When She Was A Little Girl…

When

My 3rd Birthday

She

On A Ferry in the Puget Sound

Was

My 4th Birthday

A

My 5th Birthday

Little

First Day of 3rd Grade

Girl

Kristin and I on the First Day of 4th Grade

She

Family Vacation to California

Never

Junior High Cheerleading

Dreamed

Vacationing in Hawaii

It

High School Graduation

Could

Fixing Up My First Car With My Dad

Happen

Spa Night In The Dorms

To

My 19th Birthday

Her.

Home From College On Spring Break

She is the face of Domestic Violence.

She is your daughter.

With My Mom And Daughter At The Zoo

She is your sister.

Snuggling My First Born

She is your friend.

Picture Perfect Family Christmas Card

She is your neighbor.

A Birthday Party For Our Daughter

She is your coworker.

Christmas Morning

If it could happen to her, it could happen to anyone.  A woman in the US is assaulted or beaten approximately every 9 seconds.  Domestic Violence can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter what race she is, what religion she is, what age she is, or what neighborhood she lives in, it happens everywhere.  Recognize it.  Get Support.  Make a plan.  Follow it.  Get out.

She did it and you can to.

 

 

My Girls And Me After I Left

 

If you are in danger, please use a safer computer, or call 911, your local hotline, or the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224.

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Remembering Her

I arrived to her room at the hospice house that night holding the innocent, naïve hands of my daughters.  As a family we had decided that maybe it was time for the grandchildren to see her for the last time.  She was declining by the hour at that point and I wanted to make sure that my girls, the oldest of the 9 grandkids, would be able to see her one last time in a way that was recognizable and not frightening.  The last 11 weeks had been so hard on them, especially my first born, who was just old enough to understand the finality of it all.  I knew after our visit tonight, my little girls would enter into a new phase of life, one that knew pain and loss in a new and profound way.  Just when I didn’t think it was possible, I hated cancer a fair measure more.

Hannah held my hand tight, tears welled in her blue eyes but none escaped to her cheeks, and she walked with the stoic grace of a woman much more mature than her 9 years, to the edge of the bed, but it was too late.  The transformation had already begun and their Grandma would never be the same.  I could see it and Hannah could see it.  Hannah laid her body against the side of the bed and stretched her tiny frame as far as she could, wrapping both her arms around the Grandma who had rocked her to sleep so many times.  Rachel timidly came from behind and joined her big sister.  Their brown hair blanketed her bed as they buried their faces in her chest.

She became lucid for a moment, aware of the embrace of her beloved granddaughters and touched their hair.  She spoke, partially profound and partially nonsensical, of her love for them and for Jesus, and for peanut butter and Cinderella.  All the while her body made random twitches that made the scene even more surreal.   A few moments passed and she had drifted back to sleep.  With tears on her chin, Rachel whispered, “Goodbye Grandma.” and my heart broke again into a million pieces.

As we walked to the waiting room I wondered how much my 7 year old would remember about her Grandma.  Would she remember her voice, her laugh, the way she talked with her hands, the certain strut in her walk?  How would I be able to keep these things alive for her when they seemed to already be fading from my own memory?  Even though her body was still with us, the disease and the drugs had stolen her from us by now.  I missed her already.  It was just so wrong that this beautiful woman, grandmother to 9 (at the time and now 12) would not be remembered by most of her grandchildren.

Six years later, I still struggle with this.  I look at my children and see glimmering pieces of her in all of them; Hannah with her walk with that ‘certain strut’ and the same ‘old soul’ maturity beyond her years, Rachel with her ‘swimmer’s body’ and her natural cooking ability and Rylon with his dimples and the way his memory is so keen like hers was.  I tell them stories, the good, the bad and the down right hilarious, but it just doesn’t seem to be enough.  We look at pictures, use the things she gave us and the things she left us, bake her recipes, we even have an old bottle of her perfume.  Something always seems to be missing.  And the stories, the things, the smells don’t quite do her justice.  And then it hits me, “Oh yeah, it’s her…  We can’t recreate her…”

But, we can keep telling the stories.  When I point to my son’s dimple and say, “That’s cute!  Where’d you get that?” he readily knows and giggles back, “Grandma Crum!” and I believe it gives him just a little bit more of the sense of love and pride about from where he came.  It is like a little connection to his past and maybe to his future.  Who knows, maybe one day, as he lovingly rubs his finger into the indent of his own child, he will say, “That’s cute!  Where’d you get that?”

