Friday, April 24, 2015

Six Weeks to Eternity

Earlier this week, I told you how I was fortunate enough to have hand-picked my step-mom. Today, on the 5th anniversary of her death, I will share the rest of the story.

For years she had battled belly pain. Doctors believed it was spastic colon, but there were no definitive answers until January 2010, when we learned that Sue had carcinoid cancer and that her condition was terminal.

One night while writhing in pain on the sofa, she begged Daddy to let her die at home. He promised he would take care of her, in spite of the fact that he'd suffered two heart attacks and undergone stent surgery just a few months before and was still pretty weak himself.

She ended up in the hospital for several weeks and in the end it was decided that nothing more could be done for her, so she was sent to a nearby hospice center. We were told her health was so fragile that she most likely would not survive the 90 minute trip home. Sue was not happy about the arrangement.

But the hospice center proved to be quite cheery and upbeat, with a window and a bird feeder, a fire place and other homey amenities. From the moment we arrived, Sue seemed to relax a bit and forget her anger and just enjoy the unseasonably warm March weather. It was so nice outside that I was able to serve her and Daddy an al fresco breakfast one morning.

She was there a week and her health actually improved enough that it was suggested that she be moved to the hospice facility closer to home. Well, if she could make that drive, why couldn't we take her home? I questioned. The staff quickly trained me in several procedures, including how to drain the shunt in her abdomen where fluid would accumulate and had to be dealt with nightly.

The remainder of this amazing story is best summed up in the tribute I wrote for her that was read at her funeral six weeks later:




As we stood in the living room watching the ambulance pull into the driveway that Friday afternoon of March 12, there was a sense of anticipation in the air. Though we were certain this was the Lord’s will, none of us knew what to expect. We thought you were coming home to die, however you quickly showed us that you had come home to live.

Not content to pine away there in that hospital bed, you were determined from the very beginning that you were going to do as much for yourself as possible. By the end of the first week, you were getting out of bed with minimal help, going to the bathroom alone and you even bathed without any assistance. You seemed to gain strength with each passing day and we were all amazed by your steady progress. You firmly believed that you would be healed and were so determined that you were going back to work, you had many of us wondering about the possibility.

Larry built a ramp on the front porch and wide steps out the back door. Sandy planted flowers and several family members and friends went in together to buy you an early birthday present; a glider to enjoy on the back porch. You would sit for hours in your peaceful sanctuary, bird-watching and enjoying the spring-time sights and nature sounds and talking with God.

You began to cook simple meals and insisted on keeping up with the housework yourself. You swept and mopped those beautiful wood floors from your wheelchair at first, then later with the help of the walker.

Your family gathered at your house on Easter Sunday and later that evening your face seemed to radiate with joy as you told me about the day. Your eyes sparkled when I commented on how pretty you looked.

You decided it was time to put away your Santa collection and were so proud of that accomplishment. Out came the deer and elk figurines and the bears you had collected through the years.

As the Wisteria vine came into full bloom, you made the comment that it had never before looked so beautiful. You told me how you had planted the Wisteria even before the basement had been started, and fondly recalled memories of you and Dad working together in building your home and the fireplace you were so proud of.

Stephanie and Emily took turns spending nights with you and Emily will always remember those late-night talks after the lights had been turned out. Stephanie enjoyed sitting at the table with you, cutting and sewing the denim strips that would later be woven into rugs in your basement. You taught her a more efficient way of joining the strips together and you were clearly in your element. You've always enjoyed working with your hands, whether you were decorating a cake, or making a cross-stitch, or knitting a blanket or sweater to give as a gift. Many people have been blessed by your beautiful creations.

As the cancer raged on, your health continued to decline. You nervously stepped on the scales each morning and could no longer deny what was happening in your body. Attending Zach's funeral seemed to bring you a sense of peace.

It was only six weeks. Six short weeks at home. But during those weeks you lived life to the fullest and learned how to fully trust the One in Whom you had placed your faith. You viewed each day as a gift and taught the rest of us not to take our time here for granted.

In the end, your death was much like you had lived your life; simple and quiet, without any fanfare. The gentle smile on your face reassured us that you were finally at rest and that you had indeed received your healing.

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? ...Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 
(1 Corinthians 15:55, 57)  

In loving memory of Sue George


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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Hand-Picked Step-Mom

You don't get to choose your family...the saying goes.

For the most part, that is true. But allow me to tell you the fantastic story of how my sister and I hand-picked our step-mom.


Our parents divorced many years ago, I believe I was five, though I don't have many memories of us living together as a family; Mom, Dad, my older brother, younger sister and I. Though Mom remarried when I was 7, Daddy remained alone.

As a little girl, I wanted to marry my dad. He was the most handsomest man in the world to me and he drove a really cool truck! In my little-girl mind, I didn't understand why I couldn't marry him; he wasn't married after all and in my estimation he needed someone to take care of him. As I matured, I never lost the desire to care for my dad.

Mom and Sue met at a factory where they both assembled television tuners and they quickly became friends. Sue was very quiet and Mom...not so much. But they got along very well. Sue was single and several years younger than Mom. She would spend weekends at our house and that's how we all got acquainted.

Sue was in our lives when my boyfriend was killed in a house fire (read If I Wrote A Letter to My 16 Year Old Self here) and realizing that I was in trouble emotionally, she would sometimes offer to take me with her to stay a night or two at her parent's house 3 hours away. She knew I needed a break. Years later, as we discussed that situation, I told her what a help and a blessing it was just knowing that she cared about me.

Through all those years, Daddy was still alone and it was during those rough teen years that a plan began formulating in my mind. Sue was single. Daddy was single. We loved her and she loved us. That's all that mattered; right? The fact that they didn't know each other was just a minor detail.

"Dad, is it okay if we bring a friend with us to the races on Friday night?" I asked, non-chalantly. We had brought friends before, so of course he didn't mind. We hadn't bothered to tell him though that this friend was more for him than us...

It can be a blast introducing two people who are destined to be together. It can also blow up in your face when both parties are introverts and neither is really interested in finding a life partner. More minor details...

I'm not sure how many times we coerced Sue into going to the races with us and Daddy that summer, but eventually they no longer needed our "help" in getting to know one another. It took a few years, but they finally married and she became our second mom.

Daddy and Sue in Mom's kitchen during their dating years

She and Mom remained friends and Mom was present for many of our annual gatherings on Christmas Eve at Dad and Sue's house.

Join me here on Friday, the 5th anniversary of the death of our beloved Mom Sue for the rest of the story (read the post Six Weeks to Eternity here).





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Raising Homemakers
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That Friday Blog Hop
Fellowship Friday
Saturday Soiree
Mommy Moments
Modest Monday
Monday's Musings
A Mama's Story
Raising Homemakers
A Wise Woman Link Up
Titus 2sDay
Tell Me A Story Tuesday
Titus 2 Tuesday
Unite

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