Empty Nest, Abundant Life

Nag Less, Pray More

Category: Caring for Aging Parents

Loving Others Well

I can’t think of a single better way to use the rest of my life than loving others well.   Before my eyes are even fully open in the morning, I have already mumbled “I love you” to my husband and scratched one of the cats.  Before I get out of bed, I express my love to God by reading His Word, applying it to my life, worshiping Him, and praying for over 100 people.  When I spend this time with God, I find that He fills me to overflowing with love so I can’t help but look for opportunities to love others all day, from those closest to me to those I have not yet met.

Love can be expressed in so many ways.  We often thing of it as physical affection, but that is just one way to show love.  We can make time to spend with others in deep conversation.  We can do something kind for others.  We can encourage one another with our words.  We can let someone know we are thinking of them with a text message, phone call, or a gift.  Even a smile to the grocery checker or the person in the car next to you in a traffic jam can ease a burden and make someone feel special.

The current rhythm of modern American life is becoming so fast-paced and impersonal that stopping to unselfishly invest in another’s happiness seems unnatural.  So many days I fail at loving others well.  I get caught up in the rush of life and my own agenda that I view others as obstacles to what I need to do instead of high priorities.  It is only when I go to God to get refreshed in His love that I have enough to give others.

When I am no longer on this earth, I want to be remembered as someone who loved others well!


This post is part of a  31 Day Blogging Challenge entitled Embracing Fifty.  Please click here  to find all the posts in this series.  You can find the work of more bloggers participating in this series here. You’ll be glad you did!

Relationships

I can’t even begin to count the number of physical gifts I’ve received in my lifetime.  It started with a baby shower before I was born and continued through 49 birthdays so far, 50 Christmases, my high school and college graduation, my wedding, 26 Mother’s Days,  27 anniversaries, and even some gifts just because.  Yet all of those gifts combined do not compare to the relationships in my life.

Interacting with others is the gift that continues to bless me every day of my life, and that’s where I choose to spend my time.   Laughter, consolation, sharing, conversing, smiling, exploring, and embracing are great investments.  Stuff will break, rot, and get misplaced, but time spent with people can have lasting effects.  I still remember those people who took time with me to show me that I had value in their eyes.  This had a far greater effect on me than any physical gift would.

As I approach 50, my eyes are open for new opportunities to value other people in my life.  Who will you choose to value today?


This post is part of a  31 Day Blogging Challenge entitled Embracing Fifty.  Please click here  to find all the posts in this series.  You can find the work of more bloggers participating in this series here. You’ll be glad you did!

A Goodbye Said Too Soon

                      My Amazing Mom, LuAnn                        February 4, 1943-June 19, 2004

A girl will always need her mother, whether she is nine years old or forty-nine years old or even eighty-nine years old.  I didn’t realize the truth of this statement until it was too late…..

So many of my earliest memories are of times spent with my mother.   She taught me so many lessons through the way she acted and how she treated other people.    Despite a difficult upbringing and unhappy marriage to my father, she remained positive and made it her goal to give us a better life than she had experienced.    I am her youngest child, born when my mom was twenty-four years old.  My sister was already approaching her 5th birthday by the time I arrived, so I had many hours of one on one time with her when my sister began elementary school.  My mom and I shared a love of cats, chocolate, and the beach.

As I entered my teens, I became so determined to establish my independence from her.   I regret that so much now.  She loved me when I was quite unlovable.    She retired to help plan my wedding and never complained as I squeezed her hand through each contraction of my two labors.  She doted on my two children, calling them her “doll babies,”  I knew she was always as close as the other end of the phone line.

Shortly after her 60th birthday, she began experiencing tremors in her hands.  She kept this information to herself at first but then decided to seek medical attention to identify the cause.   I was so wrapped up in my life as a homeschooling mother that I didn’t pay much attention until the day my husband came home from work early and wanted to speak with me privately.  He compassionately told me that my mom had called him at work to tell him the diagnosis…cancer with metastasis to the brain.   I listened in shock but then needed to spring into action as I accompanied her to many appointments and tests and helped her communicate this news to others.

The next year was a rough one as I watched her health decline even though she was fighting the disease so hard through radiation and chemotherapy.  She didn’t want to leave us, but I felt her slipping away…..

During her final weeks, I would travel to her house for half of every week to take care of her.  Even though it was so hard to leave my husband and children, I cherished the time with her.   She could still talk and laugh and enjoy the Krispy Kreme doughnuts I would bring each time.   Every day, I would sob in the shower so nobody else could hear.

