and the rest of us got ready. The kids each sat down and drew a picture for Nannie. When we arrived at the funeral home, we walked Kate and Logan up to the casket and helped them place their drawings inside. Kylie couldn't come up there with us, so Logan had hers. They wanted Nannie to take those with her.

People began arriving, and someone told me that my mom had arrived. I headed straight for her, knowing what was about to come out of me like a floodgate that had been opened. I had done my fair share of crying over the last week, but I had not fully allowed myself to lose it yet. Even when I was alone, I hadn't let it the raw emotion take over and just get it out. (Mostly because these moments tended to happen while I was driving in my car alone, which just isn't an opportune time to lose it.) But when my mom wrapped her arms around me I let go and it all came out. I guess in a way I had been waiting for her to hold me and let me cry. Isn't that what mommas are for? No matter how old you are, sometimes you just need your mom to hold you while you lose it.

They gathered all of the family into the foyer area just before we began the service so we could walk in together. Jason and I sat with Dad in the front, with the rest of the family filling several rows behind us. The chapel was packed. A few days later one of the funeral home workers would tell Dad that it had been a long time since they had a service with so many people there.

Pam was head of the nurse's in the OR at her hospital. I don't know her specific title, but she was important over there, an the entire OR had rearranged their schedule so that everyone could come o the service. I thought that was very touching and quite a classy gesture. Dad appreciated it greatly too.

Just before it was time for the family to enter the chapel, I looked up to see a familiar face walking into the funeral home and knew she was only there for me. My dear friend, Jeannie Logan, had driven all the way from Hemphill, Texas just to be there for me. We're talking around a 7 hour round trip. Cue the tears once more. I couldn't believe that she was there, walking towards me with a big hug and condolences. I'm beyond blessed by the wonderful people in my life, but some of them are extra special and Jeannie is definitely one of those.

We filed into the chapel finally and the service began. I think I held Dad's hand the whole time. We all alternated between listening quietly to the minister and crying. Cathy's minister performed the service for us, and it was beautiful and sweet. He read the eulogy before they played It Is Well. He talked about Pam and some of the things he had learned about her from Cathy and others. Despite not having ever met her, he did a pretty good job of capturing her spirit with his words. Then they played the slideshow I had prepared.

I filled it with as many photos as I could find that showed all the best parts of Pam. Heather sent me many to use, and Cathy and Jeff's wife Gina also sent me some. I found some older photos in Dad's house to scan, and I think overall it was a nice depiction of her life. I wish that some of her coworkers would have had some photos from Pam on the job - we didn't have a single picture of her in scrubs at the hospital. Apparently they just don't stop to grab pics now and then, and being a photographer I think that's unfortunate. I told one of her coworkers that I hope they'll start to occasionally snap a selfie here and there with each other, because you never know when it will be needed.

Despite wanting to make the slideshow happy and upbeat, I just couldn't do it. I sat at my computer for over a week, listening to one depressing song after another, trying to find the perfect melody. Some were far too sad for me to use, and some just didn't convey the message that I felt inside. Finally I remembered "When I'm Gone" by Joey & Rory. No matter what other songs I tried, I couldn't get that one out of my head, and so I stuck with my gut. I knew it would make everyone cry, but perhaps that what we all needed. Crying isn't a bad thing, and expressing sadness can be very therapeutic. One the slideshow finished, they played "Forever and Ever, Amen" by Randy Travis, which was Dad and Pam's song.

The casket was opened one last time, and friends, coworkers, loved ones all began filing past to say their goodbyes. Kate had been ok during most of the service but also very fidgety. She wasn't really understanding what was going on and has a hard time sitting still in church anyway, and to her this just felt like church. She spend most of the service alternating between wiping away my tears and Nick's tears. But when the people began walking past Nannie's casket, she leaned over to ask Nick what they were doing. He told her they were saying goodbye to Nannie, and the reality came crashing down on her. She began to cry, and all we could do was hold her and let her get it out.

