Category Archives: Ailments

A Dire Event Turns Into a Fun Weekend

Well, I’m probably overstating the “direness” of my event last weekend, but nevertheless, it seems generally that whenever the potential of having cancer is mentioned people take it as dire. Major surgery is, I suppose, regarded by most as dire, as well. Maybe I was just in denial but I don’t think so.  I’ve known for some time that God had complete control over the matter and I had none. Zip. Zero. Oddly, that realization is the one that most often gives me peace.

So, how did this “dire” event become a fun weekend? Well, the Lord just had a bunch of little and big blessings stacked in waiting to unfold.

It started with my son and daughter-in-law arriving with little Lily Thursday night. I kind of protested them making the rather large effort it is to pack all the paraphernalia that one must bring when traveling with a baby and spend about 8 hours driving over here after a full day of work… after all I was going to be in the hospital most of the time they would be here and what were they going to do? But they wanted to come, so I didn’t protest too much, because any chance to see them I am happy for.  In retrospect, I am so glad they came.

In the morning, they slept in, since I would be sequestered in the bowels of the hospital without visitation from about 5:30 when we arrived until about 10 when my surgery, slated to begin at 7:30, was to end. They planned to come sometime after 7:30 to be there at that time.

At 5:15am  I walked out of the house in the still dark wee hours of the morning and the first thing I saw was a huge full moon hanging low over the western horizon. Very cool.

When we arrived I was the first person to be escorted back to the preparation area — and into Rm #3. I have this game that I think God sometimes plays with me using the numbers —  3 is the number of God… so that was to me, a cool reassurance.

Overall, I was totally relaxed. I always seem to like my nurses and techs, and this time was no exception. Eventually they brought me into pre-op where the anesthesiologist introduced himself and told me all about what was to happen. Then we waited for the doctors to arrive. Mine was late, but at one point some random nurse, not the one caring for me, came by and told me I was really lucky, that my doctor was really good. “He’s a surgeon’s surgeon,” she said. I counted that another unexpected reassurance from the Lord.

Finally the doctor arrived, we talked a bit and then it was time. The anesthesiologist told me he was going to give me a light sedative before we left pre-op during which I’d still be awake so I could follow different commands to move from the gurney to the operating table, etc.  Well, awake or not, his words were the last thing I remember.

Next thing I knew I was waking up and being wheeled through the a hall, through a familiar double door to a familiar waiting room which was filled with people that I knew — my husband, son, daughter in law, grand-daughter and one of my closest friends. I got a room right by the nurses station with a view of the mountains. Room 1411.  Hmm. Three ones and a four. Four refers to God’s creation, the natural world – and by implication His power over it. And 3 and 4 make seven, the number of perfection. (Yes, I know, I’m weird. Really — it’s just a fun little game and keeps me amused in times like these.)

My husband and friend came in and I got the news — the surgery, ten minutes late to start had finished ten minutes early and “everything had gone exactly as it should go.” Plus, as I mentioned yesterday, they found no sign of cancer.

As my friend was leaving my son and his family came in and turns out they spent pretty much the whole day there, except for when they went out for lunch and dinner. And they brought Lily. I had not expected that, I guess because I had this idea that people just didn’t bring babies to hospitals if they didn’t have to. Plus I’d found out that my daughter-in-law’s mother and brother were in town that same weekend, so I figured she’d spend the day with them.

Thinking I probably wasn’t going to get to see much of her, I’d prayed in a random sort of way that “sometime” (like in the more distant future) I’d get some one on one time with her to just visit and get to know her better. But no way did I expect the Lord to answer that prayer the very next day. Yet that’s what He did. It was cool to sit there and realize He had done it, too. What a gift. She’s a very busy young woman, and doing a great job mothering Lily, too.

So, overall, a fun day of visiting, and watching Lily, who’s crawling now, and squeals like a dinosaur and just seems to be a generally cheerful child with lots of smiles and grins for everyone. Her two little teeth are sooo cute!

That night my son suggested we do a “Good Friday Service” wherein we all read aloud in turn a sequence of passages my d-i-l had assembled narrating Peter’s denials and Jesus’s death on the cross.

Saturday was a long process of the nurses making sure all my plumbing was working correctly and that I could eat without nausea. My biggest problem was the CO2 gas they pump into your abdomen to make the organs easier to see and deal with during surgery. They try to press some of it out but there’s still a lot left, which takes the body a few days to absorb and eliminate, through excretion or exhalation. It hurts, and moves around, and pushes on nerves that for some reason register pain in your neck and shoulders, even though there’s no gas there. And it makes it difficult to eat since you feel like there’s no room in your stomach for anything.