One Saturday in June,  my husband, twelve-year-old son, and myself picked up my ten-year-old daughter from camp close to my mom’s house and made a planned visit so Abbie could tell her Grandma Lu all about camp and my family could have a chance to see my mom.  We spent a couple of fun hours together as Abbie sang camp songs and I attended to Mom’s  needs.   My sister and her husband were also coming for a visit that day as well.  It was rare that we were all together since my sister and I were “tag team caregivers.” Mom was still fully alert but so physically weak that her legs crumbled beneath her and she scraped her leg, requiring medical attention.  The ambulance arrived, and Mom calmly told the EMTs all the proper dosages of her current medications.   Mom’s male companion, Jimmy, rode with her in the ambulance while my sister and her husband and my family and I  followed in our own cars, fully expecting that Mom would be released after receiving stitches.

My mom lost consciousness in the ambulance and never regained it.  After the medical personnel performed CPR on her for a while, we made the difficult decision to have them stop in accordance with Mom’s wishes.  She died 13 years ago today.

So many times since that day I’ve reached for the phone to tell Mom some important news or to ask her a question, only to realize she can no longer answer.   My absence remains an ache in my heart, but I have chosen to follow her example of optimism.  Every day I do something that would make her proud.  She will never truly be gone as long as her memory and lessons live on in those she loved.

I will never forget you, Mom!

 

 

Sundays at 10

The last picture of my father and I, February, 2015

I had an appointment every Sunday morning for well over a decade that I seldom missed.  I kept this appointment in airports, car rides, hotels, and outdoors, but I usually was at home.  As the clock displayed 9:59, I would make myself comfortable and dial a Kansas phone number with my father’s words about curfew when I was a teenager reverberating through my head, “When I say 10 o’clock, I don’t mean 10:01.  That’s not good enough!”  As soon as the clock struck 10, I would connect the call and hear my father’s booming voice on the other end.  Our Sunday telephone calls would last up to two hours as we discussed everything under the sun from gas prices to family life to health issues to Shark Tank, one of his favorite television shows.   We never failed to tell one another that we loved each other before we completed the call.

My father was a  good and brilliant man, but he was not easy to please.   One of his favorite sayings was, “Be reasonable.  Do it my way!” and one of his favorite books was “Winning through Intimidation.”  He was emotional and passionate bout many things, such as real estate lending, his dog, saving money, and his family.  I was the youngest of his two daughters, and by the time I was born, my parents’ marriage was already disintegrating.  My mother and sister were extremely close, so Dad would often spend extra time with me.   We bonded over reading the newspaper and taking tandem bike rides.  He moved out when I was 6 years old and remarried when I was 7.   Over the course of the next 10 years, he moved to three different states.  I would spend summers and every other Christmas with him.  I came to live with him and my stepmom, Marsha, for my last three years of high school.  I really got to know him better during those years.  By the time I graduated, Dad had already moved from Ohio to Arkansas and he and Marsha were divorcing, so I came back to California.

We never lived closer than 2000 miles apart for the next 27 years.  We would visit him, and he would visit us, and we always had our Sunday morning chats.  It was the perfect way to stay connected and current with him.  In March of 2004, he called during the week, which was quite abnormal.  The news he shared was urgent and devastating.  He’d just been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, cancer of the blood plasma.  Over the next 11 years, he fought the cancer hard with chemotherapy, stem cell transplants, and frequent discussions with his doctor.  His final year was very hard on both of us.  He fell many times and needed to be placed in skilled nursing care as his body weakened.   My phone calls became more frequent.   My husband and I flew out to visit him in February of 2015.  He still believed than someday, he would be released from skilled nursing care back to his own home and resume living independently.  By the end of our visit, he came to the sad realization that he would never drive or live on his own again.   He chose to receive hospice care shortly after we returned to California.  I called him almost every day after that just to check up on him and hear his voice.  The last time I called, his voice was so weak that I could barely understand him.

Two years ago today, as I was driving across town on a busy day, I received a phone call from a hospice nurse.   My heart sank as she asked me to pull my car into the nearest parking lot.  I asked her in a whisper as I was pulling my Camry into a Starbucks, “Is he dead?” and she confirmed my suspicions.  She reassured me that his passing was a peaceful one, and he was now free of the pain that had plagued him for over a decade.  I never thought that day would come, and when it did, I felt lost.

Two years later, I still feel lost.  Being an orphan sucks, to be gut level honest!  I wish I could have one more phone call or visit with Dad to let him know that I love him and miss him.   My world will never be the same, especially on Sundays at 10….