Remembering Richard at Christmas

Six years ago a dear friend died just before Christmas.

 My husband and I had watched him battle cancer (two different kinds) for over two years.  It was hard to see him slowly lose the battle.  He fought hard and he never lost his courage or his great sense of humor.

His family asked my husband to do the funeral service.  It was an extremely hard thing for Paul to do.  They had been friends for almost 20 years.  In the very beginning of their friendship, I had surgery for breast cancer.  The cancer was very advanced and my husband was  frightened as his mother had died from breast cancer.  Richard came to the hospital and sat with my husband through my surgery and did not leave until I was out of recovery.  That cemented their friendship.

That – and their love of golf and corny jokes.  Although they claimed they played golf, I think from listening to their tales that they spend more time laughing at each other’s skills than they did actually playing the game.

After my retirement, I often joined the two of them for breakfast.  It was such fun to just sit and listen to them as they teased one another and shared stories of their time on the golf course.

While it was hard for my husband to do the funeral service, he was honored that the family said that was what Richard would want.  As we arrived at the funeral home, his daughters handed us an envelope.  On the outside it said, “Paul and his bride.”  That was how Richard always referred to me – “Paul’s bride.”  When Paul and Richard met, if I was not present, he would always ask, “How is your bride?”  The handwriting on the outside was clearly not Richard’s.  So we assumed it was just a card saying thank you for doing the service.

When we opened the card it was a Christmas card.  Thinking it was a little strange that his daughters were giving us a Christmas card, we opened it up.  My heart skipped a beat as I saw the signature inside the card.  It said simply, “Richard.”  We immediately recognized his signature.  Also enclosed was a picture of him.

His daughters told us although Richard never sent Christmas cards, just before his death he asked them to get him some Christmas cards.  He then signed a few and asked them to give them to his special friends at his funeral.  He knew he would not be here for Christmas and he wanted us to know what our friendship had meant to him.

This is a special card my husband and I will treasure forever.

Merry Christmas Richard!

Celebrating 20 Years!!!!

Laughing at how much I look like my Dad with my bald head!

Laughing at how much I ook like my Dad with my bald head!

This month I celebrate 20 years cancer free!   I am so thankful to God that I am still here – a cancer survivor!

I think of all the things I would have missed:

  • Wedding and graduations of many of my grandchildren
  • Seeing my oldest daughter earned her Master’s in Education
  • Seeing my youngest daughter become an ordained minister in the Wesleyan tradition
  • The birth of my youngest granddaughter and several great grandchildren
  • All the many trips my husband and I have made exploring our great country
  • Perhaps most of all just the 20 years I have enjoyed life with my husband who is also my bff.

I kept a journal during the fight with cancer.  Every year I get it out and read it again.  Here are my thoughts from that journal during the first few days facing the battle ahead of me.

Day 1 – Cancer! A simple word describing a disease that other people get. Just a word. Until suddenly I hear the word as I get the results of my biopsy. Abruptly my whole world changes forever. Nothing will ever be the same again.

It all started when I found a lump in my left breast. Although I called and set up an appointment with my doctor, I told myself there was nothing to be concerned about. This would just be a benign tumor. Cancer would never happen to me! After examining me, my doctor assured me it was probably nothing. Cancer in the beginning stages, she told me, seldom hurts and boy did I hurt! It was probably a cyst. If so, they would insert a needle to remove the fluid, and all would be fine. Nothing to worry about.

Then why did she tell me not to leave until she had an ultrasound scheduled? Still, there is nothing to fear! Cancer happens to other people, not to me. I’ll grow old and die some day of a heart attack.

Day 2 – After the ultrasound the radiologist wants to speak to my husband and me. He tells us he is trying to get in touch with my doctor to recommend I have a biopsy as soon as possible. He tries to comfort us by saying that cancer is seldom painful in the beginning stages. I’m in so much pain, it’s probably just a benign tumor. If pain means no cancer, bring on the pain!

Day 9 – The needle biopsy is completed. It was supposed to be painless, but I have to have three shots before they can complete the biopsy. Lord, let it be good news.

