Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The lengths God won't go to.

My brother (Patrick, 20), sister (Ivy, 16) and I have often boasted about how cool our family is and how glad we are that they are ours.

Ivy has encountered many 16 year olds, as many of us have, that are awfully selfish and don't deal well with the real stuff that life throws at us once in a while. Often when I am visiting home, she will share with me a tale of "immature" teens who are struggling with romantic relationships, trouble with their parents, bad grades, sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. She always is so amazed by how “stupid” most of her peers are. She has also encountered teens (and I think this observation goes well across generational lines) who don’t deal with death and dying very well. She’s REALLY surprised by this one. Hmm, she amazes me.

It wasn’t until these last few weeks that we’ve realized something. Somehow, God has chosen to prepare us for the pain and chaos that is helping a parent die. My mom began her nursing career when I was 3 and completed her PhD on March 18, 2007. It’s been quite a road for her (and for us) and we are so proud of our mommy. When I was in elementary school, she began to build her expertise in end of life care and is now among the top experts in the country, if not in the world.

In our house, sex, drugs and rock-n-roll were part of the everyday conversation. We didn’t shy away from uncomfortable things and I believe we are better for it. As mom’s experience with terminal illnesses, bereavement, pain management, palliative care and other things grew, she began appropriately sharing things with her children. I vividly remember standing in our kitchen and having her share wonderful and amazing stories of God’s grace, the amazing human body, the will of souls and non-verbal communication between soul-mates from her many hours spent with families and patients who were transitioning from this world to the next. It was in those years I began to see death as an amazing force rather than the scary end. The end of someone’s life can be filled with peace and love if pain and symptoms are managed properly and if primary care givers are empowered to love their loved ones until the very last breath.

For me, this is the reason our family is the coolest on earth. This weekend while I was home with my mom, step-dad and two siblings, there was no panic and very little anxiety (Atavan is a wonder for patients and care-givers alikeJ). We spent as much time as we could talking with Josh, holding hands, kissing, hugging, laying next to, breathing, joking and every good thing. If you only have 2 weeks to spend with the one whom your soul loves, this is the way to do it and my mom is an example like no other.

There is no doubt there will be many tears in the months ahead and we certainly aren’t with out questions, anger and frustration. But if I could find a way to give the gift of peace and love during the death of a loved one, I would give it to everyone…since everyone goes through it at some point.

I don’t know why God chose our family for this gift, or if he gave us other gifts to make it so we could receive this gift from our mother. I know that I am grateful for whatever it is. I know I hope He will give you all similar gifts in your life; I believe that He will.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

It's been a little bit of a month...

Some of you know and some of you don't...
Two very significant things have happened in my life in the last two weeks (don't worry, I still have a job). I plan to blog lots about them in pieces as I can manage, but I wanted to get everyone in the loop first.
On Tuesday, August 7 (Ivy's 16th birthday) I was in a head-on auto accident in my cute little blue Vue. I am fine, but my car did not survive. My dad likes to say it was a great object lesson for my baby sister on the day she received her license and a car. There are pictures and a "lecture" to the teenagers in my life on my facebook, if you're interested.

On Wednesday, August 8, my step-dad Josh was diagnosed with Pancreatic, lymphatic carcinoma cancer. I have been asked on more than one occasion, "What stage?" My smart a#$ dad would say "stage 12," but the serious answer is that its far past the point of a staging label. Upon scanning his abdomen, his pancreas was full of tumors, with innumerable legions in his liver (it is worth noting that this cancer has nothing to do with and isn't caused by his alcoholism). At this point, on the 21st, we are expecting him to live only days. My mom has set up a phenomenal blog with a daily entry on Josh's progression toward heaven. If you are interested:
If you can't get in that way, let me know and I'll get you hooked up. I spent the last 4 days putting in 16 hour days of helping my mom manage the millions of meds it takes to keep someone so sick comfortable. It certainly has been a labor of love and as the oldest child, I felt a huge pull to fulfill a responsibility. However tired I am and will continue to be, I wouldn't imagine being anywhere else or doing anything else. My mother is an amazing woman who has processed these last two weeks with grace and strength the likes I have never seen before.

As I said, I plan to blog on these things in pieces as I can manage. It has been a time full of emotions and such, so there is lots to process. More later to be sure.

All my love to you all. I don't usually solicit prayers, but please pray for my family and everyone that loves Josh, this is such a huge loss for the world.
Until next time....