A letter to Grandma for Her Birthday

Dear Grandma,

I can’t even to begin to imagine how hard these last few months have been for you. From the first hospital visit to today, your whole life has changed. Grandpa was your rock, and I can’t imagine anything that would be harder for you than losing him.

I’ve watched you this last year. I’ve seen the strength you gave him when you had no strength left because you knew he needed those last moments, we needed those last moments before he went to the Father. I know the nights you didn’t sleep because he didn’t sleep. I know that even when he did sleep you laid awake to keep watch over him.

I know how you struggle today to fill your time because he was your time. I know how alone you feel because he was your other half. I know that you never imagined a life without him because he was your life.

And I sat at your table this week. And you watched the boys play their games and we talked about life and everything that had happened in the week since we had seen you. And we even talked about Grandpa a little. Not in any big or hard ways, but just in the natural way he came up in conversation, in how he would react to the world around us. Or how we all think of him every time Purdue plays basketball. (Oh my goodness, he would be madder than my husband in how they have been playing!)

I’m not sure why, but this has been a hard week for me. I miss Grandpa so much right now, maybe even more than the week he died. He was always there to talk to, and sometimes when we talk I imagine how he would react to it. And if I’m struggling this much this week, I can’t even imagine how hard things are for you.

I love Grandpa so much, but I know you love him even more than I can imagine. I can’t imagine losing my husband after 11 years of marriage, and I know that’s only a drop in the bucket after 60. I wish I could tell you how to move on, how to breath in and breath out every day. I wish I could tell you what to do to make each day easier. I wish there was a way I could make each day easier.

And I know (and I know you know) there is a reason God called Grandpa home and left you here with us. And not that I would pick him over you, I’m just selfish enough to want you both here with me now. It makes me want to scream out that it isn’t fair. And we all know that isn’t the way life works. We all have a story to tell and God doesn’t call us home until our story is done, no matter how long or short the story is.

Sunday is your 80th birthday. Maybe that is why Grandpa being gone hurts so much this week. I can just see him trying to convince you that you needed a party and 80 candles on a cake. I can see him rejoicing that God gave us all one more year with you.

And maybe that’s where we all need to be right now. Yes, it hurts so much. Yes, we will continue to cry and miss Grandpa, but his story was told. Your story isn’t finished and we need to continue to tell it. And I thank God for every additional day I have with you, that my boys have with you because your story isn’t finished. And while I didn’t believe, even after he was sick, that Grandpa’s story was coming to an end, I am so thankful for every day we had with him. And I know you are, too.

So know that while you are struggling through this time of change, we are struggling with you. And know that while you are learning how to live without Grandpa, we are too. I know it’s not the same. I know as much as I hurt, you must hurt 1,000 times more. But also know that your story isn’t finished. God still has work for you to do here on earth.

This may be the least happiest birthday letter ever written. And this is probably your least happiest birthday ever. And while we celebrate God giving us another year with you, it’s okay to have tears for the year He didn’t give us with Grandpa.

I’m sorry this letter isn’t more cheery, but I don’t think cheer is what any of us have to give right now. Maybe for your 81st birthday we can be cheery. I love you very, very much. Happy Birthday, Grandma.

 

That Busy Time of Year

Like most people, it feels as if we are just insanely busy this time of year. And this year, it feels much more overwhelming than it has in years past. At night when I finally get things wrapped up and get in bed to go to sleep, I remember that I was going to blog that day but I never got to it. In fact, I normally blog from our desktop because it’s easier for me than using our tablets. For Thanksgiving, our desktop was unhooked and placed in a corner out of the way. Today, I finally got it hooked back up.

Besides family get-togethers, company Christmas parties, Christmas shopping, visits to Santa, and all the regular every day things, these past few weeks have been so stressful. Shortly before Thanksgiving, Cameron had a cavity that became abscessed.  After treating the infection, he had to have the tooth pulled. He was an absolute rock star with how he handled all of it. And apparently, he doesn’t get his teeth from me because, where I’ve never had a cavity, before Christmas, Cameron has four additional teeth that are going to need fillings or crowns.

In case that’s not enough going on in our lives, for Thanksgiving, Connor got the flu. That annoying flu morphed into Bronchiolitis in Connor. By Sunday night, he was taking short, fast breaths and trying to take a deep breath would make him cough so he and I headed to the Emergency Room. After 2 hours in the ER waiting room, we finally got to see a nurse. Connor’s oxygen level was at 55. It’s amazing how fast they can get a doctor in to see you when your level is that low.

