Monday, April 22, 2019

The Day We Really Lost My Dad


We are closing in one year since Dad passed away, and I have been remembering a lot of things that happened during those last two weeks that at the time were intense and personal, and some things I want to share in the year since then. I'm certainly not done grieving. There will always be days where I will think, what would this be like, how would it be different, if Dad were here. But a year is a long time to grow and change and process grief, so I'm a little more willing now to share about what I went through a year ago, and where I am at now.

I am publishing this post on April 22nd, because this is the anniversary of the day that I would say I really lost my dad. This was the last day I had a conversation with Dad that felt real. It was the last day he was sitting in his chair at his computer, instead of lying in the hospital bed. It was the last day he felt like my dad, in full control (as much as he could be on the oxygen tank). Some of my sisters and I had gone to APL Hershey Park day that day, which had been a lot of fun, and I came home late that night, talked to Dad for a while, and made a plan to come back on Tuesday to talk some more. Those plans never came to fruition, because the very next day, he was unable to hold long conversations, and had trouble remembering who we were.

The next two weeks his mind was clouded, and I was over at my parent's house constantly, trying to get my last moment, hoping he'd come back to us. We sat in the room he lay in, reading, listening to music, trying to use photos and music and scriptures to remind him, even for only the briefest moments, of who he was, who we were, and how much we loved him. Those two weeks shook me and my faith dramatically, and I have lots of Facebook messages that I sent privately at that time that detail the days that my Dad couldn't remember who I was, and how that made me feel utterly helpless.  In those messages, I had some very good friends reminding me frequently that God was there, and that he was in control and could handle my loss, despite the apparent lack of any control in those moments.

For a few weeks after he passed away (even a few months after), those days were all I could think about - those final days of utter confusion - and all I could remember about my Dad was the pain of those moments, of his being physically there and alive, but not the man I knew, his mental capacity swallowed up by the cancer tumors. My sweet husband encouraged me out of that by asking me to tell him stories about Dad, trying to get me to remember something other than those two horrible last weeks. Here are some of those moments that I've been trying to remember instead:

- When I was a small child, my Dad liked to read out loud to us, but only if he felt we were paying attention. If he got even the slightest sense that we weren't, he'd close the book and demand we'd tell him the last thing he had said. Because of this, I got very good at glibly reciting the last sentence I had heard - weather I actually had any comprehension of that was a different story. I knew I could recite the last line perfectly, and Dad would keep reading.

- When we would go camping as a family, on the last day, Dad would make "hoosh", a weird combination of bacon and bacon grease,leftover ground beef, and whatever sauce we had (tomato sauce, BBQ sauce or maple syrup) to hold it all together on top of a toasted bagel. It sounds gross, but outside on the last day of a camping trip, it was the best. Dad called it "hoosh" because at that time, he was interested in the life of Ernest Shackleton, and in the accounts of Shackleton's voyage, the men referred to "hoosh" being the scraps they ate.

- When I was in middle school, I talked to my dad about the boys I liked, not because I wanted to (I don't think any pre-teen girl wants to) but because he could tell and would gently ask me. Dad referred to this as "my Christmas tree face", telling me how my eyes would light up when around the object of my crush, and my face would get more animated as I talked to them in an effort to be interesting. The boys in question definitely didn't notice, but Dad was tuned into me as his daughter and frequently warned me about the dangers of "wearing my heart on my sleeve" and being that obvious with my emotions.

- When I was in high school, I usually went to my mom for homework help, but my junior year, I had GT physics problems where she sent me to Dad instead. He'd read it, think about it, work through it with me, and if he got it right, he'd say "Hallelujah, dad still knows things!"

- When I was in college, my Dad regularly came out to visit me, at least once a semester, for our private college dinner dates. We would go to the dining hall and get a table for two where I could tell him everything about my semester. I have always been a big talker, especially with my Dad. When I was in middle and high school, I'd get in the car after youth group all fueled up on the extroversion of being around my friends and just talk to him non-stop. When I went to college, these dinners were his way of still seeking out my non-stop talking without the car rides. After the dining hall we frequently walked around the UMBC loop because I had more to say, and Dad would write little notes on a 3x5 card so he'd remember what I'd said as I talked. About a month before he died, we (with my uncle Bob and sister Isabel) went to a party at the UMBC event center to celebrate the history making NCAA win. He was in a wheelchair, with a big tank of oxygen, but he went for me so we could have one last drive around the loop, one last college dinner together. It is one of my personal treasured last moments with him.

I have had all kinds of emotions and feelings this past year. It's still rough to be without Dad, but I am hoping that by writing these things down, I will remember and think of him without the sting of grief, without the painful recollections of what illness and death did to him at this time last year. I don't really know how to end this post, so...the end.

Monday, January 14, 2019

A Message from Dad

In the process of Konmari'ing my house - I have not watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, but I didn't have to watch it to get inspired to tidy up my own house - I found a page of notes in one of Dad's books that look to be notes from a campfire talk he gave at Camp Wildflowers last summer. In order to preserve them, I'm typing the notes up and sharing them with you all here. I have made some modifications to make the notes flow smoothly (mostly adding pronouns to clarify his bullet points).