So I’m asking you.  Not because I don’t remember her, but because sometimes I feel like my memory just isn’t quite enough.  Tell me, Tell us, Tell them your stories, so that her legacy of love all the other stuff can live on with them, and so that they can get to know the incredible woman that was their Grandma Crum.

Thank you,

Vicki

The Annual Grandkids Picture 2003

The Annual Grandkids Picture 2003-With Grandpa and Grandma Crum

The Annual Grandkids Picture 2004- Carrying Quilts Made By Grandma Crum

Wolves and Sharks

Ever heard the expression, “I told you so?”   Daddy’s feeling a little smug around our house this summer.  Let’s take a trip down our family’s memory lane to a few summers ago and discover why…

“Can you tell me again, Mom?  What exactly again are we doing at this camp?”  Our daughter’s question was filled with tense apprehension.  We were just 2 miles from the camp turn off and I could tell she was having second thoughts.  I reached for the cream colored brochure with a cheerful picture of a sun emblazoned on the front.  Turning to the page of camp descriptions, I read allowed all of the details about what she would experience during her week at camp.  Our younger daughter seemed satisfied with the description and relaxed in her seat.

“Do you need for me to read yours too?”  I asked our older daughter.

“Please!” she requested with eager excitement.  She had wanted to go to camp at Camp Shalom since she first heard about it, along with all the adventures her friends experienced there, when she was in the 4th grade.  Now here we were, only a mile or so from the winding dirt road leading to the camp grounds and she was bubbling with excitement!

“Villager Camp,” I began, “For campers entering grades 7 to 9.”

As if by canine instinct, my husband’s ears were suddenly trained on every word I spoke.  He couldn’t keep from interrupting me.  Before I could finish the description, he was barking questions.

“Have you talked to her yet?” he asked.

“Talked to her about what?” I answered.

“Well, there are going to be boys at this camp!  Boys who are in High School! Have you talked to her about this?  Does she know what…” his voice trailed off in frustration.   “Have you talked to her about this?”  As he spoke in his panicked ‘Dad’ voice I could see he was even having a difficult time driving.  The gentle curves of the country road were met with stiff handling behind the wheel of our mini van and I could tell I needed to say something soothing before all of us landed in a ditch!

“Honey,” I said to my daughter in a voice that attempted to both sooth my husband and not freak out my daughter, “You’re heading into Junior High now and at this camp the Junior High kids are in the same group as the first year High School kids.  Some of those kids are going to have more independence and experience than you.”  Clearly I wasn’t getting to the point quickly enough for my husband’s taste.  We turned onto the narrow, forest lined, dirt road leading to the camp and looking at me and my husband implored me, “Get to the point, Mommy.”

I gently began again, “Sometimes when kids your age get alone without the supervision of their parents they try to take advantage of the situation.”

For Daddy, this clearly was not direct enough.  We were taking the hills and curves of the little gravel road with a quickened pace.  “Easy there Daddy, we’re not driving the ‘General Lee’.”  I whispered just loud enough for him to hear me.  He was not amused.  The indent between his eyebrows grew deeper.

In the rear view mirror he looked back to our oldest daughter and began speaking in an urgent ‘Dad’ voice, “What Mommy is not saying is that there are going to be boys at this camp.  High School boys, who have one thing on their mind!” and then he turned to look back at her as she shrunk back in her seat and in a full ‘Dad’ voice, he blurted out, “They are wolves and sharks, and you are what’s on the menu!”

We continued the rest of the drive down the gravel road with those pulverizing words grounding into our ears.

The dust began to settle both inside and outside our mini van as we slowed to a stop in our parking spot.  I glanced back at our daughters, who sat with uncomfortable looking faces, and I couldn’t help but think how mortifying that experience must have been.  Sensing I need to do some damage control before we got out of the car, I turned toward my blossoming daughters and their wilting faces.  In that moment I wanted them to know I believed in their abilities to make good choices, and that I wanted them to have fun.  I wanted them to leave me feeling confident and not crushed.