I've always found it pretty easy to do the final pass by at a funeral. It's just a body, an empty shell that no longer houses the person it used to, so saying goodbye again seems redundant. I mean, they're not there anymore. I had watched her spirit leave her body in the hospital. I knew she wasn't there anymore. She hadn't been in that body for a few days now. I guess the final viewing is for the people who didn't get to watch their loved one pass away, which is almost always the case. Only a select few are privileged enough to be present in those final moments, if they must happen.

When we finally left the funeral home, we headed to Dad's house for lunch. Several friends and neighbors had purchased food from all over - we had BBQ, chicken tenders, chicken wraps, roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, baked beans, fruit, cole slaw, rolls....and probably more that I just can't remember. There was a ton of food, I know that much. One of Dad's neighbors had helped set everything up and she stayed to help make sure it was all put away since we had an almost 2 hour drive to get to Mount Pleasant for the graveside service.

Pam only lived in Mount Pleasant for a few years, but she always told Dad she wanted to be buried where ever he was laid to rest. His immediate family is all buried in the Farmers Academy Cemetery in Mount Pleasant, so that was our destination. Several relatives and more friends from Mount Pleasant were already at the cemetery when we arrived, people who couldn't make the drive to Sunnyvale for the service. My grandma, Aunt Sheila and Nikki were there, as well as my Great Aunt Pat, Heather, Olivia and her mom and dad came, Dad's cousin Vicki, our friend Deana, and a few others that I don't recall at the time. There was a nice amount of people there to say one final goodbye. Jason actually spoke for a few minutes at the graveside, rather than allow someone else to do it. He mostly talked about what Pam meant to us all and how we would miss her, very simple and sweet. It was perfect. We ended with a prayer, and then everyone slowly made their way out of the cemetery.
I think Pam would have been happy and touched to see so many people who came to mourn her loss with us. I am not sure that she fully realized how loved she was by so many, and I hope that she knows now. I don't really know how all of that works, but it makes me feel better to think so.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Visitation

Thursday arrived and it was time to begin this process of saying goodbye. It was time to see Pam again, only this time it would only be the shell of who she had been. This would be the first time Kate, Kylie, and Logan had seen her since Christmas, when she was still so vibrant and full of life.

Children under the age of 12 are not allowed in the ICU for health reasons, among others. I mean let's face it...children are pretty much walking petri dishes so who knows how many illnesses they are carrying around at any given time. But even if they had allowed it, none of us wanted the kids to see Pam with all the tubes and needles and machines. It was scary and difficult enough for the adults. I cannot imagine that it would have made life any easier for little ones, though none of us ever imagined that the next time they laid eyes on her she would be laying in a casket. Is any of this really happening?

When we picked Kate up from school early on Thursday, she was curious and excited to know why. At this point we hadn't told her that Nannie had passed away, so she thought perhaps we were going on a special trip somewhere. She was actually annoyed that she was missing school on Friday. Once we got her home and sat her down, we explained that the doctors were not able to help Nannie because her brain was just too badly damaged by her stroke, and she had passed away. It was pretty clear at that point: Kate didn't fully understand. She seemed sad, but she also was mainly curious to know if going to Pop's meant that we would see Kylie and Logan. Basically I had worked myself into this huge ball of anxiety over telling Kate this awful news and carried around this lump in my throat for 2 days about it, only to have her say, "Oh."

After we all made it to Dad's house and changed for the evening, we headed up to the funeral home around 4. Visitation was to begin at 6, so this would give us plenty of private time with each other to cry and release some emotion that we needed to get out. This also gave the kids their opportunity to come to grips with everything. Some people may disagree with allowing such young kids to see Nannie like that. After all, no matter how well the funeral home did with her hair and make-up and clothing, there was no way to replace that spark, the warmth or simply the life in her. No amount of make-up or beauty tricks would change that, and it's not easy to see. Some people say that often the dead just look like they're sleeping. I say no way. There has only ever been one experience in my life where a person in a casket just looked asleep, and that was an infant. She really did look like a porcelain doll. I didn't even know the baby or the family, and I cried. But I also know that children need closure as well as adults, and I am very firm in my belief about this. Death is a part of life. It's a hideously ugly part of life that we don't want to acknowledge, but a part just the same. Kate needed to understand what it meant. They all needed to see, to have that realization and finality that she was gone, so they can begin to slowly repair the hurt in their heart. It's part of the grieving process.