Connor got some steroids, a breathing treatment and a chest x-ray. He thought it was all great fun. I was functioning mostly on panic. After another 2 hours, we finally got to leave the hospital with a nebulizer, 2 prescriptions and instructions that if his breathing got worse or he started breathing like that again, I was to bring him straight back to the ER.

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The next day, not only was Connor sick, but Cameron and I had both caught the flu, too. Thankfully, neither of us had issues breathing, but we were all in sad shape.

What? That’s not enough fun? Well, there is more. While we were all sick, my husband had the one work trip he takes a year so there was no backup at home. (Thankfully he didn’t leave for the trip until after the ER visit.) We also got our Christmas tree that weekend.

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It is much bigger than the trees we’ve gotten in the past, but the boys love it and have named it Piney. Piney drops more needles than our last 2 trees did the entire time we had them up combined. And apparently Piney isn’t very happy about where she is sitting, or maybe it’s just really tiring being a Christmas tree because she’s fallen over twice. Let me tell you, the idea of having to decorate that tree a third time makes me want to bang my head against the wall. Oh, did I mention that last year we made glass ornaments and all but one shattered the first time Piney fell over?

So that’s where we are right now. Mostly well finally but also very overwhelmed.

I did noticed today that over the last week or so there has been a lot of visits to the Hope For the Holidays post from last year. I actually meant to talk about that a couple weeks ago (and then all the above happened). MODG, the blogger who started WANA, which Hope For the Holidays was based off of is back to blogging. She is hosting WANA again this year and I have decided that I just don’t have the strength to host a similar event. I would ask any of you who are looking to help someone in need to check out this years WANA. Any of you looking for help this year, please post your stories over there. (Fair warning, they use a lot more colorful language over at MODGblog.com than I use here.) You can find the post for WANA here.

I wish I felt I could do it again this year. I wish I could help everyone who needs help this year.

Now you guys are mostly caught up on where we are. I am hoping after the first of the year to be back with posts more than once a month or so. No matter what happens, 2016 is going to be an exciting year. I have lots of strong opinions on everything going on in the world that I would like to share. Hopefully, you guys will continue to stick around even when I’m not posting very often. I know I’ve lost some readers, as happens when you don’t have new content consistently. Thank you to everyone who’s hung around for 2015. It’s been one of those years.

Here is a special treat. Cameron wrote a song about Grandpa John today and had me video him singing it. He wanted to play guitar while he sang, but his guitar is broken and hasn’t been replaced yet (and he doesn’t actually know how to play the guitar). He is using a plastic wagon handle as a guitar. And a special thanks to Grandma for the lovely glasses she gave him yesterday that he needed to wear to make his look complete. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do.

 

I’m Sad But I’m Good

Yesterday was a good but hard day. Yesterday we buried Grandpa’s earthly body. There was laughter and tears and the joy of knowing exactly where Grandpa is now and that we will see him again someday.

It was a small graveside service with family. If I would have been the one making decisions, it wasn’t what I would have picked, but Grandpa and Grandma had made the decisions years ago. And it was perfect.  Because Grandpa was a veteran, Grandma was presented with the veteran’s flag in the most touching moment by my brother in his army uniform. It was so moving, and I know how proud Grandpa was of what my brother is giving to his country, the country that Grandpa loved and prayed for every day.

There was a time of sharing, and I wish you all could have heard it. Most of the people who shared were family by love, not blood. Grandpa’s sons-in-law and grandsons-in-law spoke of the way he loved them as if they were born into the family and the way he touched their lives. What a fitting tribute to Grandpa. To him it didn’t matter if you were family by blood or family by love, he loved you the same. Grandpa’s life truly was a life of love.

We are loved by a lot of people, so over and over I get asked (or my husband gets asked) how we are doing. And I wondered if people believe the answer we give. I’m okay. Yes, it’s hard. And yes, I miss Grandpa fiercely. There are tears. On Saturday, I was talking about upcoming stuff and said, “Mom and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa” and then I stopped and realized what I had said. Those times are extra hard. The whole month of November will be hard as Grandpa’s birthday and Grandma and Grandpa’s 60th wedding anniversary passes. But today? Today I am good.

I’m in a strange place right now. As people hear that my grandpa died, I get told they are sorry, but I don’t think they understand. He was more that my grandpa. He was my friend. He was my advisor. As a child, I spent a lot of time with him. It was more than an average granddaughter-grandpa relationship. It wasn’t just once a month that I was with him or just holidays. Grandma and Grandpa were with us a lot growing up.