Day 12 – It’s not good news. I have cancer. How can that be? Not me! I call my husband on his cell phone. He is coming to take me to lunch and when he answers the telephone, he starts chattering away, making nonsensical comments. I cut him off, “Honey, listen to me.” Now what do I say? How do I say that dreadful word? There’s no way to avoid it, no way to make it sound all okay. So, I just say it. “I have cancer.” His response is engraved in my memory. “I’ll be right there.”

Now I have to tell the kids. How do I tell my children their mother has – there’s that word again – cancer? The kids come hurrying over with their families. I can tell they struggle with the news. My two daughters who have never been at a loss for words when talking with me are now strangely silent. They seem to avoid even looking at me. How I long to take away their pain, but I am totally helpless. This is not like when they fell as little girls and scratched a knee. I can’t wash away the pain, can’t put a bandage and a kiss on it and make everything fine again. Cancer was never something we thought we would have to deal with. That happened in other families, not ours.

Day 13 – Finally, almost 24 hours after I get the news I have cancer, the kids go home and my husband runs an errand. I am alone at last to absorb the news. I take a bubble bath and as I relax in the warm water, the tears finally come. I cry and beg God over and over, “Please let me live! Please let me live!” Over and over comes this desperate plea.

My Miracle Man and His Art

About this time two years ago my husband fell in his art studio in the basement of our condo. It was a Thursday and because Covid had just started, we were not sure about going to the doctor. He felt fine so we went on with our daily routine as normal.

Until Sunday. After church on Sunday he complained of a severe headache and being nauseated. I drove him to the emergency room where I was told to go home and wait. They would call me after examining him.

When he went in to the ER he looked and acted fine to me. The only thing I was going on was his comment of the terrible headache he had.

About an hour later the ER called and told me a CAT scan revealed bleeding in his brain. They had called the main hospital in Lansing, the capital of our state, and an ambulance was getting ready to take him there for further evaluation.

I jumped in the car and raced to our local ER. Although at first they said I could not go in, I turned on the tears and pleaded to let me say goodbye to him. Realizing the seriousness of a brain bleed, I was afraid I might not see him alive again. My tears I guess were good enough because they let me go back to the room and say goodbye before the ambulance took him away.

I could not believe the change in him in just a little over an hour. He was very confused and very incoherent.

After they took him to Lansing, I returned home anxious to know what would happen next. About an hour later I got a call from the surgeon’s assistant who told him they were taking him in for emergency surgery. He asked me if he had been having trouble talking. He said that he was talking to them, but they could not understand what he said and it made no sense. Without the surgery I was told, he would not survive.

The assistant promised to call me after the surgery to let me know how it went. I got no call. They took him into surgery about 4:30 that afternoon and at 10:00 that evening I still had not heard a word. A call to the hospital revealed that the surgeon had completed the surgery and had gone home. All they could tell me was that my husband was out of surgery and in ICU. They promised to have the doctor on duty that night give me a call. Finally, around midnight the doctor on duty called. He said he was not involved in the surgery and all he could tell me was that my husband’s chart said the surgery went well and he was in ICU on a ventilator.

To make a long story short the next week and a half was very stressful as they worked for a few days to get him off the ventilator. Until he was off the equipment they would not be able to tell how much damage had been done to his brain. They warned me he might have difficulty speaking or understanding others, might have trouble swallowing, might have trouble walking. The day he got off the ventilator, they were looking for a rehab place to take him and indicated it might be weeks before he could come home.

But God had other plans.

Within days he was taking rehab there in the hospital – and he came home to me in just ten days. The first weeks at home he had to use a walker to get around and while he could clearly understand and communicate he did have moments when he would struggle for a particular word.

But he quickly recovered. Two things that helped I believe was our love of scrabble and his love of painting. We are very competitive and love the game. I worried that he would not be able to really compete with me again. He was a little slow the first couple of games we played but in no time he was beating my butt again.

The second week he was home he asked our son-in-love to bring his easel and paints from his art studio in the basement as he was still too weak to go up and down the stairs. He sat at our dining room table and painted this beautiful scene of the seashore.

In no time at all he was free of the walker, beating me in scrabble and back down stairs in his art studio painting away.

Recently a local business in our community held a Arts Explosion. From November through the month of February local artists were invited to display their work. The business is involved with educating the public about agriculture and has a lot of public events at its facility. During this time people were asked to look at the paintings and vote for their favorite artist.

Last night they held a “Meet and Greet’ for the community to come out, take a final look at the art and vote for their favorite.