Dad and Jason had already been to the funeral home to see her and approve of the way they had presented her. There were some challenges to overcome, mainly a large portion of her hair that had been shaved for surgery. There was also a fairly large incision, closed with staples, right at the front of her hairline. I had told Donald, who worked with us from the funeral home, to do the best they could by using her hair to cover most of it. We knew it would not be perfect, but we knew that in reality none of that mattered too much either. The other obstacle was just the overall swelling her poor body endured while in the hospital. There was nothing to be done about that, but it did alter her appearance just a bit.

We all walked up to the casket together. Jason was holding Logan, Heather was holding Kylie, and I was holding Kate's hand. Pop was right behind us. Kylie and Logan were already in tears before we even reached the front. They had known for a couple of days that she was gone, and the reality of the situation was very clear to them. Kate was hesitant....curious....a little too short to see everything but also unwilling to allow me or Nick to pick her up. She kept trying to peek over on her tip toes but wouldn't get really close either. I could tell she was scared but also curious and intrigued at what was going on. She knew it was a time to be really sad, but I think the reality and the weight of everything took several minutes to really penetrate her being.
I leaned down to her and told her it was okay to cry if she was sad. It was a good thing to show how much you loved someone by crying.

It was almost as if she had been waiting for that permission because her tears began to flow freely at that point. It was all very gut-wrenching to watch those three sweet babies weep for their Nannie. Watching my Daddy break down was hard, but watching these little ones have their hearts broken is enough to make you question everything. Adults can rationalize and process, we can come up with reasons why things may happen even if all they do is make us feel better. But a child? All I can say is that it isn't fair and there's no real reason why. No amount of justification can make a child feel better about losing their grandmother.  I knew eventually we would deal with this - death is a part of life. I just always hoped that maybe Logan and Kate would be teenagers before we started losing our parents.
We admired all of the beautiful flowers that various people had sent in her honor. Dad had chosen red carnations, gerber daisies and roses for her casket piece and grandkids spray. Carnations were her favorite flower and Pam loved red. I made sure to grab photos of all of the beautiful flowers so we could remember what has been sent.
Once we arrived at the funeral home, time felt as if it was slowed to a crawl. It seemed like 4 hours passed from the time we arrived and 6 pm when the first visitors started making their appearances to pay their respects and pass along condolences. Several people from the hospital where Pam worked came, and you could tell how much they all loved and appreciated her by their actions and tears. Nick took Kylie, Logan, and Kate to Pizza Hut for dinner and then Dairy Queen for blizzards.

I must have looked at my phone 30 times. 6:05. 6:13. 6:17. 6:33. 6:41. It was like there were 120 seconds per minutes instead of 60.

I didn't have a lot of tears once the visitation began. I hugged friends and loved ones we hadn't seen in a while. I visited with people who worked with Pam, with relatives I didn't really know, and with family members I see often. I held it together pretty well, and then I looked up to see my friends Susan and Kristeen signing into the guest book.

I couldn't hold back tears for that. My dear, sweet, wonderful friends had driven an hour in horrible traffic I am certain just to give me a hug and offer me their support. Who does that? Not a lot of people, I will tell you, and times like this really do show you how many true friends you really have. It was awesome and made me feel really special. Not long after they arrived, our friends Brad and Kimilee showed up as well, and I would have cried again had I not just finished crying when the other two came. Nick came back with the kids so he could visit with our friends who had come all this way just to say in person "We are praying for you and love you guys."

In all, it was a beautiful night.