And it was even more so as an adult. I think that’s unusual for other families. You become an adult and have all this other stuff going on and see your grandparents less than you did as a child. It wasn’t like that for me. For a while, I was with them every week Monday through Friday and then we went to the same church on Sundays. I didn’t lose a grandparent. I lost one of my best friends this week.

These last couple months were the same even when they were different. Before Grandpa got sick, I saw him once a week, like clockwork every Wednesday I was over there with the boys. And that meant not only did I get all that time, my boys got it, too. They are going to have all these amazing memories of the times they spent with Grandpa that seem (at least to me) unusual for great-grandsons/great-grandparents. As a whole family, we are extremely close but these relationships seem even closer than that.

These past few months I had the pleasure of getting to be there a lot. I got to do the little things for Grandpa like make sure the bird feeders were full and that there was corn out for the deer. I got to sit at the table and drink coffee with him. I got to be there as he was shooting BB guns from the patio with hands that would shake and him still do a better job than the rest of us. I got the privilege of sitting quietly while he napped and just listening in case he needed something.

As I just read back over my words, I realized this wasn’t what I was going to write today, but apparently it’s what I needed to say. I guess what I want you to know today is that I am sad but I’m good, too. And when you think of me and that my grandpa died this week, take that average granddaughter-grandpa relationship you think of and multiple it by 10 and you’ll almost understand the relationship I had with an amazing man.

A Day With Grandpa

Yesterday was a really hard day. The boys and I went to see Grandpa for the first time since his diagnosis, and the first time the boys had seen him since he first got sick.

I have been talking to the boys about Grandpa John being sick. It’s hard to find the words to explain what is going on to them. I told them that he was sick. I told them he probably wouldn’t be getting better. I told them he wouldn’t be the same as he was the last time that they saw him. That he had a funny haircut and a bed in his living room. That he was in a wheel chair instead of his normal kitchen table chair. I told them that he wouldn’t be able to take them on a tractor ride or a walk to look for turtles. I told them they would have to give him soft hugs instead of the big, hard hugs that Connor loves to give that will knock a person down.

I asked if they had any questions. Connor told me that he had a question about animals. So I asked if they had any questions about Grandpa John. They had important questions like, “Why doesn’t Grandma fix Grandpa John’s funny haircut?” We covered what was going on the best that I could in one sitting. Connor told me that he need to just sit next to Grandpa John while he was sick.

We got to Grandpa’s just as the Hospice nurse was getting there. The boys became instantly shy, but we still got to see grandpa. And he behaved like he always did and asked Connor if he could run over Connor’s foot with his wheelchair to see if it would hurt.

We sent the boys out to play while the nurse was there, but eventually we did get to visit. I sat at the table with Grandpa. It was good. It was hard. It’s times like these that you just want to fix everything but there is no way to fix it. We laughed. These times are hard, but we aren’t just going to sit around and cry the whole time. Even though these aren’t the memories we wanted to be making, but we are going to make the best memories we can in the time we have.

Eventually Grandpa had to lie down and take a nap. And as he napped in the hospital bed in the living room, Connor sat quietly in the recliner next to him, reading his book and keeping watch. Grandpa woke to adjust and told us that he couldn’t find the light. We asked what light he was looking for and he replied, “The light of glory.” Oh, Grandpa, don’t worry. You’ll find it when it’s time.

Before we left, we all gathered around the bed, with Connor holding one of Grandpa’s hands and Cameron hold the other, and prayed together. We prayed for healing because our God is a God of miracles. Grandpa asked the boys if they know Jesus. (They do.) The most important thing to him right now is knowing that all of his family knows and loves Jesus. And then Grandpa gave both of the boys a dollar.

It was hard. It was good. It was emotional.

Once we were on the road, I asked the boys if they had any questions after seeing Grandpa John. They wanted to know why he gave them a dollar, and I told them it was because Grandpa John loves them. The only other question came from Cameron. He wanted to know why Grandpa John wanted to hold his hand to pray. “That’s not how you pray.” Then Cameron folded his hands and showed me that with folded hands is the right way to pray. I had to explain that there is no right way to pray and that sometimes people like to hold hands to pray.

Both boys put their dollars in safe places. Cameron slept with his by the bed with his hearing aids “because it’s a special dollar from Grandpa John.” They may not understand everything that is going on, but they do understand that something is different. That this time is different. And special. They are making memories, too.

It’s hard and we are all just taking it one day at a time. I’m trying so hard to find that fine line between absolutely believing that God could heal Grandpa and understanding that He probably won’t.

The God of All Comfort

This morning I was up with the sun, which is extremely unusual. I laid in bed and watch the sun begin to peek through the skylight in our bedroom. I wanted to be asleep, but the more I tried to fall asleep the less restful it became so I finally just gave in and got up.