It was a fun day – food and entertinment by the local high school’s dance team.

At the end of the festivities, they announced the winners of the People’s Choice. Out of 44 artists they had a winner and a runner up. To my great happiness my husband with his sea shore painting came in second as the People’s Choice.

The painting is back home now – and we are both rejoicing – not only for his award, but for the miracle this painting truly is.

To God be the glory – great things he hath done!

Memories and Potato Soup

October is a month that brings back so many memories to me. It was in this month nineteen years ago that I was diagnosed with a very advanced and aggressive cancer. So it’s natural that I have memories of that time every October – and especially since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Some of those memories are not pleasant. The surgery – the chemo – the radiation – the very hard effort to stare death in the face.

But I also have so many good memories and today brought back one of those memories.

It is raining and chilly here in Michigan today – a perfect fall day. It is also a good day to just stay inside and watch the rain from my easy chair. My husband declared that this was a day for homemade potato soup.

I love homemade potato soup. My mother often made that when I had a cold or was not feeling good. It is my comfort food. My husband makes great potato soup so I was glad to hear his offer to make some for us today.

Watching him prepare the soup and enjoying the good smells coming from the kitchen brought back a very special memory of that time battling cancer.

I continued to work through my chemotherapy and was active but with the first two drugs I was given, I would basically lose a week of life as I felt energy and life drain from my body. I would spend several days in bed too weak to do anything but get up and walk to the restroom. My husband would fix my meals and bring them to me on a tray. If there was any meat, he would even have to cut it up for me because I had energy only enough to lift my fork.

He was so good – so kind – so patient and did all he could to help me through those weeks. One day as I lay in bed I thought how much I would love to have some potato soup. Because he was doing all the shopping, house work as well as cooking and taking care of me I did not want to make any special requests. Not knowing what he had planned to fix, I did not want to impose on him so I said nothing.

I drifted back off to sleep and some time later he woke me up to tell me he was bringing me my lunch. When he brought the tray to my bed, I was so happy. He had fixed potato soup. You may think that was just a coincidence, but I believe God knew my heart’s desire and led my husband to fix that soup.

As we ate the soup today we remembered that special time and we thanked God for how much He cares about us.

And, the soup was delicious – as my husband’s soup always is.

March and Its Bitter-Sweet Memories and Emotions

This time of the year I find myself remembering events from years ago that generate both sweet and bitter memories with all the accompanying emotions.

March has been a month that has brought both good and bad events into my life – events that changed me forever.

The first one that brings sweet memories occurred 52 years ago on March 29. That day I walked down the aisle at church and promised to “love and cherish until death do us part.”

For almost 13 years I kept that promise. Every year as that date approaches I remember those years with my first husband. We were happy and shared a lot of joy but the best part of those years was the birth of our two beautiful daughters. Memories of those times make me smile and I am grateful for every moment we shared. Those events changed me – made me a wife, a mother.

The second memory is more painful. It was 39 years ago in March that I got a call at work that I will never forget. My eleven-year-old daughter called me and said, “Momma, I think Daddy is dead.” Those words changed our lives forever. My first husband had been working on our car when an accident occurred that took his life. Ironically it was just four days before we would have celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary. So March brings also feelings of great sadness as I remember the shock and horror of that day. The pain my daughters still feel today. The older one grieves as she remembers all the times she had with her daddy, while the younger grieves because she was so young her memories are few. That changed me – made me a young widow with two little girls to raise.

So – every year in March I deal with these memories and these conflicting emotions.

That would be enough to make the last of March an emotional time for me.

But last year added another event that adds to my emotions this time of year.

On March 19 last year my second husband fell and hit his head on the concrete floor of his art studio in the basement of our condo.

By the 22nd he was in pain and we went to the emergency room of our local hospital. From there he was rushed by ambulance to the main hospital in Lansing – the capital of our state – where they did emergency surgery. He had a major brain bleed and they said without the surgery he would not survive the night.

As I remember the next couple of weeks I still can feel the knot in my stomach as I waited at home (because of the virus I could not be with him) wondering if the next call would be to tell me I was a widow again. I wondered how I could take it if he died on the same day as my first husband had died. As the next few days were “touch and go” while they tried to get him off the ventilator, I kept telling God “please, not again, not this time.”