I stroked my husband’s hand, and looked at the faces of our stunned girls, “You know, Daddy is just feeling protective of you.  I hope you aren’t upset that he made a big deal of there being boys at camp.  I hope you can understand why he’d be kind of over the top about this kind of thing. This is all new to him too.”

Without a moment of hesitation our oldest looked at her Dad with her innocent blue eyes and said, “ It’s OK, Daddy.  At least I know you care enough about me to say something about it.”  With a disarming smile she said, “I know you love me.”

“They are wolves and sharks, and you are what’s on the menu,” 12 words that have lived on notoriously in our family lore.   Thankfully they live on in giggles and teasing as well.  I am grateful our girls know that their Daddy is looking out for them.   And believe me, nothing gets by Daddy…  Let’s fast-forward a few summers to 2010.

This summer we attended our nephew’s wedding in Maryland.  It was a beautiful wedding, featuring the cutest Ring Bearer I have ever seen!

Here is a picture of my little man getting prepared for his close-up!

But I digress…

Through out the wedding and reception festivities my husband kept a keen eye trained on his beautiful teenage daughters.  What protective Daddy would not?  It was at the wedding rehearsal that Daddy’s keen eye trained in on one young man.  Here he is pictured with my nephew (the handsome one on the right) and 2 other groomsmen.

**Que Villan Music**  Dun! Dun! DUUUNN!

Your looking at the guy on the left:

Just in case you were looking at the other left, you were supposed to look at this guy:

He was a groomsman and long time school friend of my nephew, and I can honestly say I did not see him do anything inappropriate.  He was perfectly gentlemanly and nice.  And pretty cute in his tuxedo, don’t you think?  Ok- enough commenting from the old lady here… But, he was the nemesis of my husband for the entire weekend.  Why?  Well, because he was male, and he was being nice to Daddy’s daughter.

Of course the wedding was beautiful and we are all thrilled with our nephew Daniel’s choice.  His new wife is awesome!  Welcome to the family Jillan!  Here is a picture of the big moment!  I love this picture of them!  She is radiating JOY!

The wedding reception was beautiful and was complete with a sit down meal and dancing.  I had a lot of fun clinking my glass to prompt watching kisses of the Bride and Groom and spent most of the other time wrangling a sugar fueled Ring Bearer out on the dance floor.  When the slow dance songs came on I was just thankful my son decided it was time for a smoothie break at the table!  It was all I could manage just keeping up with him!

However, my husband and his protective eye never rested.  Apparently the eyes of a man with teenaged daughters never do!  I was just settling in to my seat at our table when he swooped in to sit beside me.  I wondered if he was going to ask me for a dance.  No such luck!

“Do you see that?!” he said.  I could tell he was having a hard time containing the volume of his voice.

“See what?” I asked.  I honestly had no idea what he was referring to.

“That!”  He said, pointing to our oldest daughter out on the dance floor.

There she was.  Our girl was out on the dance floor, looking beautiful in her blue and green floral dress, the color a near perfect match to her eyes.  Her cheeks were a rosy flush, probably from the heat of the room, but maybe it was also because she was enjoying her first slow dance with one very cute groomsman.

I sighed.  It was so sweet, as her mom, to get to witness such an event.  She is growing up, and making her own way, and they just looked so adorable out there on that dance floor.  I knew nothing about this young man who was enjoying her delicate arms circling his neck, other than that he was a good enough friend of my nephew to be invited to stand up with him on his wedding day, but I was smitten by how cute my daughter was with him out on the dance floor.  Besides, the pair lived 1,000 miles apart and she was well protected by her loyal Daddy.  With him there ready to pounce, I had nothing to worry about.

My husband did not share my sentimental view of the moment.  “What do we do?” he whispered.  He was beside himself!

“Nothing.” I whispered back.  My annoyed husband sat close to me at the table, sitting with crossed arms and looking forlorn and with out a doubt wishing desperately he could change the unfolding situation.  The dance ended and our girl floated back to her seat.  These are the moments that make for good old-fashioned crushes and it was pretty obvious our girl had one.  My girl sat down next to me and began perusing the wedding program.  She tried to look casual, but I knew she was most likely examining with a careful eye.  Part way down the page her finger stopped and she could hardly contain her giggles.  She leaned over to show me what she found.