Eventually though, I was discharged and wheeled out to the hospital’s front entrance and the car (we laughed because for two days they’d been urging me to walk — which I’d been doing — to help mitigate the effects of the surgical gas, and now that I was leaving insisted I ride in the wheel chair.)

That night we watched my new favorite TV show, The Mentalist. My son had determined this that same morning by asking me about the shows I watched while he watched the monitor showing my pulse  and blood pressure. The Mentalist elicited the greatest increase in pulse, ergo it must be my favorite.

Then Sunday we all went to church together, which I don’t think has ever happened. That day, too, was a reunion of sorts for the members of the Sunday School class I taught for 14 years. Kids who started as toddlers, now grown, some of them engaged or married, and with kids of their own were there. One of them told me we had the largest number of them together since the class had disbanded some 10+ years ago. So that was pretty cool, too.

Afterward my husband took us out for Easter dinner, and then my d-i-l changed the sheets on our waterbed (which I’m not allowed to do since I’m not to lift more than 10 lbs for 4 weeks, nor strain my abdominal muscles) and my son vacuumed (another forbidden activity).  (I also can’t walk Quigley since he would definitely strain my abdominal muscles)

After that they left to drive back to southern California and I was just basking in the pleasure of it all. What a blessing it had all been. (So, if you’re reading, guys, thanks for coming out and providing such great support. It was greatly appreciated and enjoyed.)

Who would ever have thought the weekend of surgery would turn into such a wonderful set of memories?

Short Update

Hi everyone!  Thanks for your prayers and well wishes. The surgery went “exactly as it was supposed to go” (except faster) and I came home Saturday. No sign of cancer, only the pre-cancer stuff they’d already found.  We’re still waiting for the full pathology report, but I’ll take good news in whatever increments the Lord decides to present it. 

I’ll try to write a more detailed update tomorrow. Somehow the Lord took what most would consider a “dire” event and made it into a fun weekend…

Catching Up

So, where have I been the last seven-plus days? Well, after the last post about my trip to the zoo, I actually got down to business and worked on Sky for three hours every day for the next three days. Then came Saturday, which was filled with many things that did not concern writing. Sunday was our first of the month pot luck at church and the transfer of a telescope from my carport to my car to the car of the friend who will be taking it home to keep and enjoy.  I came home and crashed, exhausted.

Monday I went to the hospital to do the check-in and pre testing for my surgery, set for this Friday. That took a couple of hours. No writing on that day, either. Tuesday I focused on catching up on housework and preparing for visitors. Today, Wednesday I continued the catch up and preparations, plus I have a standing lunch date with friends that lasts the afternoon. 

Tomorrow I might actually be able to get around to writing since I should be home for most of the day drinking my clear liquids and eating my jello in preparation for the big day… Friday. Of course, no writing will occur Friday, nor for the rest of the weekend since my son and his family will be arriving tomorrow night to help out, provide moral support etc. Can’t wait to see them!

And now, seeing as the news is almost over and my eyes keep wanting to shut, I’d better sign off. I’ll be back in a few days with my report of whether all this went as smoothly as it was supposed to.

I Know the Plans That I Have for You

Well, I’m not sure why I haven’t been posting. Off the top of my head I’m not sure what all I’ve been doing. Working some on Sky, doing Morning Routines, making cards (I have a lot of friends and family with events in March), walking Quigley, going to the Y, doing Bible Class, thinking about Bible Class and writing in my journal…

I got my surgery date two days after I saw the GYN oncologist (see last blog post). It was for three weeks off (a little less than two weeks now as I write this), the only spot the doctor had open at my hospital of choice and with my regular gynecologist to assist. Even if I took the latter two out of the picture, the most I could have gained was four days earlier. So I was looking at much longer wait than I was anticipating.

During this time, Pastor John has been teaching about patience. About how patience is part of our calling, and part of our bringing glory to God — when we trust Him and wait patiently, without anxiety, tension or frustration, and then He comes through for us… that brings Him glory.

So it was pretty clear to me the moment the surgery scheduler told me it was going to be three weeks, that this was part of God’s training in developing patience. 

 The next day, after all the carrying on about cancer and talk of how this was going to be resolved quickly, I was a bit unnerved at the prospect that now I was going to have to wait three weeks. But I assured myself that the oncologist had my best interests in mind, and is an expert in this area. He’d looked at my charts and the tests and the ultrasound, and surely if he thought three weeks would lead to a major downturn in my status,  he’d not allow this to go that long. In fact, it’s likely he knew his schedule was full when we met, because when I suggested the possibility of surgery  “next week” he did NOT say it would be then. He said nothing. I started to take comfort in that…

And then realized how ridiculous I was being. Putting my trust in a mere man? What was I thinking? Yes, the doc probably does have my best interests in mind, more or less, but God absolutely and positively does, far more than any man ever could.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love him, to those who are called according to His purpose.”   ~ Romans 8:28

“I know the plans I have for you, plans for good and not for evil to give you a future and a hope.” ~ Jeremiah 33:3

He sent His Son to die for me. Of course He has my best interests in mind.