I am so grateful to God that he not only survived the surgery but after a few weeks he was back to his normal self. The doctor said he might have trouble walking, swallowing, communicating. While he had some of these symptoms for a couple of weeks, he was soon completely okay with no lingering symptoms.

One major concern of mine was would he be able to paint again. Would he even be able to walk down the stairs to his art studio. That prayer was again quickly answered. Our son-in-love brought his painting equipment upstairs and within two weeks he painted a beautiful lighthouse scene. Soon he was able to return to his studio downstairs and continue painting.

So along with the knot in my stomach, I also must rejoice with a great emotion of gratitude that I am not a widow for the second time, that my husband is not only alive, but well and strong again.

One of his first paintings also was of a beautiful rainbow which symbolizes hope and a reminder that God keeps His promises. He called it “Hope in the Storm.” It now hangs in my kitchen as a reminder to me that no matter what troubles come, with God there is always hope.

When my first husband died, when my second husband survived, regardless God has been there – and He brings me hope. Hope for whatever next March or any time may bring. Good times or bad – He is faithful.

The Garden that Love Built

It’s Breast Cancer Month – and every year at this time I remember my own story of the battle with breast cancer. It was in October of 2002 that I discovered a lump in my breast that led to a battle that thankfully, with God’s help, I won. People may get tired of hearing my story, but I will never get tired of being grateful to be alive – now celebrating 18 years cancer free. And a reminder to all my female readers: do a monthly breast exam.

Grandma's Ramblings

DSCF0046DSCF0028

In November 2001 my husband and I moved into our new home.  It had no trees or flowers anywhere on the property. In the backyard, a deck opened onto an above ground swimming pool.  The backyard was ugly and hot with lots of concrete and rock around the pool.  Two metal sheds sat on large slabs of concrete.  My husband, who loves flowers and trees wanted to get rid of the pool.  But I wanted to try to learn to swim so I convinced him to keep the pool for our first summer in the house.

The next summer I was only in the pool three or four times because every evening when I came home from work all I wanted to do was just lie down.  I was constantly exhausted.

In November 2002 we discovered why I was feeling so badly.  After a visit to the doctor and then…

View original post 198 more words

I’m Back With a Miracle Man!

March 22 was a day I will never forget!  My husband had fallen a few days before that, got a lump on his head.  The lump went down after a couple of hours and he felt okay.  Because of the coronavirus and all the conflicting reports we heard, he decided it did not require him to call his doctor or go to the hospital.  However, Sunday morning he got a terrible headache that would not go away and became nauseated.

I drove him to the local emergency room in our small town and they told me to go home while they checked him and they would then call me.  About an hour later the doctor called and told me a CT scan had shown a brain bleed (a subdural hematoma).  They were rushing him by ambulance to the larger hospital in the capital (about 20 miles away) and they had a neurosurgeon standing by to examine him.

What a day that was.  I posted all the details of that day in my post:

‘Til the Storm Passes Over

What a week that was.  By the end of the week it was clear he was going to live but the diagnosis for just how he would live was not clear.  Because of the uncertainty of the future – and all the things they warned me could be, I posted what I thought would be my last post and prepared myself to take care of my husband.

I Am Not Alone

But God had other plans!

It was amazing to me all the people around the country who began to pray for my husband.  I will always be grateful for all the calls, texts and encouragement I received, including many from my family here at WordPress.

Things they warned me to prepare for:

  1. Possible difficulty in speaking or understanding others.
  2. Possible difficulty in being able to read.
  3. Possible loss of memory.
  4. Possible seizures (he was put on seizure medicine as a precaustion).
  5. Weakened right side with need of a walker to get around.
  6. Possible inability to take care of his own personal needs.

On Wednesday after his surgery on Sunday a case manager called me to discuss transferring him to a nursing home or a rehab center.

But God had other plans!

Within 24 hours of that call (on Thursday) they called back and said they were going to transfer him from ICU to a step-down unit for a few days and then would send him to the rehab center in the hospital.  I should anticipate at least seven to ten days of rehab therapy before any consideration could be given to bringing him home.

But God had other plans!

Within 24 hours of that call they informed me they were sending him directly to the in-hospital rehab center that day (Friday).  They still were not sure how long he would have to be there.

