Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Long Weekend

It began Thursday evening.
Already, everyone I encountered out in the marketplace was saying,
"Have a good weekend."
"And so it begins," I thought.
"Memorial Day Weekend is upon us again."

By Friday, I had a sort of mixed anxiety running through my mind.
I was excited to have 
the long weekend
 that has always signaled the beginning of summer.
I dreaded
 the long weekend
that would forever mark the loss of my beloved daughter.

"You really hit us with a double whammy, Julie," I thought.
"We don't just have one anniversary date of your death.
We have the actual date of your death 
to deal with,
and we have a holiday weekend, when your death occurred
to deal with."

When the greetings came,
"Have a good weekend,"
I simply composed myself and said, "Thank you."
I needed all the good wishes I could get.

Jim asked what I wanted to do for the weekend.
"I think the best plan is to keep busy," I replied.
On Friday,
we went flower shopping and got my small little garden planted.
This year my garden will be pots of flowers.

I supervised the removal of much rock, the roots of Russian sage that invaded the property, and planned in my mind how I would plant the new planting spaces being created around our new home.

Our new gate for the deck.
On Saturday
we went to a matinee at wonderful old theater downtown to see "The Great Gatsby."
We loved it.

On Sunday,
We went to church.
The hymns for the day were just what I need to hear, sing, and ponder.
Only God can move a mountain; 
Only God can calm a sea.
Only God can heal a wounded spirit...

O joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain, and feel the promise is not vain,
that morn shall tearless be.
A photo of Julie, Amy, and Me
The painted rainbow rock that Julie painted for me when she was a child

During communion, I was renewed in my spirit and thankful that my faith has sustained me through all of the days before and after Julie's death.
I am grateful for the great measure of grace that God has given me throughout all of my days.

After church, Jim and I took daughter Trinette and her husband to the airport.
It was wonderful to see this beautiful couple off to Florida for a small "honeymoon" after all these years of marriage.  Trinette looked so young and beautiful and so excited.

We then went to the cemetery to leave flowers on Julie's grave, and on the grave of my father.

On Monday,
we went to the small little town of Monument just a few miles from our house.
Jim wanted to check out a coffee shop/cafe that was there.
Serrano's was great!
My sister met us there.
We had a wonderful lunch and visit. 

We spent much of the weekend walking in our neighborhood,
sitting on the back deck,
socializing with neighbors,
and enjoying the beauty of the world that surrounds us.

May 29, 2013
marks the third anniversary of Julie's death.
I'm going to lunch with my dear friend, Linda Button.
Dr. Linda Button
Sally Wessely
presenting at CCIRA Conference 2013
Linda has been there for me as a friend, sounding board, encourager, and sustainer throughout these three long years.  I treasure her friendship.  It is unbelievable that we now live in the same town and attend the same church. I don't know what I'd done without friends like Linda these past three years.

I try to keep my memories of Julie alive and well.
I find that in my mind, Julie belongs to another realm now.
Without my wanting to, I've assigned her to another domain.
She seems to be a part of a life that no longer exists.
A part of me died when Julie did.

Does the death of a child ineluctably cause a part of a mother's heart to die?

There are days when the clouds fill the sky and threaten storms.

In those moments,
I am reminded 
that the sunshine follows the storm,
that rainbows bring hope and symbolize promises,
that with each spring there is new growth.

I've not walled off that broken heart.
I'm allowing it to heal.
I am moving forward.

This weekend,
I focused on

For those of you who wish to remember Julie
I'm adding two videos.
Watch them later in they are too real of reminders of that beautiful woman that we lost.

In Memory of Our Beloved Jules
April 8, 1976 - May 29, 2013

Julie & Mason
Mother's Day 2008

Julie & Hannah
Mother's Day 2008

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Room with a View

This has been my view since Saturday night. The view is great even if the location to obtain this view is not. I'm on the ninth floor of Penrose Hospital. I'm hoping I'm released before I finish writing this blog post. I spent my Mothers's Day here. I spent yesterday here. I've spent half of today here. I'm watching a storm roll over the mountain. After watching folks on the street below my window walk, jog, or bike in the sunshine while I was cooped up inside, I have little hope of feeling "sunshine on my shoulders" if or when I'm released today because rain in in the forecast.

I'm breaking a rule of advice my father always gave me by writing this blog post. "No one wants to hear about your maladies and surgeries," he'd say, but here I go writing of such things even after his advice.  For weeks, I've not blogged much, nor have I done much of anything, because I've been unwell. I've had more medical tests than I've been able to keep track off.