“If God is for us, who against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”  ~ Romans 8:31b-32

What’s more, the doc might be able to make a good guess as to what’s going on in my uterus from the tests… but that’s all it is right now: a guess. He even said as much, adding we won’t really know what’s there until he does the surgery.

God, on the other hand, knows exactly what’s going on in there — now and in three weeks. God’s expertise — Omniscience — buries any paltry insights the doc may have gained over his years in the field.

Moreover, God could have provided a spot in the schedule far earlier, if that was the best thing; He could provide a cancellation, could have popped up a red flag, if there was trouble and we needed to get to the surgery sooner. He did not.

Because this is not about my physical condition. This is about teaching me to trust Him, to know Him, to wait in Him. To be at peace in Him.

Oh! But what if His will for me is to go through (fill in the most horrible outcome possible for the situation)?!

That morning as I had this thought… as this wretched thought wormed its way into my consciousness to torment me… I realized it was an old enemy. One that’s been a peace-killer for me my entire Christian life.

So I decided not to go down the path it was suggesting I take. Instead I told myself, “Why not wait until the event happens and then you can say, ‘This is horrible, but I know God wants me to go through it for my highest and best.’ That way I’d at least gain peace from it instead of giving myself the heebie-jeebies with something that is purely speculative.

It’s an evil arrogant thought, really. I presume to guess God’s will for me and I always malign Him when I do so, because it’s always something horrible. For example, I hear a noise when I’m home alone. And I think, Oh, no! Is that a burglar? And then, being a novelist and well versed in such things, I concoct an entire story wherein the burglar/rapist breaks in, attempts to assault me, I shoot him dead and then have to go to jail for murder where I am tormented by my fellow inmates so I can show the power of God in my strength and peace and joy.

Wow, it looks even more stupid and arrogant when I set it down like that than when I just think it. And how ironic that I’m scaring myself silly with a potential scenario I’m conjuring up as an avenue for me to bring God glory with my great strength and trust in Him. Something is not computing here.

And furthermore,  look how mean I’m making God out to be. Here we’ve been studying the fruit of the Spirit as a manifestation of who God is — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control — yet when I get in these situations the God I conjure up is stern, cruel, tight-lipped, legalistic.

“This is for your own good,” my imaginary God says. “All this stuff you don’t want to do, that’s what I have for you to do. And the things you love, and like to do — none of that. It’s only going to be hardness and sorrow and suffering for you.”

No room in that thinking for God wanting me to have an abundant life full of blessing. Or wanting to fill me with power and joy and peace.

So instead of trying to guess what awful thing this phony God I’ve created may have planned for me, I decided to concentrate instead on His goodness,  His grace and His kindness. On His faithfulness, and gentleness and love.

I’ll concentrate on the fact that He’s my loving Father who has everything under control. He knows exactly what’s going on in my body right now. He could speed it up or slow it down. He could take it all away in an instant. His timing is perfect.

In 2 Timothy 3:10, 11 Paul is talking to Timothy about all the trials and persecutions he’s gone through, and ends with, “and out of them all the Lord delivered me.”

Pastor John has recently spent a number of lessons on this verse. It’s one, says he, that applies to all of us as believers. And that’s to be the focus of my thinking, not my lame what-ifs.

The Long Story of Last Week

Once again, I’ve been lagging in my blogging posts — and just after I’d had a breakthrough of sorts on the matter of what it means to live as if crucified in Christ. This was partly because I needed to think things through a bit more to see where the breakthrough might be going… and mostly because I’ve been having an… adventure. A situation. A test… Pastor John started teaching about waiting a week ago Sunday and sure enough, I soon got an opportunity to apply.

So here’s the long story. It actually starts back on the first Saturday of February, when I had some spotting. Since I’ve not had a period in years, one spot is enough to warrant concern, so on Monday I called my OB/GYN. I got an appointment for Thursday of that same week, but since the office happened to be in the process of transferring their records over to digital I was advised that the wait would be long.

Thursday, when I was about to leave with plenty of time, I went to bring Quigley in and found him completely covered with dust and grass so I had to wipe him off. Then I locked myself out of the house with the car keys inside. When I finally got myself in the car and on the way, it was fifteen minutes later. As I left the house I suddenly wondered if I’d turned the oven off — if the house burned down with Quigley in it, that would be awful! But I was already late, so I gave it over to the Lord and went on.

Traffic was heavy and on the way to the doctor’s office, the car ahead of the car ahead of me ran into the car ahead of it… So everyone stopped. The two drivers got out — it was only a fender bender, if that, but here we were stopped in the inside lane and I”m thinking, “What IS this, Lord?”

