Archives for the month of: January, 2015

I found this piece I wrote about 10 years ago – long before I had a blog.  It’s all still true, but I’d add my son and others to the list of those who are there.  Thought I’d share…

There is a heaven. I decided this in my heart a long time ago. I tried to rationalize it as something our brains make up to help us get through the tough times in life or that the idea is planted there by stories and myths. I tried to think like those of the Jewish faith that this is all there is. When our life is over, we are gone. I tried to fit that into my head and hold onto the thought. But, in my heart, I have found that my truth is that there is a heaven. Of course, I won’t know until I die if I am right, but that is beside the point. What makes sense to me now is that there is a heaven.

Do I live my life trying to get to heaven? I don’t set it as a goal or a prize. My life on earth is not worth much if I don’t make the most of it, if I don’t use the moments I have to see the beauty of people and earth I have around me here. It’s like when I travel – I try to see everything I can because I don’t know if I will ever get this way again. I don’t want to be a good person because I am afraid of what will happen if I’m not. I want to be the kind of person that I can live with for eternity, because in the scheme of things, we will always be with ourselves.

Heaven has been on my mind. My grandson was telling me what he knew about heaven – that his Sunday School teacher told him that you could run and run and not run out of breath. And that God and Jesus would be there. And he pictured his granddaddy there, running and running and not out of breath. It made me smile because I doubt that is what his granddaddy would be doing. I would imagine in his heaven he is hunting and fishing and playing golf and walking around the fields and watching the stars in the night sky. I would imagine he is cooking for his family and cheering on his teams and having a beer with his buddies and coming home to tell me his stories and hold me in his arms. I can only imagine.

My heaven? My heaven.

My heaven will look like earth. There will be mountains, hills and plains, oceans, lakes, rivers and streams. There will be water near me where I can swim and dive underneath and sit beside it and walk on its shores and smell it and hear it and feel it in the air.

There will be days and nights so I can see sunrises and sunsets and feel the sun and watch the stars and moon.

There will be changing seasons so I can watch the leaves change colors, the flowers grow, the snow falling. I will be able to feel the heat of the sun and the chill of the air.

There will be rain with thunder and lightning.

The people I love will be there. I will have my husband, my father, my grandparents, and all my friends who have gone before me. There will be people to talk to and there will be laughter and conversation.

I don’t know how we will look. I leave that detail up to heaven. I guess it doesn’t matter if we are young or old or all the same age. I suspect we will recognize each other. I don’t care what we will be wearing. In my heaven we will be comfortable.

We will watch fireworks and go to school carnivals.

There will be big dinners and the men will cook outdoors and we will all bring something and everyone will be talking around the table.

There will be music and there will be dancing.

There will be times of quiet reflection.

In my heaven, we will sit before fires when it is cold and under the stars when it is warm.

We will blow bubbles and sway in swings and hammocks.

We will hold each other close and know that we won’t have to say goodbye.

There will be sex, heavenly sex, with the one I love.

I will see the earth and watch those I love and know that they will be ok. I will visit them when they need me to let them know that I am never far away and they will feel me near and know that I love them.
What will not be in my heaven?

Worry. Disease. Hate. Meanness. Cruelty. War.
I have known life on earth. My heaven would be to choose what I get to take with me forever.

Because I can’t imagine that there are things more wonderful than what I have known here.

Maybe that will be the surprise.

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When I entered the hospital yesterday, I was fully aware of the memories it held and would bring back.  They start 65 years ago when I stood on the street and my mother waved to us from her hospital room window after having my sister.  Children weren’t allowed inside back then.  My memories with this building flooded my mind all day.

I had a minor surgery here when I was in high school

Two of my children were born here

My daughter had surgery on her shoulder after being hit by a car at college

Seven of my grandchildren were born here

My father and mother were here with various surgeries and tests through the years

My mother died here

My husband had cancer surgery and some chemotherapy here

We’ve had numerous visits to the emergency room with many family members

My son was diagnosed with cancer here and pronounced dead here 10 years later

I had two surgeries here a couple of years ago

The list goes on and on and I can’t even focus on the other friends and family who have been here at various times in their lives

Walking the halls for even a second brings back so many emotions, both good and bad, but all strong, overwhelming even.  Yesterday, I went to the surgical waiting room to sit with my daughter while her husband had cancer surgery.  Family and friends gathered throughout the grueling day and they were so important to help us through the hours of waiting.  The waiting is always the hardest.  Sharp contrast to our family waiting for new babies to be born on that happier floor.

