Back to Joy

When I started the journey of going to Florida from Georgia every two weeks, it was January, 2012. Hospice had taken Mom as a patient and I thought I would be making the trip for two or three months at the most. I was preparing myself for her death and my loss.

Six months passed and she was still with us, but continuing to decline. I grieved each time I left my husband, contemplated lost time to play with my grandchildren and being with other family and friends. I grieved for Mom’s loss of function and pending death when I left her. I was grateful for the time I had with Mom, my sister and cousins, but the two weeks in Florida were becoming long, lonely and difficult. I had one foot in one bucket and one in another and they seemed to be moving apart. I was losing my balance.

By September, I was a mess. It took me three days when I arrived home to recover from the trip. Three days before I had to go back, I was depressed and miserable. I realized that the support of my husband, children and grandchildren, sister, cousins and friends was not enough. So, I made an appointment with Dr. B.

I met Dr. B. about 16 years ago when I was going through the transition of moving from being a mother with dependent children and managing my husband’s office to “What am I going to do for the rest of my life?” Her insight was helpful, then, as I moved out of the medical field to a job at a nature science center and into a different role with my adult children. Though I had not seen her since that time, we connected as we had done all those years ago. She has taken the pressure off of my husband who I know has grown tired of all my moaning and groaning, though he is a very good listener. I can cry and vent all I want to without feeling guilty. She has helped me come out of the dark and move into the light once again.

Thirteen months later and Mom is still with us. I am grateful. She delights in her great-grandchildren, staying awake to not miss a moment with them.  She loves when friends and family come to visit and when my sister or I take her for a daily ride. She eats very little, can’t talk, can’t hear, can’t walk, but she has a lively spark in her eyes. So, I continue to make the trip to Florida to be with her for two weeks each month.  At least, I will until June.

Another woman has brought joy to the journey, Rosie. I wrote about her in a previous blog. She lovingly cared for my aunt and uncle until they died. She wraps us all within a cloak of love that comes only from the Divine. She is clear about her mission in life and that is to care for older people who need her. She is a professional with a heart. It took me months to call her because I couldn’t let go of Mom’s care. An honest friend told me that I am not honoring Mom if I continue to wear myself out and become resentful. That pushed me down the road to call Rosie. And Rosie let me know that it was time to dry the tears and that she would work out a way to be there for Mom one week a month. “God will work out all the details.“ I believe her. Mom always brightens when she sees Rosie. Finding the right person to stand shoulder to shoulder with you on the caregiving journey blesses everyone.

Beginning in June, I will joyfully go one week each month to be with Mom. My sister will continue to stay with her for two weeks at a time. She will be loved always by everyone who cares for her. My balance has been restored. The road we are on in this life is rarely straight. It is full of unexpected crooks and turns cluttered with stuff. I like it like that. Keeps it interesting. Through all of this I have learned once again that love is what counts, joy gives us a bounce in our step, and kindness that we give will be returned to us. Thanks to all who have showered us with kindness.  It is my plan to move forward, love more, fear less and squeeze every drop of joy from this crooked road called life.

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Reflections

Aside

When I arrived at Mom’s last week, it was 94 degrees and had not rained in 2 weeks.  I felt like Sadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace.  I was cranky.  The grass was brown.  The fields were full of dusty, struggling cotton plants.  There was little shade around the house due to the loss of trees from Hurricane Dennis.  I wanted to be at home in the shade of North Georgia.  But, I was in Chumuckla and happy to see Mom and Kittye.

It rained the next day.  Mom and I did the happy dance.  The cotton plants were washed clean.  The grass turned green and I breathed in the sweet moist air of summers past.  I remembered the afternoons spent inside playing Monopoly with Kittye as the thunder rolled   through the woods, Mom looking out the window at the pines bending low with worry that one might fall on the house, and Daddy napping in his recliner after a morning of lifting hay bales and feeding the cows.  It has rained no less than four times since I have been here.  A lovely afternoon shower just ceased and a bunny hopped by the window at this very moment.  Blessings.

Yesterday, it stormed.  The wind blew the rain hard against the windows.  Mom and I were stuck inside all afternoon.  I dusted and danced to the Beatles. Mom laughed at my antics. When the dark clouds traveled on down the road, I rolled her out onto the driveway.  We went up and down breathing in the fresh air and feeling the cool breeze on our faces.  I rolled her through a couple of puddles.  Then, I noticed droplets of water hanging from the cedar tree.  They reflected the goodness around us.  I got my camera and took this picture.