This first line is from the camp theme song, and opened his talk:

" 'Oft times he weaveth sorrow, and I in foolish pride forget he sees the upper and I the underside'.

What do you do when God weaves sorrow into your life and you don't know why? You can't see the pattern yet, all you see is the underside, knots and maybe some tangles. Perhaps your pet died like Sysco, Chief's dog. 

Lesson 1: Always run to God, never run from God. Here is a story of some of my dark threads. I have cancer, specifically this story is about my leg wound. Nov-Dec 2013 I first heard I had cancer and I had butt surgery to remove it. February 2015 surgery to remove cancer from my leg. August of 2015 it was not healing. We went through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's day without it healing.  I was listening to the audio Bible and I heard Jeremiah 15:18 - Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed. Man, did I relate.

Lesson 2: Lament is OK. Even good when you run to God. There are Psalms of lament. Run to God and lament because you believe his promises. Mark 9 speaks of the healing of a boy with unclean spirit and his father cried out "I believe, help my unbelief!". So they kept treating my leg wound - I had 50 hyberbaric oxygen treatments, a skin graft - leg wound finally all healed up Sept. 2016, more than 1.5 years after the surgery to take out the tumor. Yet it opened up again later.

Lesson 3: Patient Trust when things are hard. Think of Hebrews 12:11 which speaks of the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Patience builds your spiritual muscles, your faith. One of God's purposes in suffering is to strengthen and prepare you. You know God loves you. He didn't just have his pet die for you and me, but sent his son to die, to live the perfect life of obedience we should have lived and die the death we should have died so we could be with our Father in heaven. No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him - 1 Cor. 2:9.

So are you facing sorrow or a dark thread? Run to God. It's OK, even good, to lament to him. Tell God your pain. Recount his promises. Ask him to help your unbelief. Build your spiritual muscles and learn patient trust."

So. As I still grieve for my Dad and you face whatever your dark threads are, consider his little campfire message.

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Resolutions Summary & 2019 New Resolutions

Hello, loyal blog readers (also known as my family members) and new blog readers (also known as Facebook friends who clicked the link). Here is my annual summary of my new year's resolutions, a post I have been writing and regularly maintaining on this blog for 8 years!

1) Make a Twin Sized Bed Quilt
I did this! I used the Project Linus Mystery challenge to help me finish (I didn't finish the one I started in January) but I did make the quilt. And started a sizable fabric collection in the process.

2) Be a Better Neighbor (specifically by learning the names of everyone on my street)
I mostly did this. I did learn all the last names at at least one first name for all but one of the houses on our street, some by googling the address. I talked to my neighbors more - not in great detail, but more waving and saying good morning which is a start. And I invited them all to my annual Christmas party, and some people I didn't expect to come came over for that, so overall, I'll call this a success, and plan to keep working on it in 2019.

3) Do a sprint distance triathalon
Nope. But I'm carrying this one forward into the new year. I did bike a lot more this year to prep for this, but I'm still not a strong swimmer and need to work on that. I'm currently scheduled to run a 5K with Ryan and friends of ours in April, and tentatively planning for a triathalon in June with the same friend, so I made progress towards the intent but not the actual goal. Half a point.

4) Sheryl Sandberg's journal challenge
I didn't do this. I started but it fell flat, and I gave up. 0 points.

5) The Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge
I did this one! So did my cousin Megan!

Her book list is available on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/8666920?shelf=modern-mrs-darcy-reading-challenge

And because of her, mine is now too: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/14269595?shelf=2018-reading-challenge

6) Make Pasta from Scratch
I did this one night when Ryan was out of town and it took forever but it was amazing.

7) Daily Audio Bible
I did this faithfully until May, when my Dad died and my life got a little less predictable for a short while, and didn't pick it back up. So a half a point, and I intend to do it again in 2019.

8) Use my 3D printer to make my own custom designed item
I did use my printer. and I did design an item. I didn't print my item because I'm not an engineer and my item had problems with the print, but I'll call that a pass.

9) Start a podcast
Not even close.

10) Clean our garage and organize our storage areas
We did this. Now maintaining it is the hard part!

So I score 7/10 points for 2018, which is pretty good and a higher score than 2017 but not the highest I've ever attained in the 8 years I have been doing this list. Here are my 2019 goals:

1) Sprint Distance Triathalon (carry over from above)
2) Chronological Daily Audio Bible (carry over from above)
3) Jen Wilkin's God of Covenant Bible study (we did the God of Creation study this summer at church and I'd like to finish off her Genesis curriculum)
4) Make a second quilt (gotta use that fabric!)
5) Sew a piece of my own clothing (use that sewing machine for other things and keep learning!)
6) 2019 Reading challenge (I plan to do the one from Modern Mrs. Darcy again AND I found another, longer one that I might attempt from Reading Women. But if I only finish one, that's OK.)
7) 12 baked complexities (Great British Bake-off style, I want to make at least one hard baked good from scratch each month)
8) Complete a capture the flag hackathon challenge (I have observed the following themes in my resolutions since 2010: Health/Exercise, Bible Study, Reading, Crafting, Cooking, and Technology/nerdiness - So this one is my technology related one for the year)