Suddenly the lane beside me opened and I pulled out and was on my way. I arrived, found out it was going to be at least an hour’s wait to see the doc, so I asked if I could go home and turn off the oven. Sure. I went a different way home, but when I arrived the oven was off and there was a message from the doctor’s office: Dr. S had stepped out to do a C-sxn and we would all have to reschedule. They tried to reschedule me for almost three weeks later, but I persuaded them to give me a slot the following Monday. That appointment went as planned, and I left with orders to get an ultrasound. I made the appointment  for the following week and then scheduled another appointment over the phone to see the GYN the week after that.

The ultrasound showed some fibroids and a thickened uterine lining, so it was decided I should get an endometrial biopsy. I’ve already had several of those over the years. The day I was supposed to get it, I came in two hours later than I was supposed to because over the phone I thought the woman had said 2:40 when she’d said 12:40. Or maybe she said 2:40 when she meant 12:40. In any case another reschedule, this time for Thursday — and that one actually happened. Dr. S said they’d call when they got the results of the biopsy.

The following Monday, which was a week ago Monday, at 5:30pm the nurse practitioner called to say that the biopsy showed “complex hyperplasia with suspicious cells” that might be cancer and that I was looking at a hysterectomy. That was okay, because I had already decided if the biopsy came back anything but normal I was going to do the hysterectomy anyway. All those organs are useless now and good only to grow cancer in, so better to get them out. The only thing was, my doc was referring me to another doc whose name sounded familiar. I asked if he was an oncologist and the NP said yes. As it turns out, his office is in the same place where I had gone with my mother for the last three years, just across the hall from where she had seen her doctor and gotten her infusions of chemotherapy. Which was kind of unnerving.

The NP was quite exercised on the phone about how I had to get in ASAP, that “tomorrow” (a week ago Tuesday) the other doc’s office would call to schedule the appointment and “we’re talking days here not weeks,” she said. If I didn’t have an appointment by the end of Tuesday, I was to call her on Wednesday morning and she even gave me her special number.

So Tuesday I didn’t talk to anyone on the phone, not wanting to tie up the line, nor did I leave the house for fear of missing the call. Of course no one from the doctor’s office called.

 Wednesday I started calling the special number to tell  the NP I had no appt. No one answered. I tried the “Site Operator.” She transferred me to “Lydia” but I only got her voice mail and left a message. No one called me back. I tried the special number again, but no one answered. I called the site operator again and got a different person who said she’d go down to talk to Lydia and have her call me back. No one called me back.

Finally just before 5pm I called the site operator again and somehow got connected to Lydia. She said she’d talked to the oncologist’s office that afternoon and they said they were just getting ready to call me. But no one had called while I was home and no one had left a message while I was walking Quigley. She called the oncologist’s office again then called me back to say they’d called and left a message — apparently on someone else’s answering machine. She said they’d call me first thing in the morning.

Finally, on Thursday, they called and my appointment was scheduled for Tuesday the following week (which was yesterday at 3pm). Once I had the appointment settled, it was amazing. I just crashed. I didn’t think I was that anxious about it, but there was definitely a thread of tension. Plus, the conversation with the NP was hurried and she was kinda freaked, so later I wondered… was it more dire than it seemed? Why refer me to an oncologist? Did I have cancer? If so, why wasn’t the oncologist’s office calling?

Well, had to put all that in the Lord’s hands and really believe those promises, which mostly I did. But once I got the appointment, as I said I crashed, suddenly very tired and about an hour later, noticed that Quigley’s ears were all thick and hot and heavy with blood. He was getting allergies from the wind we were having, and shaking his ears, which was making them fill up with blood. Bear had the same problems  and one time ended up with a huge blood pocket in his ear flap that required surgery to “quilt” the skin of his ear back together — followed by extended recovery time. One vet even suggested we cut off his ear flap… but we have hounds for a reason — we love those floppy ears.

So here I was facing potentially the same thing with Quigley, in the middle of everything else. Well, put that in the Lord’s hands as well. Certainly I have no control over any of it. Thankfully, over the next few days following our  vet’s counsel over the phone,  that eventually resolved with Wal-itin and some steroid cream for the rash… Finally all was quiet.

Then, this last Monday night, the night before my appointment with the gynecologic oncologist, I suddenly had the thought that maybe I shouldn’t be so relaxed about it all. That maybe it was far worse than I imagined and I really was going to have to have chemo and my hair fall out and feel awful and all that… I surely didn’t want to go in there thinking it would be nothing when I actually had this huge cancer and was going to need chemo, etc. So I Googled endometrial biopsies and endometrial cancer and scared myself silly with all the descriptions of where the cancer could spread from the uterus. To egg me on, I got an email to a Caring Bridge entry from a friend who is going through chemo right now — the other entries have been largely upbeat or just informational. This one was about how it was his worst week ever for chemo treatments… No coincidence on that timing.