“Don’t tell Daddy he’s right!” she said through her giggles and pointed to what the program read.  I followed her finger to the list of groomsmen and there it was in black and white.  It said his name was Grason.  Grason Wolfe.

Daddy will not soon let her forget that he is always right.

A New Chapter

About a year ago I wrote this: https://withlovemom.wordpress.com/2009/09/14/my-son-nemo-and-growing-up/ .  Boy I’m feeling those words today!

This is what I did this morning:

I took these pictures

Of my baby boy

Heading down the path

Toward a new adventure.

Did I really write all of that last year?  I hope Marlin swam away and cried…

Because, that’s exactly what I am going to go do.

Great (with child) Expectations

Today was Mother’s Day!  I had a great day with my family and was treated like a princess.  We spent a pretty perfect day shopping at an art fair and completed the afternoon with waffle cones before dinner (because hey, I’m not cooking!).  I got to snuggle up on the couch with my 4 favorite people and watch a movie before we went out for dinner.  When we got home my little boy, who is quickly outgrowing my lap, melted me by asking me to rock him before bed, something I have always LOVED, and I capped off the evening looking at scrapbooks of my perfect little newborns. Tonight I especially loved looking at the pictures of pregnant me becoming a mother, because after all, when a child is born, so is a new mother.

These are some of my favorite pictures….

This one was taken at my first ever baby shower.  I was expecting my first born, I had learned the day before would be a daughter.  I had no idea how much her little tiny presence was going to change my life.  Nothing could prepare me for  how a 6 lb. 8 oz. itty-bitty person would consume me, and I would allow it willingly!  Upon my first gaze of her, I would feel like I had just laid my eyes on the most beautiful creation ever made, and this most exquisite creation was entrusted to my care.  I guess I love the innocence in this picture.

My first born was also the first of her generation to be born in our family.  The first grandchild, the first niece.  Our family was giddy with excitement for her arrival.  My body was no longer my own.  Something I was a little bashful about.  I was shy about my pregnant form, but I began to see that when people reached toward my growing abdomen, they were reaching out to my child.  They were already loving her.  I think this picture really captured those sentiments in me and in my sweet sister in law who was so very excited to become an aunt.

The second time around I was more comfortable in my own pregnant skin and very excited to be adding another daughter to my family.  I so much more confident in my abilities as a mother, but inside I wondered in secret, “Will I love another one as much I love the first one?  How can my heart possibly grow big enough to love another child with the depth that I have loved my first born?”  It took less than a milli-second and all of those fears faded away.  This little bundle of baby girl, all wrinkled, and rolley, with a layer of dark downey hair, looked up at me and drew me in with her slate colored eyes and quivering lips.  How could it be possible that there was yet another delicious little baby creature lying in my arms?  I had won the baby lottery.  Twice!

Maybe I should have been more worried about having enough energy!  Maybe I should have been more worried about the fact that they would only be 17 months apart and I would have 2 in diapers!  It’s hard to remember that there was a day when I was worried about not having enough love, and not worried about being exhausted!  I remember that when I look at these pictures and inside I laugh at myself.

Being pregnant with my son was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.  I had been ‘on the pink aisle’ for 9 years!  I didn’t even know where the ‘blue aisle’ was!  It was a whole new world for me.  Again, silly me, I wondered, “Will I love a boy like I love my girls?”  and yet I was again struck with awe in the miracle of it all.  I was carrying the child I never thought I would have!   Pregnancy was harder this time, but I knew the sacrifices would be worth it.  I wore my ever expanding waist-line with pride and joyful anticipation!

And boy did my waist line expand!!!  This picture was taken the night before my son arrived and one month before my due date!  I love the way my husband is adoring my belly, his unborn son.  And for the third time, I was blessed with the most perfect of all babies.  How could it be?  3 perfect babies?   It’s not because the babies were perfect, although I have to gush, they absolutely were, it’s because it’s true, as my mom used to tell me, a mother’s heart knows no end. I love this picture because I am full of life and of love that has no end.  ….and because that belly is enormous!

Happy Mother’s Day!