On Tuesday the next week I got a wonderful call!  I could bring my husband home on Wednesday – after only four days of rehab.

He came home looking very weak, very tired and clearly needed a walker to get around.  The next week he could not stand bright lights, loud noises and complained of a constant headache.  He was speaking but very slow and often had to stop to search for a word.  It was a good thing for me to be able to give him my complete attention that week.

But God had other plans!

Every day he grew stronger.  We went for followup therapy after a week.  He had meetings with a speech therapist, an occupational therapist and a physical therapist.

Their verdict after 45 minutes to an hour with him.

Speech therapist – he needs no further therapy.

Occupational therapist – he needs no further therapy.

Physical therapist – he needs no further therapy.

They said to go home and just keep doing what he was doing.

Now – six weeks later:

  1. He has absolutely no difficulty in speaking or understanding others.
  2. He is reading the Bible with me each morning again in our devotions with no difficulty in being able to read.
  3. His memory is good – absolutely no loss of memory and no sign of not being able to remember now.
  4. No seizures and he is off the seizure medicine.
  5. He walks without a walker.
  6. He has been able to take care of his own personal needs from the very beginning with me just standing by when he showered for the first week.\
  7. What is really amazing – absolutely no weakness in his right side.  This week he bought plants for our yard and planted them all without any problems even using his right leg to push the shovel into the ground.

I worried that he would never be able to go down to his art studio that he had worked all winter to create.  He had painted a beautiful mural on the wall of the Rainbow Row in Charleston, South Carolina.  We had enjoyed several weeks there a few years ago and we loved the whole area.  He was just putting the finishing touches on it when he fell.  Would he be able to do the stairs?  Would he be able to paint again?

seaabb

So thankful he is back in his studio and this was his first painting when he began again.

93872271_2819326048121611_5854142949612322816_o

Being Scrabble addicts we have kept our scores since 2008 and are very competitive.  Would he be able to still compete?

Confessions of a Scrabble Addict!

Yes!  He is back and we are enjoying our competition.

What can I say?  To God be the glory!  Great things he has done!

Each day is truly a gift from God.  We start each morning saying “Thank you God for another day!”

So – I’m back.  Thank you to all you have followed me in the past and I hope you will continue to enjoy the “ramblings” of this Grandma as I continue!

 

 

 

 

I Am Not Alone

What a week this has been!  Sunday evening my husband was rushed into emergency surgery for a subdural hematoma.  Because of the coronavirus I could not go to the hospital with him.  At 3:30 that afternoon the surgeon’s assistant called me and told me they were doing emergency surgery and without the surgery my husband would not live.  They promised to call me when the surgery was over.  But hours later I still did not have a call.

I finally located ICU and found out that he had come out of surgery and was in a room in their Critical Care Unit.  They assured me they would have the doctor call me.

It was not until 11 PM that a doctor called.

The week has been the most challenging I have ever experienced.  Knowing my husband was in critical condition was bad enough but the fear that he might die without me present kept me awake.

However, I truly believe in the power of God when His people pray.

The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and produces wonderful results.  James 5:16

Through my family, my church family and FB the word was put out there and prayers began all around the country.

Sunday evening he was near death’s door.  Today – Friday he is out of ICU and in rehab.  It is clear we have a ways to go – probably one or two more weeks in rehab and then work at home.  But I am rejoicing – his speech is now slow but he can speak and he clearly understands.  His right side is weak and he needs a walker but he can walk.  With more prayers of God’s people and this therapy I’m believing for a complete and total recovery.

However, I realize that for a few weeks or months I will have to carry the burden of keeping our home going and will need to devote more time to him and his recovery.

Therefore, I will give up my blog.  I don’t know if this will be a temporary thing or if I will resume later.

I want to thank all my followers for your kind comments and I have enjoyed many of your blogs also.

God bless you all!

Here’s my song for this time and season.

 

‘Til the Storm Passes Over

What a difference a day makes!

Yesterday morning when I woke up I posted a verse from the Psalms:

This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Since we could not go to church I was thinking that I could complain about the restrictions right now with the virus, or I could choose to praise God for another day of life.

Looking forward to time with my husband – doing our devotion, playing Scrabble, watching an old movie.

He fixed me breakfast as he always does and I put on a meal in our crock pot – Barbara’s hash – a meal he loves.