For years, I've had chronic problems with my esophagus and digestive track. After my ninth scope of my esophagus in January, I decided to get a second opinion from the GI doctors at National Jewish Health in Denver. I've been fortunate enough to be a patient at this prestigious hospital  for respiratory problems for the past seventeen years. My wonderful doctor at NJH, an outstanding doctor who has been treating me, caring for me, and listening to me at least once a year since 1996 referred me to their GI docs. Since my initial consult with the new doctor, I've had enough tests to make my head spin: CT scans, ultra sounds, MRI, colonoscopy, and there are more to come.  Unfortunately, I have more than one type of GI problems.

In the meantime, I've continued to have terrible upper right abdominal pain. On this past Saturday evening,  after two days of persistent pain, I had my husband take me to the ER. This was my fourth visit to the ER since Easter. This time, the lipase levels were up high enough to get the doctors' attention in the ER. Thankfully, the surgeon I had consulted just last week for the possible removal of my gall bladder was on duty at the ER. After reviewing my symptoms and my blood work, he determined I should be admitted to the hospital for monitoring, observation, and for further testing.

I was told I would have a HIDA scan  on Sunday.  So, I spent Mother's Day in the hospital waiting for this test.  This meant I had only fluids coming into my body via an IV.  So much for the nice brunch that my husband had made reservations for at the Fine Arts Center.  I was very disappointed, frustrated, and upset that I found myself in the hospital on this special day, but on the other hand, deep down inside, I knew I couldn't eat anything anyway.  Food has just not been agreeing with me.  It hasn't for weeks.  Finally, at about 4:00 in the afternoon on Mother's Day, the doctor, a hospitalist, met with me and told me the test would not happen until the next day. He said I could order anything I wanted from the hospital menu because they wanted to see if I got sick.  (That seems a bit sinister, doesn't it?)  I chose wisely and ate salmon and other low fat options.  Once I finished eating, I was told I would have nothing else to eat until after the test scheduled the next day  for "first thing in the morning."

In reality, I finally had the HIDA at about 1:00 in the afternoon.  The test showed that there wasn't enough criteria to prove the gall bladder was not functioning.  Even before the test, my GI doctor in Denver had told me that based on my symptoms and the MRI, she suspected I had a condition called Sphincter of Oddi.  After having the HIDA, even though the tests showed no remarkable signs of a non-functioning gall bladder, I became quite symptomatic.  My symptoms became worse after I ate my hospital sanctioned low fat dinner, the first meal I'd had on Monday.  By bedtime, I was given morphine for pain.

As predicted when I started the post, I was released to go home after the sun went away and the rain began to come down.  Before I was released, I was advised to talk to my GI doctor at National Jewish Health about having the test and procedure for Sphincter of Oddi done.  As I already knew, this procedure is only done at the University of Colorado hospital in Denver.  I called Dr. M at NJH and told her nurse what was going on. Within an hour, Dr. M was on the phone calling me.  She said, "I'm sending a text to Dr. S at the University Hospital to see you ASAP."  I told her a text sounded pretty impressive.  She laughed and said they were close colleagues and she was sure he would see me as soon as it could be arranged.  In the meantime, she said I was to meticulously follow a fat free diet and go immediately to the hospital for my lipase levels to be checked if my pain got worse.  She said she doesn't want me to get pancreatitis.  Believe me, neither do I.  The pain I've had is bad enough.

So, the testing continues.  I still have no answers, but I believe we are on the right track.  I am grateful that I was fortunate enough to have the wonderful doctors at National Jewish Health looking after my health.  I have never known a place that is more responsive to medical needs or more thorough  in checking for the cause for a problem.  They don't just treat the symptoms.

I am also very fortunate to have great medical care here in Colorado Springs.  The surgeon who was consulted on the gall bladder didn't just jump in and take it out.  He made sure all things were checked out.  My  GI doctors in Colorado Springs were on the case while I was in the hospital.  The PA that has cared for me for years popped in twice to check on me, consult with me, and do her part in getting to the bottom of this, while also bolstering my spirit.  She has always taken so much time with me, listened to me, and treated me with extraordinary care.  Just seeing her smiling face when she appeared at the door of the hospital room and walked to my bedside lifted my spirits.  I felt a friend had come to visit; she was not just someone from the medical profession.

In the meantime, I wait until I can get more answers when I go to the University of Colorado Hospital.  I will not be eating any hamburgers!  I will be meticulous about not eating fat.  I hope I can dodge the bullet when it comes to having anymore attacks before we get to the bottom of this.