The Best Part of My Birthday

I added another year to my age this week!  I don’t mind birthdays.  They are a sign of life and a marker that reminds me that the good Lord has blessed me with another years worth of days.  I also like the way my little family celebrates birthdays.  I thought I’d share with you about my favorite part.

The written words…

Somewhere along the line we decided that everyone gets to choose, for the birthday honoree, their own individual card.  This is the selection for me from my dream man and the kids for this year.  I especially love how each of my children take such care to write in the cards to add their own personal touch.  They even write messages on the envelopes!

This one is from my little guy…

I melt when I see the little pre school handwritings of my little ones.  You know, when you’re in the middle of those years when they are little and need you so much for every little thing… “Can you tie my shoes?”  “I want a snaaaaack!”  “There’s thunder, can I sleep in your room?”  and no trip to Target ever goes with out the inevitable question, “Can we visit the Toys Section?”  Wow, those years are challenging!  Not enough sleep, not enough time for yourself, everything you wear has the fingerings of slobbery graham crackers before you ever leave the house, and you’ve seen your precious little boy use your skirt as a napkin!   It feels like a time in your life when it will never be over and they will never grow up.  It feels like you will never again see the words, “Dry Clean Only” in the tag of a sweater and consider it a viable wardrobe choice.  It feels like you will never again be able to have an adult conversation with your husband where you don’t end up squaking, “What!?” like a jungle bird, at your sweet little blue eyed girl who has just interrupted for the 342 bajillionth time!  It feels like you will never be able to walk through a parking lot without experiencing the feeling of your arm being nearly ripped from the socket as your wiggly boy hop, skips, and jumps along, all while you grip his gooey little hand.  And every day you wonder, “Will the Family Room rug always be covered by all these toys?”

An then one day, they give you a give you a card, and the preschool writing has been replaced.  That little blue eyed interrupter has done it again! Interrupted the fantasy you have in your mind that she’s a little girl and she will never grow up and she will never not be your little baby girl.

Oh, she’ll tell you she’s your ‘Baby girl,” but that’s just to be cute and endearing.  She know’s all your soft spots.  And you melt.

And then she tells you how ‘prodigous’ you are …  And you can’t help but smile because she’s so stinkin’ cute.  And she’s becoming so stunningly beautiful that you know if you dare leave the table, the busy-boy at the restaurant is going to try and get her number…

And your other little blue eyed girl tells you she is finally beginning to understand who you are…

And that someday she wants to be the best mom in the world, too…  And you can’t help but see how wise she’s becoming.  She’s actually noticing all the effort you’ve put into raising her and she appreciates it!  And you can see that the next 4 years are going to go by so fast… and your little chrysalis is, very soon, going to open up.  And you imagine the amazing butterfly she will be.   What amazing butterflies that they all will be!

And you melt.

The written words are the best part.

And in case you were wondering, yes, my husband gave me one too.  He really is the man of my dreams!

Where the Time Went!

Hello!  I know it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything of significance around here.  Sorry I’ve been away so long!  I’ve been thinking about that word ‘Busy’ and how so often I use it as a blanket excuse for not keeping up with the people who are important to me.  How many times I’ve answered the inquiry of a friend with the words, “I’ve been so busy!”  only to not really be able to come up with a single real ‘thing’ that has truly occupied my time!  So this morning I took a minute to refresh my memory and put together a little (ok, so it’s not that little…) scrapbook of where the time went.  Take a trip back to mid February with me!  We’ll pick up with just after my middle girl’s 13th birthday and Valentine’s Day and end with last night.

Swim meet season in February…

Our middle child is a swimmer.

Choir Concert!  This is our oldest.  Isn’t she cute?!

Our middle child is in this choir…

Chamber Choir.  The oldest is in this one.  Did I mention that between all 3 kids they are in 5 choirs?

Sole…  Yeah, I’m workin’ on it!

I repainted the Family Room and hung new shelves with some of my favorite candid pictures… This is the green wall…  the rest of the walls in the family room and kitchen were also repainted as well.  They are boring beige…  and I added a new valance in the kitchen.  In February.  That my dear husband just noticed.  On Friday.  3 days ago.

