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

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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…

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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?

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

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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

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

 

I Can Only Imagine!

In the fall of 2002 I was diagnosed with an advanced and very aggressive cancer.  Hearing my doctors words, “The odds are not in your favor,” I realized I was heading into the battle of my life.

Would I live or would I die?

Facing your own mortality changes the way you look at the world.  Some things that seemed so important no longer matter.

  • What difference does it make if I do not get that promotion I wanted.
  • Who cares if the windows need washed?

Other things take on a new importance.

  • Reading a book to my granddaughter.
  • Taking a walk with my husband.

During that long year as I lost my hair and my strength became less and less, I thought about the very real possibility that I would never see another birthday.

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We took a picture of me with my Dad and we laughed at how much I looked like him with my bald head.

Throughout it all I had a deep assurance that whatever the end result, it would be fine.  When I first heard those terrible words from my doctor, I immediately thought of the scripture that says:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me.

Feeling at that moment God had given me that scripture for this battle, I did not know if it meant I would walk through the valley and come out on the other side alive and well.  Or, did it mean I would walk through the valley into death?

For me, it did not matter which it meant.  What comforted me was the assurance no matter what the outcome, God would be with me.

As the treatment continued and my strength got less and less, I began to think perhaps it meant I was walking through the valley into death.  Thoughts of exactly what that would mean kept running through my head.

Then, I heard a song that had been released just the year before.  It had become the most played Christian single in 2002 and you could not listen to any Christian radio station without hearing it.  In fact, it became a main stream hit in 2003 hitting the top 40, adult top 40 and country radio lists.

In the song the writer talks about trying to imagine what he would do when he stands before God in heaven.  He questions:

  • Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still?
  • Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall?
  • Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?

Listening to that song over and over, I tried to imagine what I would do when I stood before Jesus?  Slowly in my mind a picture began to take place.  I saw myself standing with my hands raised in the air and dancing round and round the throne of God.

Wanting to live for my family, yet there were moments I wanted to see that vision fulfilled and to dance for Jesus.

I did not share this thought with my family.  For them, I continued to maintain a strong belief that I would live.

When all my treatment was finally over, my youngest daughter took me to lunch to celebrate.  She arrived with a gift for me.  It was a Willow Tree angel.

When I saw it, I almost cried with joy.  The angel she gave me was the exact vision I had of me with hands raised dancing around the throne of God.

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So grateful that I survived that battle and God has given me many years beyond what the doctor said I would have.  Still, as I age I know before many more years pass, I will be facing my eternal destiny.  I have no idea what I will do on that day when I see Jesus, but I hope I can dance for Him.

A movie has been made about the life of the young man who wrote this song.  If you have not seen the movie, I highly recommend it.  It is an inspiring story of what God can do to change a monster into a good father.  The move has the same title as the song, “I Can Only Imagine.”

What do you imagine you will do when you stand before the throne of God?

 

 

Fort Custer National Cemetery

My husband and I visited the Fort Custer National Cemetery today.  We were impressed by the entrance to the cemetery.  All along the main road were rows and rows of flags.

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This Avenue of Flags was dedicated May 26, 1986. It is composed of 152 flagpoles located along the main road, and an additional 50 flagpoles arranged in a semi-circle at the head of the thoroughfare.  These flags are displayed from Easter through Veterans Day with 50 flags from the 50 different states are flown on special occasions.

Named after General George Armstrong Custer, a native of the state of Michigan, Camp Custer was built in 1917.  In response to mobilization for World War I 2,000 buildings were built to accommodate some 36,000 men.  After the end of the war, the camp was  transferred to the Veterans Bureau.  The Battle Creek Veterans Hospital was completed in 1924.

In 1943 Fort Custer Post Cemetery was established with the first burial.  Army rules at that time required officers and enlisted men to be buried in separate sections.  Today you will find Section A filled with graves of enlisted servicemen and in Section O the graves of officers.  Today there is no separation.

During World War II more than 5,000 German prisoners of war were held at the Fort.  The POW’s were used to supply farm labor because of a shortage of workers due to the war.  After the Germans departed back to their country, 26 Germans were left behind, buried in the Fort cemetery.  Sixteen were killed in a car accident and the others died from natural causes.

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Every year on Volkstrauertag, which occurs in November, the cemetery hosts a ceremony of remembrance for these 26 German soldiers.  Volkstrauertag is a day of mourning for Germans and honors their war veterans.

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The National Cemeteries Act of 1973 transferred the cemeteries from the Department of Army to the National Cemetery System, part of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In accordance with this Act, Congress created Fort Custer National Cemetery in September 1981.  The Fort Customer Military Reservation and the VA Medical Center all donated land for the cemetery.

We found the arrangement of the graves here different from any other national cemetery we have visited.  Instead of long row after row of white tombstones stretching out one after another, this cemetery is filled with areas of trees with sections of graves in between these groups of trees.  With the tombstones flat with the ground, it was almost like driving through a park with areas of trees and then open beautiful green grass areas.

A place of history, a place of honor, a beautiful place.

 

Mom, You Left Too Soon

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My mother, Fern, and me, Barbara Fern

 

In the last years of my mother’s life she lived in southern Illinois while I lived over 300 miles away in northern Illinois.  I worked a Monday-Friday job and my husband was a pastor which meant his job required work on the weekends.  Thus, it was hard to have a chance to get away for a few days to visit her.

We took some vacation time and made a visit three or four times a year.  When we drove in the driveway she was always standing at the door anticipating our arrival.  Every time we left she would stand on the porch and wave until we were out of sight.

Becoming interested in doing genealogy research on my family I began asking Mom and Dad to tell me more about their childhood.  On one of our last visits, they took my husband and I to the cemeteries where grandparents were buried, to the place where my mother grew up, to the school my dad attended as a small boy.  My husband took a videotape of our adventures that day.

In February 2006 my husband retired and I was so excited as that meant we would have weekends free to visit my parents.  Now I could visit more and begin writing down their stories and take pictures of places from their childhood.

So, early in April we sat out to visit my parents.  I knew Mother would be so happy to hear that I was going to be able to start coming down more and that I wanted to hear more about her childhood and her family.

My excitement soon turned to worry.  When we arrived I found my Mother in great pain.  She had made a doctor’s appointment for that afternoon.  I took her to the doctor expecting to hear that she had some “bug” that would require some medicine and rest.  All prepared to stay and help her recover, I was shocked when the doctor admitted her to the hospital for tests.

The first couple of days seem pretty routine and we had some great visits in her hospital room – just the two of us talking.  On the third day Mom took a turn for the worse and I called my two sisters to come.  Something was wrong – much more than routine.

Mom quickly went downhill as the days passed and it became clear she was not going to make it.  The time came when we had to make that dreaded decision.  Do we continue to do treatments that were clearly painful or do we let her die with dignity and in peace?  A tough decision.

A few days later Mom was gone.

Gone – before I got to write down those stories.

Gone – before I got to spend more time with her.

It has now been thirteen years since Mom left.  As I age myself I begin to understand her more.  I find myself doing and saying things to my children that she once did and said to me.  Often I see that my comments are not welcome.  I’m being bossy, old-fashion, interfering.  All the things I once thought about my mother.  Now I realize while she may have been (and I certainly am) bossy, old-fashion and interfering, her motives were one of love.

Gone – before I could say, “Mom I understand you now.”

Gone – before I could say, “Mom, I’m sorry.”