Thus, by my own idiocy, I ended up having something of a battle that night during Carnal Hour — the time between 3 and 5 am when I wake up to go the bathroom and suddenly any scary or worrisome things in my life seem incredibly real and imminent and the power of God weak and faint; sometimes the next morning when I wake up and think back on it all, it seems like I went temporarily insane because the things I was concerned about don’t even make any sense.

Anyway, day before yesterday was the appointment. My hubby met me at the office and we were there almost three hours. I really like the doctor. He was very thorough, very knowledgeable and experienced, gave us lots of time to get all our questions answered and was very accommodating as far as the hospital I want to have the surgery done at, which is not his usual one.

 He doesn’t think that my situation is “ominous” but the complex hyperplasia is definitely pre-cancerous, and the suspicious cells are, I guess, basically cancer cells (sometimes he referred to them as such, but other times as cells that were becoming cancer cells). He thought I was at the beginning of a process that would definitely lead to cancer and so we have to remove the whole thing — uterus, cervix and ovaries.

He’ll do the surgery laparoscopically, which is minimally invasive, and he’ll remove the uterus intact through the vagina so as not to spread the cancer around in the abdomen. They’ll send it off to pathology while I’m still on the table, get it examined to see if there is any sort of invasive growth they didn’t anticipate, in which case the doc can take a lymph node sample while he’s in there.

This type of procedure  usually has a recovery time of a day, but requires I stay in the hospital overnight. After that my main source of debilitation will be the muzzy-headedness from the pain meds.

I’m waiting now for them to call me with the surgery date, which hopefully will be next week. He’s going to try to coordinate with my regular GYN, but if that ends up too difficult I told him I’d be fine with just him doing it, as long as I can go to my hospital of choice. All the experiences with my mother have made me quite particular about which hospitals I like and which ones I don’t.

In any case… I’m still waiting… 🙂

Quigley Update

Well, I spent the day basically pre-occupied with my dog.

He made it through the night without throwing up or having any more diarrhea. He also didn’t move from his sleeping spot and drank nothing. I gave him his pill this morning and the Fast Balance GI, which he wasn’t excited about. Then he ate a cereal bowl full of rice, chicken and water, along with a small dog biscuit that is part of my husband’s morning departure routine — and that was it for the day.

Except for leaping up to bark ferociously at his nemesis — a large, white male dog who gets walked by our house every morning — Quigley slept in the living room. He didn’t come and wait in the kitchen for us to do tricks. He didn’t come when I got out the cheese to make my lunch (usually he does, hoping for a tiny sliver which he usually gets).  I tried to get him to eat/drink some more rice, but he wasn’t interested. He just lay around and slept.

So I got to spend the day trying not to worry, trying not to make up horrid speculations relative to dehydrated dogs, trying not to call the vet again, all because he wasn’t eating or drinking. My husband wanted to wait til tonight and see how he did, so that’s what I did. But it was hard.  Doubly so because our cooler wasn’t working. When the air coming in was hotter than the air already there, I turned it off. And with the interior of the house at about 86 degrees for much of the afternoon, it was hard to do anything.

Except think about how Quigley wasn’t eating or drinking anything — even though he rarely eats or drinks anything during the day. So that was stupid, in addition to being sinful.

But oh well. At day’s end, Stu came home and Quigley woke up. He ate more dog biscuits (part of the evening return routine). He ate two bowls of rice and chicken. He went for a walk and drank water when he got back… So now I am feeling much more at ease.

Also, the cooler’s been fixed and the air is now cool and much more comfortable. Now I have to go fold the laundry before I can go to bed.

Yet More Reassurance

 I finally got back to working on The Other Side of the Sky today!  For two hours. First time in three months. And even the few days I spent three months ago were themselves the first time in three and a half months, so I think it’s fair to say it’s been six months since I’ve really worked on the book.

But that’s not what I meant by more reassurance. No this was reassurance about my mother’s salvation  I recounted here the story of how I had one last chance to encourage my mother to believe in Christ the night before she died, and how she seemed to respond, seemed to be saying yes but not in any clear and definitive way. I related how after I’d left her and walked down the long, deserted main hall in the hospital a woman came toward me carrying three white lilies which I took to be God’s confirmation that my mother had indeed believed and received eternal life.