First Day of Spring in Iowa…  Snow!  I wanted to cry…  Instead my son and I started some seedlings of SUNflowers and Basil…

Have I mentioned that my kids get a lot of homework?  They are great students *thankfully* so I don’t have to nag them to do it, but it never seems to end!  This is Randy with our younger girl.  She loves school!  Her friends are there…

Anxiously awaiting the sprout of a seedling.  He loves, I mean LOVES, ‘making flowers’ and anything involving a garden!

The World’s BEST Dad and Grandpa came for a Spring visit.  I haven’t seen him in a beard like this since around 1981!  I told our little guy that Grandpa is really Santa Claus and for just a minute I saw “the look”.  You know the one, when you know they believe you, and then the moment was gone.  That’s ok.  I know he believed me for a second and I got “the look” of pure,  innocent, suspension of all reality.

The World’s BEST Dad and Grandpa and I re-stained the deck.  Mission Brown from Cabot, for inquiring minds who want to know.

We took a day trip to Springfield, Illinois while The World’s BEST Dad and Grandpa was in town, because that just the kind of thing we do.   We’re road trippers.  It’s a big world out there, get out there and see some of it!  Anyway, Springfield, Illinois is where President Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb, Museum and Library, and Residence while he was a Lawyer and Senator are located.  It was a beautiful day!

Father and son.  I’m a blessed lady!

Our awesome teenage girls!

Our crew + The World’s BEST Dad and Grandpa!  We’re standing in front of the house where Lincoln lived.

A boy, a stick and a fence.  Isn’t that what you’d want to do?

And now, let’s check in with the spouts…

Looking Great!

Track Season Begins!  First up:  100 meeter dash!

My AWESOME and HANDSOME Husband’s Birthday!  Lame-O me 😦 … This is the only picture from the party!

Oooops!  Almost forgot Easter Sunday!  This was our crew all dressed up!

Who are these young women and why do they keep calling me mommy?  I can’t believe how fast my little girls are becoming young women!  They are beautiful inside and out!

Shaggy Boy is shaggy because he had a run in with the stairway hand rail and has a nice gash under that mop of hair and we have now taken our first trip (with him) to the Emergency Room.

Preschooler Picking Pinecones at the Park…  Precious.

Time to give these plants a new pot!   By the way, what is wrong with my hand?  Frightening!  I’ll try not to scare you like that again!

This kid LOVES planting!  And playin’ outside!  We’ve had a BEAUTIFUL Spring, minus that one unruly day, and can’t get enough of the back yard!

I love how much this girl loves her baby brother… makes my heart melt!

More track meets!

Discus…

Friends…

and Shot!

Our oldest was in the Junior High Talent Show!  She sang, The Bare Necessities,” as Baloo the bear from The Jungle Book. She did a fantastic job!

My boys in a big box… er… spaceship…

Does it get anymore fun that this?

Hmmm… a leftie?  Maybe.

Or maybe not.  I wish he’d decide!

I just love that smile!

and finally… we went to a birthday party yesterday and this is what the boy came home with!

Well, the balloon helmet and a boat load of candy!

Still with me?  Thanks!  I hope you enjoyed catching up with me!  I hope you’ll catch me up too!  And I promise, I won’t leave you hanging so long next time!

She’ll Wear Blue

Entering the auditorium for freshman orientation, the screen at the front of the room reads, “Welcome Class of 2014!”   The year is a little piece of trivia that I had stuffed away in the back of my mind years ago when I finally decided what year she was going to start Kindergarten and haven’t thought a lot of it since.  My first born has an autumn birthday so it was up for debate, but in the end I decided to keep her home for a bonus year and it has proven to be an excellent decision.  Making that decision seems like a lifetime ago and yesterday all at the same time.  How is that possible?  I feel the knot of emotion tighten in my throat and steady myself.  I don’t want to be ‘that mom’ and it would be so easy to ‘get all emotional’ right now.

As we find our seats in the auditorium of the high school, I have that surreal feeling like I am living someone else’s life, because this one, I am certain, could not be mine, given my daughter is still, after all, just a little girl.  Isn’t she?  Yeah, I know…  not really.

