Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Tribute to Dee Dee

During Mom’s year-and-a-half stint with illness, there were several times that she ended up in the hospital.  About a year before she died, she was in the hospital in Weatherford with pneumonia, and she was pretty sure that this was going to be the end.  So she shared some thoughts with me at that time – things that she wanted to make sure that the family would know.  She also basically planned her own funeral service.  She told me that she wanted “one of those DVD’s that has music and pictures in it”.  She told me that in addition to pictures from her life, she also wanted some pictures that represented the three most important things in her life:  God, family, and love of country.  At that time, she only wanted three songs:  “ You’ll Never Walk Alone”, “I Believe”, and “America the Beautiful”.  Strangely, enough, about two weeks before she actually passed, when the rest of us were thinking that she was actually starting to get better, she told me that she wanted to add a song to her music line-up.  She wanted to include “Elusive Butterfly (Of Love)” by Boots Randolph.

For Mom’s funeral, I ended up giving her eulogy and I tried really hard to convey the thoughts of her heart with everyone there:
The first thing that she wanted everyone to know was that she had a strong faith in God and believed that Jesus Christ was her savior.  Even though she did not go to church, I know from personal experience that she did talk to God.  I can’t count how many times she would come toddling out of her bedroom and then tell me that she had been praying for someone…usually whichever kid or grandkid or great-grandkid was having a tough time, or for someone who might be traveling and in need of extra protection.  In the hospital that day she said that she hoped that each one of us would be able to find the comfort and strength that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

The second thing that meant the most to her was her family; we truly were her whole world.  Mom always loved you, even when you didn’t deserve it; and Mom was always there for you, even when you didn’t deserve it.  I know that she was there for me even when no one else was, and I will always be so very grateful.  All of the grandkids seemed to agree that she had the ability to make you feel like you were the most important person in the whole world.  One of Alan’s greatest joys was to go spend about a week with Mom in the summer, and that was the only reason he was not thrilled at first when she moved in with us – he was going to lose his “summer place” and his time alone with Dee Dee!  She was that Mom that would give up the last piece of cake if you wanted it, or even give you the shirt off her back.  The woman loved her family.

The third thing that meant the most to her was her country.  She loved her country and was very proud of the fact that she was a veteran.  I think that her being a veteran was not only a great source of pride for her, but it was also her identity.  In her later years she was very interested in politics, and there were days that she spent a good deal of the morning on the phone, calling her senator or congressman to let them know what was going on and what she thought about it.  Then she would come out to the kitchen and proudly announce, “Well, I’ve done my activism.  Now I need some tea!”  I had wondered why she was so consumed with politics (she watched Fox News all day long), and it wasn’t until after she had died that it hit me:  In her own way, she was still doing her part to defend the country.  Even if she couldn’t wear the uniform any more, she could still do her part.  Mom was military until the end, and even after – she chose to be buried at the Veterans’ Cemetery in Killeen, Texas, beside her fellow vets.

Mom got the video she wanted.  Once again, my brother-in-law, Don, came through.  He could not have done a better job!  It is absolutely beautiful and does a wonderful job of capturing who Mom was.  If you would like to watch it (it’s about 9 minutes long), click here.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Special Words

Within just hours of Mom's passing, my brother-in-law, Don, had the most special gift for my sister and me...a poem that he wrote, superimposed on a beautiful picture that he had taken.  Don may have written the poem, but it is as if my mother had spoken through him.  I have read this poem countless times, and it brings me comfort each and every time that I read it. I count it among my treasures, and now I would like to share it with the rest of the world:


It has been over two years since I have felt like writing…and it has been a very long two years, filled with sadness.  But the time has come to share stories once again, and I am hoping that the times to come will be filled with tales of happiness and joy once more.  But first, I must remember our last two years…

You may remember Robert’s sister, Susan.  She had been fighting cancer off and on throughout the years.  We were all so delighted when she was able to attend her oldest son’s wedding in March 2014!

Susan, with Paisley and Grandma Lynda:

I am so sad to say that on August 17, 2014, Susan lost her battle with cancer.  Everyone is grateful that she lived long enough to see her son married and happy, and to see her first grandchild (by another son), and to see her daughter (the last child at home) graduate from high school.  That being said, she was not even out of her forties yet, and she still had so much living to do!  Her absence will be felt forever by those who loved her and many hearts are indeed broken.

Susan loved to write poetry (and was quite good!), and the poem that was shared at her funeral certainly sums up Susan and her philosophy on life:

During this time, Mom had been feeling better than she had in awhile, and that girl was wanting to take a trip!  She and I had actually planned on going to Yellowstone to see Alan, but we had delayed our trip when it became apparent that Susan was not doing so well.  After some time had passed, we were going to give it another shot, but suddenly Mom was having trouble walking.  She was sure that it was a really bad case of arthritis flare, but she wasn’t getting any better, so on August 28, 2014, Robert and I drove her to see her doctor at the VA hospital.  Even the doctor was shocked when the X-ray came back – the woman had been hobbling around on a broken leg:

It was such a shock because Mom had not fallen, she had not bumped her leg, and there was no traumatic event that we could think of to explain it.  Her leg had just spontaneously BROKEN!

She was sent to a local hospital for surgery – the VA said they weren’t equipped to do it.  A metal rod was inserted and the pins were in place:

Mom was sent to a facility for about 13 days of rehab, and then she came home.  Once she was here, she complained that it really hurt, and she was not healing as well as we hoped.  When I took her for her 6-week checkup, the X-ray told the story:

Two of the screws had backed out!  It was only later that doctors determined that her bones were just like potato chips.  Surgery was done the very next day, and we were hopeful that this recovery would “take”, but unfortunately it was just the beginning of her problems.  Infections of all types, pneumonia, and just general ill health followed.  Her health was so bad that it was determined that she needed to be in a nursing home instead of coming back with us.  We were all so disappointed!
There were times that she had some really bad infections that were highly contagious, so she did not want us to come see her.  Those times were the hardest.  But there were also stretches of time that she was clear, and she was more than happy to see us.  We did what we could to bring some measure of happiness and joy into her life, but I don’t think that anything that we did could ever make up for her not being home in her own little room…toddling out to the kitchen to make some tea now and then.

Still, that woman fought!  There were at least five times that she was so sick that both her family and her doctors were sure than she would not survive…and yet, she did!  There were so many miracles!  However, on a Sunday morning, May 29 of this year, Mom was having to wear the bi-pap mask constantly just to breathe.  Through the mask she told the nurse, “I want to go home.”
“Do you mean your house or the nursing home?” the nurse asked.

Mom pointed up to the ceiling.  “Do you mean Heaven?” the nurse asked.
Mom said, “Yes.  Tell my daughters.”

The nurse called me and I hurried over...Robert came, too.  My sister lived further away, so it took a little longer for her to get there.  Mom waited, though, and within 30 minutes of having us all there, Mom slipped away.  We talked to her, sang to her, and held her hand.  I watched the machines that were monitoring her vital signs count down, and I knew the exact moment that she was gone.

It was so very, very sad, yet so very peaceful, all at the same time.  This woman, who had fought so hard and had overcome so much, had decided it was time…she most definitely went out on her own terms.  Although I am so sad for us, I am actually comforted by the fact that I am so happy for her.  Her last year-and-a-half on Earth was so miserable, and I can only be glad that she doesn’t have to endure all of that any more.

Still, I will miss her forever, and our house is just not the same…