There was more of that sort of confirmation afterward. Like me picking up the birthday card my mother had given me in March to put it away (I had it on display) and, in turning it over, discovered that on the back was printed “Lilies of the Valley.” And finding out that her yet-to-be-born great-granddaughter was to be named Lily, a decision my son and his wife had arrived at well before the incident of the white lilies in the hall. But there was another weirder, but even stronger confirmation that I discovered some time after the actual events when I was rereading the entry I’d written in my journal of those last moments on the day she died.  Suddenly the names of all her caregivers who were around her that day seemed to leap off the page at me.  Dr. Bravo, former nurse Alva (the name means, in Hebrew, “brightness, exalted one“, Mother’s actual nurse of the day, Victoria, the technician Mary, all came to say goodbye to me. And when we arrived at Peppi’s House, the Hospice facility, Mother was delivered over to the care of a nurse named… Christy.  Christ.

Gave me chills to see all that. Still does. But there was one name I never looked up, that of Dr. Clements who had really been a blessing to me. He was the pulmonary specialist who drained the fluid from Mother’s lungs so she could breathe better and be a little more comfortable. He was the one I could talk to, and did. He always made me feel better, even when things were dire. He was clear, he made it all understandable, he worked with dying patients all the time. He was the one who told me on Saturday that Mother probably wouldn’t last twenty-four hours, the one who wrote the order for Hospice when the brilliant but flaky gastroenterologist forgot.  He was the one who told me to call my sister and tell her to come ASAP.

Lately I’ve been wondering… what does his name mean?  It seems like a plain, vanilla English name. Probably has no meaning, right? Certainly not anything significant like the others.  The question kept niggling at me so last night I finally looked it up.

It means “merciful.”

That gave me chills, too.

God is Faithful

Well, one way to increase the odds of posting this next installment in my catching up on what all’s been happening to me as my mother’s “Personal Representative” (they don’t call it Executor any more) , is to start it right after publishing the previous post.

Yes, I did say that I got in a car accident the very morning of the big yard sale. My son and his wife had returned to Tucson to help out with the sale on Saturday and also to celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday. We’d spent Friday getting stuff boxed up and ready to put out on Saturday. Saturday morning I took my Jeep and went around placing yard sale signs in the medians. I was on my last sign,  pulled out of the empty lot I’d been parked in and headed down the road, focused on where I was going to place my last sign and where I’d have to park to do that. It was about 6:50am, and traffic was very light. I entered the intersection about thirty feet up the road from where I’d left the parking lot, and suddenly this black Ford pickup truck was barreling toward me from the left.

“What is THAT doing there?”  I thought in shock and disbelief. I threw on the brakes but soon realized the truck was going too fast and  I wasn’t going to be able to stop in time and so I hit it.

It pulled my car around in a half circle, and left me there in the intersection as it  ran over a small sign with a safety reflector on it in the median, continued on up the road and finally pulled over to the side. I sat in the Jeep, unhurt, but stunned. How could that have happened? “Lord,” I prayed, “what are You doing? How could You allow this today of all days?”

Well, it did have positive repercussions in areas I’d never have thought of…

But first I have to finish my story and get me out of the street. As I said, I was unhurt — bumped my head against the side window at the moment of impact but that’s all. The place where I’d run my head into a cabinet door the day before hurt worse. Within seconds an ambulance pulled up behind me and a paramedic was at my door, asking if I was okay. Turns out they were only two cars back when the accident occurred, though their view had been hampered by other cars so they’d not really seen what happened. He did ask if I remembered what color the light was… I had no memory of the light at all. Just the parking lot on the other side of the street and that big black truck coming fast where it wasn’t supposed to be…

He and his partner held back the traffic while I drove the Jeep into the nearest parking lot and right about then a police cruiser pulled up. Turns out the City of Tucson police department no longer issues citations for collisions where no one is hurt, nor do they do accident reports. They just hand out insurance information forms to each party to fill out, act as a go-between for the exchange of the filled-out forms. The participants’ insurances will have to duke it out as to who is responsible and if they can’t decide, then we split it. Terrific.

At least I got to use my cell phone. The crazy thing is that my husband’s Jeep was already out of commission that weekend with an overheating problem due to an undetermined leak. So he had to come over by bicycle. Before he arrived, the policeman, learning that my car was still drivable, escorted me the block or so back to my mother’s house where everyone came out to view the damage and commiserate. My poor Jeep. Its whole front had been shifted sideways. It did not look at all good.

We ended up getting two rental cars and as it turned out, the insurance decided to fix my Jeep… it will take 25 days, and they will cover the rental. So I’ve been driving a little silver Dodge Caliber about. It’s kind of fun.