The Hospital is an amazing place, where worried families wait and worry and try to understand medical language and diagnoses and friends come to visit hospital rooms to show love and encouragement and support.  There are volunteers who compassionately help you through the procedures and to find your way through the winding corridors.  The medical staff has always been incredibly wonderful to my family in every conceivable circumstance.

The Hospital is a place of fear, of hope, of excitement, and of healing.

The Hospital is a place where the world outside keeps going while your life stands still.

You wear your best walking shoes just to get wherever you’re going from the parking lot.  You try to remember where you parked this day.  I’ve stood in the parking lot a few times so exhausted that I could not remember what floor I had left the car on, trying to keep back tears of frustration.  My daughter was smart enough yesterday to take a picture of her parking place with her phone so she would remember.

You learn where all the bathrooms, snack machines, and cafeteria are located and how to find the chapel if you need a quiet moment.  You become a part of the big machine that is helping your loved one, a part of the process.

And, life outside goes on.

I guess there is a comfort in the familiar, although I am in disbelief when I start to remember so very many visits there.  I’m grateful I live a short distance away and have such resources available to my family.  I’m grateful for all the wonderful doctors, nurses, and every member of the staff who are so encouraging and make it as easy as they can for patients and families.  I’m thankful for the times we live in where medical procedures are advancing forward at such rapid rates and we can benefit by these new discoveries.

I’m thankful for family and friends, who give us hugs and shoulders to lean on and listen to us and bring food and love and care for us.

Life goes on outside, but The Hospital is always there, waiting for us when we need it.  I hope you have a place like our hospital when you need it.  The Hospital is where I go when my life stops for a moment and then it goes on, changed in a new way each time.

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Last weekend, I checked another event off my bucket list when I finally got to see Garth Brooks in concert.  My husband and I had tickets for his last Tulsa concerts 17 years ago, but my husband had cancer surgery and we had to give them away.  I’ve watched his televised concerts and listened to stories from friends who ran into him all the time during his semi-retirement about 20 minutes away. Everyone who has ever met him loved him and his gracious nature.  There was never a bad story.  In fact, everyone who met him was awestruck by how down to earth and polite and fun he was.

At our mutual alma mater, I hear stories about him from staff who have met him on trips to Oklahoma State University, where he has a suite at the football stadium, decorated with his letter jacket from his student athlete days.  Garth is definitely a favorite son around here!

I love the fact that all seats were $70, even though there was a frenzy as 7 concerts sold out in a few hours.

I love the fact that he had staff select people in the back seats and surprise them with front row seats before concerts.

I love the fact that his band has been with him anywhere from way back in his college days to 20 years ago.  He introduced all of them and they are almost as familiar as he is.

I loved watching him as a fan made his way to the front with a photo of himself with Garth, taken 20 years ago at the Special Olympics in Stillwater.  I love that Garth never quit singing as he recognized the photo and had the security guard give it to him.  The fan handed over 3 Special Olympic medals to Garth, which he put around his neck, again never stopping the song.  Then he put the photo in his mouth while he unstrapped his guitar and handed both to the guard to give the man.  Again, he never missed a beat.  At the end of the song, I saw him bow his head for a moment, taking in the emotion.  It was one of the magical moments you expect, the things that make an entertainer a superstar.

And, above all, Garth Brooks is an entertainer.  I have never seen anyone who absolutely soaks up the love from the audience and sends it right back to them the way he does.  There is nothing fake about it as you watch him.  He absolutely revels in it.

I love his music, his energy, and his devotion to his fans.  When the cell phones lit up as he sang “The River,” he asked for more as the arena turned into an ethereal place.

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If you get a chance, go see him.  Even if you don’t like his music, he’s a phenomenon, a force.  And a heck of a lot of fun!

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Once again, the date rolls around, the day I woke up four years ago to find my son had died.  I didn’t wake up today and think about the date.  I was reminded by a couple of people letting me know they were thinking of my daughter-in-law and me.  I just read back over my blogs from this date the last two years to see what I was thinking then and they were good ones.  Nothing much has changed.

The difference, I think, is that I have missed him more this year, if that’s possible.  I can feel him around me in so many ways, but I found myself missing him.  A lot.  I had lots of flashes when I’d glance up and see a young man who had some semblance of his face, his walk, his gestures.  Then back to reality.  Mostly just a deep sadness that he isn’t here.

The anniversary date is never the day that hurts.  It’s the every day.  It’s a tribute to people who have been deeply loved that they can never never be replaced.  It’s the same with my memories of my husband.  There may be other friends I love and care for, but that unique person will never die in my heart.