I spent the sunrise out on the deck with my coffee and my bible and my God. I needed comfort and strength, and I know God knows what I need so I decided I’d just open my bible and read whatever I opened on. I found myself at the beginning of 2 Corinthians. And do you know what that book of the bible starts out talking about?

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

In those two verses, Paul uses the word comfort five times. He describes God as the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. How true is that? All of my comfort comes from my God.

He knows what I need and provides it for me. He knows every tear I have cried and all the ones I’ve held in. He knows when I am broken-hearted and hurts with me. He knows. And He gives me mercy and comfort.

I know that no matter what happens today, one day there will be no sickness and no pain and no more tears. One day, those who love Jesus will be together again with Him, and there will be no heartache and no tears. There will only be joy. One day it won’t matter how broken our bodies become on this earth because one day they will all be healed.

And while I may have tears today, knowing all this does give me comfort. All that we are going through right now is just a small blip in the big plan of God that leads us to Him. And His plan is so good.

And while we are just a small part in His big plan, I know that God cares that we are hurting right now. He feels our pain and knows our sorrows. He loves us more than anyone ever could, more than any of us can imagine. He wipes every tear from my face and holds me in His arms and lets me know that, in the end, everything will be good.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

God Uses All Things For Good, Even When It Sucks.

Over the past couple of months we’ve been going through some hard stuff. My grandpa hadn’t been feeling quite right so he went to see the doctor. They put him on some medications and a couple of days later we were admitting him to the hospital. He was hallucinating and hearing voices inside his head.

After a few days in the hospital, it was decided that all of his problems were side effects from the medications that he had been on. They took him on the medicine, and he appeared to be doing better. Yes, he was still struggling with seeing things that weren’t there, but he was having good days, too. We all believed that once the medications had worked their way completely through his system that he would be well, again.

The next week he and my grandma (and parents and aunt and uncle and friends) all went on a cruise to Alaska together. Everyone was nervous but it was decided that they would go. And like at home, there were good times and bad. And in the end everyone was glad they had gone.

On the way home from Alaska, grandpa took a turn for the worse. And a couple of days after they were home, he struggled to control his left arm and leg and fell. We had to call the ambulance, and he was rushed to the hospital. Once there they began treating him as if he had a stroke. None of us believed it was a stroke. We argued with the doctors. We pushed for more tests and other diagnosis. Finally we pushed on the right doctor.

They did several more tests and determined that grandpa had not had a stroke. They found he had an abscess on his brain, so basically just a really bad infection. They started him on antibiotics for it and began to talk about surgery to drain it. They didn’t know if any permanent damage had been done, but we were all just so thankful to know what was wrong and that they had a plan to get him better.

I think that relief may have lasted 48 hours, maybe. Two days ago, the doctors took grandpa into surgery. We prayed, and asked others to pray, and waited. Grandpa came through the surgery great, but they did not drain the infection. Because, you see, it turns out it wasn’t an abscess after all. It is glioblastoma multiforme, a fast acting, incurable, cancerous tumor.

Best case scenario, God heals grandpa. I truly believe this is an option. With treatment, the doctors say he had about 14 months. Without treatment, the doctors are saying less than 6 months. Even with treatment, grandpa will continue to struggle with the use of his left side and continue to have problems with hallucinations.

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My heart is just broken. I cry until there seem to be no tears left and then I’ll think of something and find out that there were tears left after all.

I’m not ready for this. I haven’t heard all his stories. And then I look at my little boys who adore their Grandpa John and I know they haven’t heard enough of his stories. Or taken enough tractor rides or walks or gotten into nearly enough trouble with him.

And then to go with all the other crappy emotions I’m feeling these days, I feel guilty and selfish. If it’s this hard for me, then how hard is it for my mom? He’s her dad. How is my grandma coping? They’ve been married for over 50 years. And it’ll probably piss them both off when they read that.

There are things I know that help, or will help over the coming months. My grandpa and my God are tight. They are on really good terms, and there is no doubt where my grandpa will be spending eternity. And it’s so much better than anywhere on Earth.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” I know God is using this for His good. But boy does it suck. And we may never know what good God is using this for, but I know He is. I know He has a big plan that I can not understand.

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I know that God will use all that we are going through, no matter the outcome for His good. I know that everything will work out according to His plan. I know that, in the end, we will all be together again. And there will be no pain, no sickness, no hurt, and no tears.

But today, even knowing all that, doesn’t make my heart hurt any less.