All that went on during the yard sale, which, despite fears and even prognostications of disaster, turned out to be a resounding success. We were quite pleased with the money we made, and the stuff we got rid of, but we still had a LOT of stuff left. The jigsaw puzzles for example. My mother had almost 200 of them squirreled away in various closets, and we sold only about 3 that day. Fortunately Bookman’s Used Books took quite a few of them off our hands, and even paid us for them. But there are still probably a good 75 of them left…

Three days after the yard sale we met with the realtor, who’d been recommended to me by the lawyer. The lawyer I found on the internet while looking up ‘probate’. He’d written several articles on the subject which were quite helpful and his office was not only in Tucson, but not far from my home. It seemed an unconventional way to choose a lawyer, but would the yellow pages be better? Did I really need to interview various lawyers and do a bunch of research? The truth was, I didn’t exactly have the brain room or the time to do a lot either. I just prayed for guidance and gave it over to God. Anyway I am quite happy with the lawyer, and when we got around to discussing when we could put the house on the market, I asked if he could recommend a realtor. He did and when I contacted her, it turned out her mother in law lived in the same neighborhood as my mother had, so she was very familiar with it. I counted that a confirmation that God was indeed orchestrating all this things.

Throughout all this I’m learning more than ever and in a more hands “on” way than ever  that it’s God who does the things in my life, not me. I just have to let Him. So maybe I should have said I’m learning in a hands off way.

In any case, He’s been coming through every time.  And continues to do so.

The realtor was thrilled with my mother’s house and we had it on the market the following Saturday and after a week we’ve seen a lot of interest and as of last Friday already had two offers.

But back to the car wreck. Who’d think that could turn out to be a blessing? But it did.  Gas prices being what they are, the Dodge Caliber is the better car to have when one must drive about town all the time, dropping things off here and there… It’s an even better car to drive to Phoenix and back in… I made it the whole way up on a quarter tank of gas!

But that’s tomorrow’s tale.

Now the Legal Stuff

Well, hello, everyone. Sorry I’ve been away for SOOO long. The time seems to have flown by. It’s already a little over a month since my mother went to be with the Lord and it seems like yesterday.

I don’t think one really understands what all this caregiving at the end of life stuff is about until one goes through it. I certainly didn’t. There is so MUCH that floods into your mind, that you have to see to and tend to. And the weird thing is that it doesn’t end upon the death of the one you are caring for. At least not if you are the Executor, as I am. Not just the Executor, but a clueless executor. 
My mother made a very simple will back in January when we did all the stuff with durable power of attorney and health care POA. I also had her put me on her bank account as a joint holder and that was a wonderful bit of advice I received from the clerk that has saved us tons of trouble. In any case, she doesn’t have very much (but she does have a house, which is the complicating factor) and she left it all to me and my sister to be divided equally. We naively thought that we’d just transfer the title for house and car to me, sell them and split what is left. Ha. I went down to DMV about three weeks ago, expecting to transfer the title to the car (this after having called ahead to ask what I was supposed to do) only to learn that  I had to wait until a month after the person had died. That was so everything could go through probate. “What’s probate?” I asked. The clerk didn’t know, only that I had to wait a month and if my mother owns a house, that means she has more assets than $50,000 and so must go to probate. I drove home wondering how in the world I was supposed to get us through probate when I had no idea what it was. Who would I even call? Wouldn’t someone call me?
Apparently not. I went on-line, learned that it’s the legal process of establishing the validity of a will, and in small estates doesn’t usually require court appearances, you just have to file the papers. Since I also had to look up “equity” I decided I would probably be better off having a lawyer do all this filing, since it’s supposedly somewhat non-intuitive. You can get the forms (where??) but then you have to know which ones to fill out and how to fill them out and what the weird terms are … so… About two weeks after my mother’s death I hired a probate lawyer and am very glad I did. I have NO idea how I would have figured out how to fill out the inch-high stack of papers he had for me to sign before filing. Plus he’s there to email if ever I have questions. He got me a tax ID number to open an estate account into which I could transfer my mother’s funds and deposit refund checks addressed only to her…  I have learned an awful lot about all that stuff in the last month. It’s kind of mind-boggling.

In addition to all that, we had to stop the magazines, the newspaper, the credit cards,  notify her friends about her passing, think about a memorial service… We didn’t have a funeral, in part because she was cremated and in part because she was a private person, not given to ceremony. Will we write an obituary? She told my sister that if we did, we were NOT to put a photo of her along with it. 

I spent a week trying to determine the worth of her various works of art — indian arts and paintings.  Also working through the insurance bills — one for the last hospitalization came less than a week after she died, a letter that informed me they’d talked to the insurance company which had confirmed we owed such and such amount. The only thing was, I knew she was fast approaching her out of pocket maximum and wasn’t so sure she’d have to pay the whole thing. I decided to wait until I got an Explanation of Benefits… I’m still waiting.