A few hours before lunch time he came up from his studio in the basement and complained of a headache and took a Tylenol.  I was concerned because earlier this week he had fallen in the basement and hit his head.  Normally we would have gone to the ER for a checkup, but with the virus scare we were hearing not to go the ER unless it really was an emergency.

We decided to wait and see if he had any symptoms of a concussion – headache, nausea, confusion.  He had not shown any symptoms until Saturday when he complained of a headache.  He took a Tylenol and it went away so he still felt we should not go to the ER.

But yesterday after taking two Tylenol the headache was only getting worse and he began to feel nauseate.  Hurrying to the ER they would not let me go in with him.  Told me to go home and they would call me.

About an hour later the doctor called to tell me my husband’s brain was bleeding.  They were sending him by ambulance down to a larger hospital where they would have a neurosurgeon examine him.  I rushed to the hospital and pleaded with them to let me see him.  Seeing this old woman in tears, they finally gave me a mask, sanitized my hands and let me in to say goodbye before they took him away.  I confess the thought crossed my mind “would this be the last time I would see him?”

An hour later the surgeon called me saying they had to do immediate surgery or he would die.  There was blood in the cavity between his brain and his skull causing terrible pressure.  He was losing his ability to speak.

What a difference a day makes!

While I had anticipated watching an old movie with him that evening, instead I waited anxiously for a report from the doctor.  They had said they would call me after the surgery but it was 11 that night before I got a call.

He made it through the surgery and is in CCU now.  All signs are that he is going to live, but until they remove the incubator and cut back on the sedation they have been giving him, we don’t know if any damage has been done.

So – unable to go to sleep, and in such overwhelming sorrow that I cannot be with him in this terrible time, I remembered that verse I posted earlier in the day.

Regardless of what the day has brought, this is still the day God has made.  He was not surprised by the events of today.  He is with my husband.  He is my hope, my anchor.

I could not help but remember when my first husband was killed in an accident.  But I remembered that God was with me then.

I trust Him that he is with my husband and me and I pray for a complete recovery.

I’m amazed and blessed at all the people praying.

Regardless of what the days to come bring me this song I know is true.

 

66 Years of Grace

Listening to music this morning, this song brought tears – tears of joy – to my eyes.  It has been 66 years since I started this race with Jesus Christ.  There have been mountain tops of great joy, great excitement (to mention only a few – marriage, birth of children and grandchildren) and valleys of sorrow and pain (to mention only a few – death of first husband, oldest son and grandchildren, cancer).  But one thing has remained true through it all – He has proved to be that “friend that sticks closer than a brother.”

Thank God for His grace.  This song says it all!

I was just six years old.  Too young many would say to know what I was really doing.  But I knew.

Growing up in a family that attended church every Sunday and where my parents practiced what they preached on Monday through Saturday also, I understood that Jesus loved everyone – even “sinners.”

jesus love me

I wasn’t totally sure what all being a sinner included, but I knew I was not one.

Until one evening at church, I recognized I was.

I was coloring during the sermon on a Sunday night when I heard the speaker say

We put sins into a “big” and a “small” category.  But sin is sin regardless of how big or how small it seems.

 

He then mentioned what we call “small” sin – like lying or disobeying our parents.  Now he had my attention.  Just that week I had disobeyed my mother – and then lied to keep from getting in trouble.

I was a sinner!

Now many may laugh at this or even say how terrible to make a six-year-old feel she was a sinner.

But for me, it was one of the most important times in my life.  Because I knew that Jesus loved sinners – and that He loved me.  I also knew what I needed to do.

So – I went back to coloring and waited until the end of the sermon.  When the message was over, I put my colors and my coloring book aside and walked to the front of the church where I asked Jesus not only to forgive me, but I also committed my life to His service.

Yes, I was only six, but yes I knew what I was doing.

Shortly after that I was baptized as an outward sign of what had taken place in my life.  Our church did not have a baptismal so we went to a farm pond where I, with several others, was baptized.

Scan_Pic0103

Since I am scared of water and do not even like having water in my face in the shower, it was a BIG step of faith to walk out into that pond.

But what a wonderful experience it was.

Scan_Pic0104

Just turning 72 this year, I have been following Jesus for 66 years.

It has been a great walk with a great friend!!!