Truthfully, over the years I have not given a lot of thought about the day she will graduate from high school.  She has always been fairly ‘easy’.  Nothing has ever really thrown me for a loop with her.  It’s just been an assumption that some day these high school days too would come.  Now, as I listen to the guidance counselor begin his ‘This is how much high school has changed since you were in it you old parents’ spiel, those thoughts of the next four years, those mysterious school years that, like ‘Kindergarten’, are given special names and not just a number, have my heart beating just a little bit faster!  Not because I don’t think she is prepared or capable, on the contrary, I’m proud to say she is a far better student than I was in every way!  No, it is because this man giving his shtick keeps talking about how fast it will go.

I find myself thinking back to when I graduated from high school.  One of my favorite photos of that night is of my father and me.  We are standing together in the stadium, he in his navy blue sport coat and tie, a proud smile and misty eyes, and me, wearing my emerald green graduation robe and mortar board hat, my entire face beaming and in my hands a bag of confetti.  The moment seems like yesterday and then I am pulled back to reality.  The guidance counselor scrolls through his Power Point presentation and the photo in my mind transforms.  This time the picture is still of me, but now I’m the one grinning with pride and misty eyed, and the beaming graduate is now my lovely girl… and thanks to the image on the screen a new piece to the unknown puzzle comes in to view.  She’ll wear blue.

Class of 1990, my how time flies!

Saying Goodbye

As I made my way past the crowded waiting room, I hoped that I was first to catch the door when the privacy curtain receded.  I had enlisted my husband in my plan.  He would guard the door while I was inside, so that I could steal time alone with her.  Getting time alone with everybody’s favorite patient was challenging, there were always people visiting!  As much as I was thankful for their tangible support, I was growing weary of their constant presence.  I wanted some of those precious and few moments for myself and I didn’t want to have to shoo someone away so that I could get it.

Precious and few.  Those words rang in my head with the urgency of the obnoxious beep a 4 am alarm clock, all too early, and imploring my immediate attention, even in my disoriented state.  There was no way of knowing how long we had with her, but we all must have sensed the critical timing because the visitors were always there.  They came to her bedside in steady stream, like the flow unconscious thought, one blending seamlessly into the next.  Unaware of when they arrived, where they would be on their way to, how long they planned to stay, many with the stunned blank faces of grief.   Friends from church and from her neighborhood, friends who shared her hobbies, friends from work, friends who were like family and friends who were also family.  On the way home from work, after church, before heading to the store, just because they were in the neighborhood… each one stopping for “just a minute.”

I understood why they came.  They were drawn to her light.  They were drawn to her strength and peace.  They were drawn to her hopeful anticipation of heaven.

So many visitors came to see her while she was sick that she was rarely alone.  I was happy that so many people were expressing their love and support of her and the rest of our family, but I would be lying if said I loved having them around all the time.  The truth is, I needed some time alone with her, some time to say our goodbyes, because when all of this was over, all of the visitors would go home to their mother, daughter, son, husband or wife and I would not.  Even though I had my own family, as a daughter, I would be going it alone.  As the clock marched on at merciless pace, I grew anxious. These were my precious and few.

The door opened and as I stepped into her room my husband assumed his post on the other side.  I drew a deep breath.  My mind was full of questions that I had come to attempt to answer.  How do I tell my mother I love her in a way that will satisfy my soul when she is gone?  How do I thank her “from the bottom of my heart?”  How do I say goodbye?

Inside her room it was finally quiet, nothing to distract us, nothing to intrude.

“Hi Mama,” I said, “Hope you don’t mind, I’m stealin’ some alone time.”  She smiled at me with tired eyes, and looking so small and fragile in her hospital bed, as she raised it to a sitting position.  It somehow seemed inappropriate when she spoke with such care for me.

“Sure, honey.  How are you getting along with all of this?” she asked.  “Are you doing all right?  Randy? The kids?  I know this has got to be such a hard time for you…”  Her voice softened with emotion.

With a plan, I pulled a chair away from the side of the bed.

I asked, “Mama, do you think you’d be able to sit up for a little bit, or if you need to you can lie down?”

“I’m fine sitting just like this,” she replied.  “What are we doin’?”