Then there was the matter of going through her things. Our initial foray into that was just to throw away the obvious junk, and anyone who wanted something could take what they want. Adam and Kim stayed an extra day and a half that first week. Kim went home with my mother’s set of blue enamel cookware… very nice stuff, but both Deb and I have what we want and didn’t need it. We also raided her rubber stamp supplies and that was fun. Actually we had a lot of fun, being together, discovering photos, reminiscing. Adam went through her extensive CD collection and tried to organize them somewhat. We found one she’d kept with a sticky note on it that said “Not Good” and we all laughed at that. The fact that she didn’t like it, yet kept it… 🙂
The downside, though, is that when I bring stuff home, it’s there. My house has no holding space for new things. If something new comes in, something old has to go out, but there’s been no time to figure out what the old thing is going to be. Or, if I do know, I’m still trying to arrange how to get the stuff moved out. First it was a lot of art supplies that I’d gathered in preparation for donating to  the watercolor guild. That took about a week to actually make the connection with a guild member to move the stuff out.  

Then came the yard sale — I got in a car accident the very morning of the sale, while I was out placing signs. But that’s a story I’ll save for another day… This post has gotten too long already. Hopefully I’ll be back to continue it tomorrow.

Sunday PM: It’s Over

Sunday morning, when I wrote my last post, I was waiting to call my sister so we could go on over to the hospital. Turns out when I called at 8:08, she’d just arrived, having left her home in New Mexico later than she’d anticipated. She said she’d go right over so I dawdled a bit to give her some alone time with Mother and left about 9:30 for the 10 am meeting with the Hospice Administrative nurse.

The hospitalist was at the nurses station when I arrived and told me pretty much what I knew from yesterday, but added that Mother now had renal failure to go with the rest of it. They still had her on morphine. I went in to find my sister absent and Mother sleeping. She woke up when I sat down next to her and asked me to hold her hand (which is WAY out of character for her), but didn’t seem to be all there, not really making eye contact now. Soon the Hospice nurse arrived to explain the hospice program and evaluate the situation. My sister came not long after that, and joined the discussion.

We were uneasy about moving Mother, knowing that transfers from beds to stretchers and bumpy rides would surely cause her pain, but the nurse said they’d have her drugged up enough it wouldn’t be too awful and that the hospice would be much more peaceful for her. It would be quiet and they would leave her alone, not constantly checking for vitals and such, confining their care to making her comfortable rather than well. Finally we decided that would indeed be the best choice.

They came for her at noon, and Deb rode with her while I picked up a Subway sandwich and drove over separately.

The hospice was amazing. Beautiful. A gorgeous, top notch facility and the staff were wonderful. Mother’s private room had a pair of french doors that opened onto a patio where they had a fountain going. It was quiet and peaceful as promised. Deb and I sat on the couch and talked for most of the afternoon. Mother’s hospice nurse said that it looked like she was in the last stages of the “dying process,” and that death was near. But “near” could mean hours or a couple days.

I prayed the Lord would not take her until Adam and Kim got here. They’d called that morning to say they were on their way and expected to arrive around 5) So mid afternoon I took Deb back to the hospital to get her car and we split up. I went home to get the art stuff off the office bed where the kids would sleep. They arrived about 5 or so and we all went over to see Mother at the hospice. We got there about 5:45pm, parked beside my sister’s car and went in to find Mother in the room alone and eerily still. When I came up to the bed and said “Hi Mother. Adam’s here. Kim’s here… Stu’s here…” she didn’t respond and I began to notice that she wasn’t just breathing slowly, with great pauses, she didn’t seem to be breathing at all. Only the muscles on her throat and jaw moved, but that was more like twitching than breathing. Alarmed,  I called the nurse, the techs came in, they saw her, said she had passed, we cried, then the night shift nurse came in and said otherwise, so we pulled ourselves together while the night nurse examined her.

She was still breathing, said the nurse,  just very shallowly and very, very slowly. She was now in the final stages of dying. Deb had stepped out of the room to talk to a social worker, and I kept asking people to go find her and get her in there. Finally they did.

Turns out that no more than 10 minutes before we arrived, Mother’d been as she’d been all day, still breathing, though loudly and with difficulty. Now she was breathing so softly it was discernible only to experts. The nurse held a stethoscope to her chest and at 6pm, with her entire family in attendance, the Lord took her.  Thus God answered yet another prayer, amazing all of us with His timing.

For me, it confirmed my thought that the previous night would be my final chance to speak to her about the Lord. Not only last chance to speak to her, but last chance to have her understand me and respond, for she was never afterward as cognizant as she was then. I’m more convinced than ever, in retrospect, that she was saying yes to what I had told her about believing in Christ. And I’m claiming that verse about he who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.

And now she’s gone. I think of her going to a place of no more sorrow, no more pain, no more tears, no more death… a place where I’ll see her again.

Can’t wait!