When I framed the picture I noticed the reflection of the large oak tree near Aunt Myrtle and Uncle J. Lee’s house.  I remembered seeing Vic and Jim standing under that tree, relief from the sun and a break from tossing watermelons and cantaloupe.  Then, Mom and I got carried away looking at puddles.  Each had a strong tree that survived the storms though the last 50 years or more.

My good friend Becky called me last week.  She listened to my rants and shared a quote about joy that she thought she had gotten from one of her devotional books.  She is a rare female ordained Baptist minister who graduated from Mercer Theological Seminary when she was in her sixties. Today I received a card from her with the source of her quote.  Reflecting on our journey together, I chuckled when I read the article she taped into her card, the source of her quote.  It was from her horoscope on May 31st.  She is a Virgo.  It read “A task no longer brings you joy, and you’d just as soon not do it–but your high level of responsibility won’t allow you to bail, so you’re stuck.  Change your attitude and push through.  There’s joy to be wrung out of this yet.”  She wrote “Messages come in strange places sometimes!  I’m trying to pay attention always!”  It was the perfect message for me.

Caregiving  allows us time to reflect and there are many times we have to push through.  But there is always joy in unexpected places and times to be wrung out.  May those who read this be surprised by joy in unusual places.

Pretty in Pink

My sister-in-law, Carol, asked me to make a Napkinection for her mother-in-law, Angie.  I have known and loved Angie for years.  I was honored to make a Napkinection for her.  Carol emailed that Angie loves pink and flowers.

Pink beads had been purchased the week before I got Carol’s email.  I rolled Mom around in JoAnn Fabric and Craft Store looking for the perfect fabric for Angie.   Mom pointed to various fabrics for me to check out.  She nodded yes to two designs of 100% cotton fabric that were pink with flowers.  Balancing the bolts of fabric on the handles of the wheelchair, we proceeded to the cutting station and requested 1 1/3 yards of each fabric.  I sent pictures of the fabric to Carol for her to choose the one she thought Angie would like. She choose the pink with white flowers.

I made three napkins that were 23 inches long to go with the Napkinection that was made of pink beads, pearls and pink crystals.  Jim, Carol’s husband, delivered the set to his mom in Florida.  Carol sent this message:  “Just wanted to tell you Jim’s mom loves her Napkinection.”  In her next email, she sent a picture of Angie smiling, wearing the pink napkin attached to the Napkinection.  She looked happy and dignified.  No demeaning bib.  Tears unexpectedly spilled when I saw her picture.  Her joy touched me and made me joyful.  I am grateful for that moment for both of us.

Making the Napkinection seems like such a small thing.  Most of the time, I think I am nuts for continuing to do it.  But something deep inside me drives me forward even if it is a slow go.  In Issue 53 of Heron Dance, Roderick MacIver quotes Frederic Back who did a film, The Man Who Planted Trees, about what he thought was the most important message of the story.

“Many, many people understand that the most important thing in this story is doing something that you know is good, and you don’t look for any kind of big result.  The reward is in the doing.  You do what you feel you have to do.

If you make money, that is fine.  But you don’t have a reward.  If people are blind around you, don’t see what you are doing, that is okay.  The objective is not to be rewarded.  It is to be doing something that you feel is important.  Your reward is in feeling good.  Your life has had a value.”

Take Joy

Mom returns to my house next week.  My caregiving juices have started to flow, less sleep at night, more tired during the day.  I dreamed very vividly last night that I got up in the night and discovered Mom sitting on the couch, sound asleep, wearing a light blue house coat, with her chin on her chest, snoring.  I was astounded that I had forgotten to put her in her bed.  With her sweet disposition, she didn’t make a fuss.  She made the best of the situation and peacefully went to sleep where she was.  I woke up, startled, but smiling.

I would like to dump this small lump of anxiety that I am caring around.  I’ve tried all the tricks of the trade, prayer, yoga, walking, whining, and wine.  Today, I am accepting it for what it is.  I’ll get to know it.  Ask it how it’s doing.  Already, I feel better.  Breathe deeply.  It is part of me.  Breathe deeper.   Acceptance.

Creating brings me back to my center.  I will go down to my workroom and start on the five Napkinections that I plan to make this week.  I will post them in my Etsy store by Friday.

The gloom of the world is but a shadow;

behind it, yet, within our reach, is joy.

Take joy.

Fra Giovanni,  A.D. 1513