The last couple of days I’ve glanced out my window and a very bright cardinal has appeared.  Once he sat and watched me for a long time.  It’s been said poetically that a cardinal is a visit from a lost loved one.  I don’t know which of my guys it was, but it makes me smile.  Nothing more comforting than a bright red cardinal on a gray winter day.

Today, the sun is shining and it’s cold outside.  I’m going to make it through another winter when the heavy thoughts hit me into the spring when all our hearts lift with the warmth and rebirth.  I’m going to cherish all my living loving children and their spouses and my grandchildren and make beautiful memories that will tide us through the rough patches of life.

And…I’m going to remember with love the wonder of my son and his remarkable life.  Damn it all that we lost him to horrible cancer, but loving that he was ours.  I miss him…all his girls miss him!

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The first months of the year are the ones that can drag me down.  I love winter, but there are some sad memories that cold, dreary days tend to make resurface.  A sadness can prevail, if I let it.  My friend and I were discussing our pity parties this week.  Pity parties are lonely and they tend to lose their grip when shared with a friend.  Pity parties are usually the shortest term misery in which we wallow in this life of ours.

In the darkest of days, I’ve never focused very long on “Why Me?”  It’s more like “Why Not Me?”  I have family and friends and a nice home and resources.  When things happen, as they do in life, I should be as equipped to handle them as well as anyone.  Or not.

When I worked for the American Red Cross, I learned that every disaster is huge to the person involved, so a single family home fire is as devastating as a tornado that sweeps a city or an earthquake that destroys a region.  If you’re the one in it, it couldn’t seem worse.

We all have our own disasters in life, real or emotional, I don’t care how fortunate you are.  As you get older, you see the families or individuals you think have the easiest of lives and realize that they are facing challenges and tragedies just like the rest of us.  It’s part of life – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

There are always people who have a worse disaster, it seems.  I moan about my own loss or problem and then I see someone facing obstacles I can’t even fathom.  To keep it all in perspective, I have one story that has stuck in my mind since I first saw the report, years ago.  There was a major earthquake in Turkey, I believe, and a woman was sitting on the ground, looking as numb as I can ever imagine being.  She had lost 18 members of her family, her home and business.  She is my compass point when I feel down.  I remember her and wonder what happened next.  How did she pick herself up and go on?  What thoughts does she fight in her mind?  What resources does she draw upon to go from day to day?

I won’t negate the power of depression, the debilitating weight of it.  There are ways out of it with help from ourselves, professionals, friends and family.  Whatever works for you – do it!  And reach out to those you know who might need a friendly hand to lift the weight in their life.

Today, I’m remembering my lady in Turkey, much like the lady in this photo.  And finding joy in the world around me, bitter cold and gray as it is.  I wonder how she is?

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New Year’s Eve used to mean getting together with friends to toast in the next year together, complete with hats and horns.  Those days gave way to staying home with the kids and banging pots and pans while listening to the sounds of the celebrators in the distance.  And then it became a day to end the old and bring in the new, whatever it was bringing with it.

I’m trying to remember all my New Year’s Eves, especially the ones that came with promises of lives changed.  There was the year right after my father died, helping my mother get through it.

There was the year my husband had cancer.  We went to a Bowl Game with the strength he found somewhere and flew home while my mother was having quadruple bypass surgery.  That was a year that started off with us knowing there would be changes.

The millennium 2000 celebration was hard because I’d always pictured it coming in while I stood by my husband’s side.  Who knew he wouldn’t be there with me?

I don’t know.  New Years are always full of hope and promise.  This year I’m thinking of turning the calendar differently.  We’re all older, which goes without saying.  We’re celebrating the fact that we’re here, kind of like we celebrate our birthdays.

This year, I’m going to celebrate that it’s 2015 and not 1915 or 1815 or before.  This is a great time to be alive, a time when we have possibilities not even imagined earlier.  There are more chances for learning, for exploring, for creating than ever before.  If we want to change our lives, there are resources available.  If we are sick or injured, there are more medical options than at any time in man’s history.  If we want to play, there are more exciting places to do so.

I’m going to take this year to be grateful for all I’ve been able to see and do and all the wonderful people I have met.  I don’t know how this year will stack up with the others I’ve known, but it doesn’t matter.  It’s all a journey where some years are smooth, some are rough, and some are thankfully boring, but all are steps forward to being who we are.

My husband told me once that we always pray for strength.  I was taken with the surety in his voice when he said it, so I’ll follow his words.  We pray for the strength to face what the year brings us as we rejoice in the fact that we’re here to face the future.  May I see you here next year, facing the next year and then the next and then the next…

Happy New Year!

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