Monday, December 15, 2014

'Tis the Season

"Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la, la la la la." We all go through seasons in life. We have our ups, our downs. The Christmas season is typically an "up" season; we hear all the songs telling us "it's the most wonderful time of the year", or as stated above, "tis the season to be jolly".

But for some, it's not such a wonderful time of the year. Maybe it dredges up old memories that are not so pleasant. Maybe it's a more lonely time of the year for some people who don't have family members or friends to enjoy the season with. There are many who can't afford a decent Christmas dinner for their family, or cannot buy the presents they would like to for their kids. All the happiness surrounding them during the month of December seems to grate on their last nerve.

This year, I'm struggling to not be one of those people. I've always loved the Christmas season; from the decorating of my home, to the delicious goodies just waiting to be baked and eaten to the visits from family and friends, and of course, the gift giving. I love watching my family open their gifts. It's always been one of my favorite holidays. But this year, I have to watch my mom as she enters the end-of-life struggle. Mom has lived with us for about 9 years, and during the last four years the despicable disease of Alzheimer's reared its ugly head and invaded our lives.

Mom has fought this disease with every inch of her being. She's a tiny woman, with a mighty strength. She wasn't going to give in without a fight. I could go on and on about how I despise this disease, but I won't. Just know I wouldn't wish it upon my worst enemy.

Mom took a turn for the worse a few days ago, and her body is shutting down. To watch her struggle for every breath is torture for me, never mind for her.

I'm in a very strange place right now. I don't want my mother to go. But the shell of the person she was is all that's left. But I can't grieve for her, as she's still "here". I take care of her, but the best I can do is make her "comfortable". I take care of her knowing she can't be saved, there is no hope of that. I've been a caregiver for the last 31 years, making sure my son Derek stays well with all his medical issues. So this situation is extremely difficult for me.

What keeps me going is knowing the real reason for Christmas: the birth of Christ. God sent His only son to the earth to become a man, to walk among us; with the intention of Him dying on the cross for all of our sins. For you and for me, so we spend eternity with Him. What a gift He has given us! This is what keeps me from letting the dark cloud of grief completely overwhelm me. This, and knowing that Christ is walking with me through this valley. I have His word on that: Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

So, I am clinging to the promises of God; I am thankful for each one of you who have offered love, prayers and support; thankful I've had my mother for 86 years; thankful she is able to be in her own home as she prepares for her next journey; and thankful most of all for Jesus, the real reason for the season!


Monday, February 3, 2014

Ignorance is Bliss

Three weeks ago I was in a doctor's office with my son, waiting to receive results from an MRI that he had done the previous week. I never saw it coming, the "punch in the gut" news that fell on my ears. The news that told me my son's hip bones were dying due to a lack of blood supply that is a result of 29 years of steroid use. These same steroids helped save my son's life 29  years ago, as they are a mandatory drug that he has to take to keep the kidney that was transplanted into his body when he was 16 months old. Ironic, wouldn't you say?

Derek was the youngest kidney transplant recipient that the University of Miami had performed back in 1985. I was an almost perfect match for him, so they removed my right kidney and put it into his tiny body. He came to life that day, and has never looked back.

Derek is a force to be reckoned with. He is full of life, full of love, and the happiest person I have ever known. He loves with every bit of his being, and experiences life like someone who knows what it's like to be given a second chance at living. He just turned 30 in November, but he will always be my special needs "eternal toddler", acting like a 4 year old most of the time.

Derek is also deaf, and I grieved when he was diagnosed at 2 years old. Grieved because he would never hear my voice. Because he would never hear beautiful things like the birds singing, music, laughter, and a gazillion other things. But I believe one of the main reasons Derek has lived these 30 years is BECAUSE he never heard the negativity associated with his condition. He didn't hear the doctors say he was not expected to live, not expected to walk, not expected to....countless other things. God had bigger plans for Derek, and the doctors were proved wrong.

I have given this much thought since hearing the current diagnosis. Derek doesn't  know what's coming. I wish I didn't. Ignorance IS bliss. He just knows he is in pain, but doesn't know why. Doesn't know that at some point his hips will just disintegrate. Doesn't know he isn't a candidate for a hip replacement. Doesn't know the only thing we can do is treat the symptoms, treat the pain. Doesn't know, at some point, he will not be ambulatory any more. Derek just keeps plowing through the pain. Living life the only way he knows how. How thankful I am for his not knowing.

I know so many things after living with Derek these 30 years. I know how precious life is. I know no one knows the future. I know God has a plan. I also know I need to trust God. I know I shouldn't be looking at all the "what if's". I know I need the strength only He can provide because I certainly can't do this on my own. I know all these things.....but getting from here to there, well, I haven't done that yet. It's a journey, another storm to weather; and of all the storms I've made it through, I'm finding this one pretty tough.What I DON'T know is how to face this diagnosis with just a plan of treating the symptoms. I don't know how to face watching my son suffer so much pain. This mother's heart might surely break into pieces watching this happen, watching the life that he knows fade away.

God doesn't spare us from the storms; but He does promise He will be with us in and through them. He has never let me down, nor will He. I'm trying to move forward, to get stronger.  I'm diving into my Bible, into my daily devotion book that has helped me through countless other impossible situations by leading me to the source of strength, God. The tears come without a moment's notice, lots of them; sometimes I feel like I can't even breathe.

Just yesterday, I asked my dear sweet husband, "and what do you do when you just can't stand another minute?" His answer: "Fall to your knees."

I think I may need to get some knee pads.