One thing is for sure, I had a memorable Mother's Day.  Amazingly, I didn't feel sorry for myself.  I didn't let myself go there.  I felt loved and cared for by my wonderful husband.  I talked with each of my children.  I was visited by a step-daughter.  A pastor from my church came twice to visit and pray with me.  I was cared for by some wonderful nurses who gave up a Mother's Day with their families in order to care for those in the hospital.  And, I had a wonderful view of Pikes Peak in a room all to myself until late last night.

 I am going have my husband take me for that special brunch just as soon as I can eat again.  He's not getting off that easy.  I'll wear the beautiful amber necklace that he gave me for Mother's Day when I finally get to go to brunch.  Isn't it beautiful?
My Mother's Day gift from my hubby -
a beautiful amber necklace.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Unpredictable Seasons

In life
much is unknown.
I once thought I would navigate only smooth waters through life.
Now, why would a mountain girl think that she would sail through life?
I know nothing about the water.
I didn't grow up around it.

I know the mountains.
I know the seasons in Colorado.
I know that mountains can be tough to scale.
 I know that at any time a storm can blow in over the mountain bringing rain, sleet, and snow,
all in one day,
no matter what date is on the calendar.

Pikes Peak from Garden of the Gods
April 21, 2013

Early in my life, before I went to school, I would step outside to look at my beloved mountain,
this very mountain, Pikes Peak, that lived at the end of my street,
to see if I needed to wear a coat to school.
Silly me.
In the morning, I might have seen blue skies behind this peak,
and so I skipped off to school without a coat.
By afternoon, I walked home shivering in the snow I had not seen coming.

Living in the mountains makes you tough.
The air is rarified.
There is not as much of it up here in my neighborhood.
Living in the mountains has taught me that one is not in control of the seasons.

This season of my life has not been an easy one.
Certainly, I never could have expected that when I turned 65,
Celebrating my 65th Birthday
a day I had long looked forward to, (that was because I would no longer have to COBRA my insurance.), that my life would turn upside down just three months later when I lost my dear daughter.

Since that time,
I've needed all the lessons I ever learned in life to take me through this season of grief.
I've learned that grief, like the weather, is very unpredictable.
I've learned that it can make you question everything you ever believed about

I've learned that you find out who your friends are.
And, I've found out that I have many.
From my friends, the true ones, the ones who have prayed for me,
walked with me, cried with me, and laughed with me,
I've learned what true
and mercy look like.

I've experienced the grace of God in ways I could never have known if I had not suffered such great loss.

Loss has taught me that
life is precious
and I hope to live it victoriously.

Loss has taught me that faith is the only thing that gets me through the day,
and the only way I will live victoriously is by faith.

I've learned that while there is life, there is hope, but mostly, I learned that
as Rick Warren recently Tweeted,
Optimism is psychological.
Hope is theological.

I've learned that love means a whole lot more than I ever thought it did.
I've learned that I love my children, all of them, more than life itself.

Keicha, Jon, Julie, Mom, Amy, Ryan
Jim's Retirement 2007
I've learned that I never would have made it through these last three years without the love of one person.  That person is the man I married.
He has carried me through it all.

The love of my life

This journey has take a toll on my dear husband,
but he is faithful,
and kind,
and loving.
Thankfully, he has his best friend, the other one besides me,
to one who never asks for anything,
the one who never gets bogged down by grief, loss, sadness, or illness,
to comfort him and bring a smile to his face.

Jim & Boston
His buddy and best friend
And so, in this season of life,
the one we thought would be filled with retirement dreams,
my dear husband and I are experiencing day by day struggles with illness, pain, all those other physical side effects of aging.

The seasons of life are unpredictable.
That is certain.
Since one can never really predict the weather, or the aches and pains of aging,
on good days,
we take off to enjoy the beauty of nature around us.

Jim & Boston walking in the Garden of the Gods

The skies are sometimes threatening, and cloudy, but that does not keep us home.
We are blessed to have such great beauty just several miles from our home.
We've learned that you can't wait for the perfect season, or the perfect day, one must enjoy each day as it comes and give thanks for it.

As a native born mountain girl,
I am taking the lessons I've learned about the seasons to heart.
Spring does not always come when the calendar says it should.
On the 30th of April, we had blue skies, and warm sunny weather for our walk in the neighborhood.

On May 1, I ventured out on the deck to take a photo of our bird bath covered in snow.

One just never knows what to expect from one day to the next with the weather in Colorado!

I am optimistic about the weather.  That is a psychological term that I am applying to the coming days.
I know we will soon have blue skies, and sunny, warm days.

I have hope for the future.
I know I can't predict the future any more than I can predict the weather.
But I have hope.
I have hope because I know who holds my future.
He is the very same One who has held me through all the seasons of my life.