As she patiently waited for my reply, I took the pink basin from her bedside table and walked to the sink in silence.  Standing at the sink, I filled the little pink basin with warm water and I looked at her reflection in the mirror as she lay in the bed behind me.  The woman in the bed, though battle damaged with IV’s, catheters, and bags, was still my beautiful mother.  Her head on the pillow, still capped with wonderfully thick short brown hair, her eyes still blue as sapphires.  A smile was wide on her face and brimming with hope, and I wondered how she sustained it.  Even in her weary body, she sat with poise, straight, with the same beautiful broad shoulders of a swimmer and her hands folded in her lap.   A plush pale blue robe draped over her shoulders and one delicately shaped ankle and stockinged foot extended from under the crisp hospital bed sheet providing her famous “vent” to keep her from getting “bed hot.”  A trait I have also inherited.  With my now full basin of water and a towel, I rejoined her sitting next to her on the bed.  The spicy sweet fragrance that came from her, the mother of my childhood, was the smell of her perfume Youth Dew.  All the essential elements of “her” were still there.

“Vicki,” she said, “are you going to wash my feet?”  How did she know?  It seemed the only fitting way to express the love and gratitude I felt for her presence in my life.

“Yes, if that’s all right with you.” I said in a near whisper, and she bowed her head to say yes.  She moved both of her feet from under the sheet and I slid off her socks.

On my knees before her I began.   The litany of praise for her as my mother, mentor and friend poured from my heart and out my mouth.

The litany of thankfulness for the sacrifices she made to be a stay at home mom instead of putting a career first, to go without a something for her self so that I could have anything from braces to a prom dress.  For all the times she would have liked to spend a week away with my Dad and instead sent me on a school or youth group trip.  I thanked her for sending me to college and seeing to it that I lived in the dorms even though I could have lived at home.  The water and the cloth were now a channel of respect and admiration.

The litany of humility and gratitude for her forgiveness even when I was too stubborn to ask for it, for the times I didn’t respect her as my mother or even as someone who had traveled the road before me, when I was insensitive and selfish.  Even for the time that an 18 year old me I told her I wasn’t going to waste my life staying home with my kids like she did, the cleansing and warm restorative water carried the pain between us away and was replaced with a river of peace.

The litany of praise for the wonderful example she was to me as a mother and grandmother, the beautiful example of what a good marriage can be like, the way she strove to live with Christ as her example.  All gifts that cannot be given without intention and vision, and I wanted her to know, with my basin beside me, that I was aware of that.  I wanted her to know that I admired her authentic faith and her extravagant love.  With my water I wanted to honor her and I knew she understood.

It was a gift to be able to, in my own way, get to say goodbye to her in that sacred moment  that day, even though she was still with us for more than a month.   Watching Cancer scavenge the life out of her physical body was excruciating, but more bearable knowing that nothing between us was left undone.  When the night came for us to sing to her heaven’s lullaby, as she stepped to the other side, I knew that there was nothing left incomplete, nothing that had not been washed clean.

With Hope

I’ll say more about this day later.  For now, I’m taking the little guy out for some spoiling!  But I wanted to share this song called ‘With Hope’ by Steven Curtis Chapman that we played at my mom’s memorial service.   There’s a place, by God’s grace, where we’ll see her face again, and today, she’d want me to remember that!   Here are the lyrics and a youtube link if you’d like to hear it…

With Hope
This is not at all how
We thought it was supposed to be
We had so many plans for you
We had so many dreams
And now you’ve gone away
And left us with the memories of your smile
And nothing we can say
And nothing we can do
Can take away the pain
The pain of losing you, but …

We can cry with hope
We can say goodbye with hope
‘Cause we know our goodbye is not the end, oh no
And we can grieve with hope
‘Cause we believe with hope
(There’s a place by God’s grace)
There’s a place where we’ll see your face again
We’ll see your face again

And never have I known
Anything so hard to understand
And never have I questioned more
The wisdom of God’s plan
But through the cloud of tears
I see the Father smile and say well done
And I imagine you
Where you wanted most to be
Seeing all your dreams come true
‘Cause now you’re home
And now you’re free, and …

We can cry with hope
We can say goodbye with hope
‘Cause we know our goodbye is not the end, oh no
And we can grieve with hope
‘Cause we believe with hope
(There’s a place by God’s grace)
There’s a place where we’ll see your face again
We’ll see your face again

We have this hope as an anchor
‘Cause we believe that everything
God promised us is true, so …

We wait with hope
And we ache with hope
We hold on with hope
We let go with hope

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcYRr1dk7wA