March 19, 2014 – Journal Entry One:
Today is exactly one month since the passing of my mom. I’ve been trying to process my process of grief. Get some understanding of what I’ve been going through. It has been a very odd journey indeed with many questions to arise. I have been through an emotional gamut of thoughts and feelings, not to mention having to make the dreaded phone calls and mail the documentation to financial establishments one must notify, which are a few more in our case since dad was in the military. And, I am now parentless. My brother, whom I am ‘unofficially’ guardian and fiduciary for, is parentless. Parentless – a weird feeling. Sort of like you’re an orphan, but not really. I am also the Executrix of the Estate and financial overseer for a house that is now in my name, that my brother lives in but who will not be able to remain in for long for several reasons. There are big changes ahead for us and I am often overwhelmed by it. I have had feelings of great joy and comforting peace, as well as extreme anxiety and hindering depression. My immune system is also depleted, as I have been sick nearly constantly for the past few weeks with everything from mild to severe tummy issues, muscle aches and headaches, to a sinus and upper respiratory infection at this time.
The months, weeks and then days leading up to mom’s death were hard. She was at home in the comfort of her surroundings, a true blessing for her. But it also meant that in those last few days there was much more effort and need for attentiveness to her care on our part than if she had been in the hospital like my dad was in 2008 when he passed away. Mom had become bedridden after a fall in her bathroom. She was in a lot of pain, though nothing was broken. She was barely able to lift her arm to take a drink for herself or grab our hand to hold. Soon she became completely unable to lift her arms or move, and as well, was unable to talk near the end. Much of that was due to having to be so heavily medicated from the pain. She had been diagonosed with female cancer the summer before, so we already had sitters coming in for short respite periods, and hospice would come once a week to take her vitals and bring supplies. She also had Dementia which exasperated her care needs and her reasoning for the care. But the cancer never really bothered her until that day she fell and then everything fell apart those last two weeks. The cancer seemed to escalate and the pain had to be managed with stronger and stronger medicine. There was no doubt she had to have round the clock care.
A relatively short time for most terminal cancer patients in their last days, but it was one of the longest two weeks of my life, if not the longest. I ran strictly on adrenaline with very little sleep. Mom had wonderful caregivers and nurses who attended to her spiritual as well as physical needs. But that didn’t make it much easier for my brother and I. My brother, who lived with mom, helped the caregivers attend to her needs day in and day out with great focus and singleness of purpose during those two weeks. A surprise to all of us, as before that he had begun to slip away from the house more and more to “get a break”. Every day I would come and talk with mom, hold her hand and reassure her, learn how to administer medicine and change her diaper, keep the house and laundry clean, go through pictures, make sure family was getting enough time with her, etc. For two weeks we were expecting her to pass at anytime. The family all spent alot of time with her, looking through photo albums, reminiscing, sitting by her bedside, praying and singing. That part was good, and such a beautiful God-send. We were able to have more closure than most people could ever hope for. And I was able to go ahead and make all the funeral arrangements…things that would normally be last minute and done in a hurry, like a photo slide show, a photo board, choosing the right outfit, notifying friends and family so they could also come say their goodbyes. I was so thankful for that.
None of it took the Lord by surprise. He knew exactly what was going to happen and when, and orchestrated every minute. Some might disagree, since mom did fall, which sent her into a downhill spiral. But the Lord had let me know many months before that she would pass in early 2014. I had been preparing for it. Even by putting up the Christmas tree and a few other Christmas decorations for her to admire when she came to our house for Thanksgiving, 2013. She loved Christmas. Both my mom and dad always went all out at Christmastime. However, early decorating was a very out-of-the-ordinary thing for me. I made a pact with myself to never decorate for Christmas until Thanksgiving was over, in order to give Thanksgiving its proper honor that Americans don’t seem to want to allot for now-a-days. But I just had a “feeling” this time. Which was good because she didn’t make it to our house for Christmas, and that Thanksgiving was her last family gathering with us. Her Dementia had gotten really bad, and her physical strength was leaving her frail body quickly. And then in the summer of 2013 she was diagnosed with a recurrence of the cancer that she had beat 3 years prior. This time it would be terminal. At age 92, mom opted to not do anything about it with her already feeble condition. She had a good life and told me she “never expected to live forever”. But she was stubborn, a true fighter in every sense of the word, and she would hang on to what little dignity she had left until the very end. She didn’t go one minute before she was ready. And although the Lord was in control, He graciously allowed her to leave this world in utter Jossie Mae Spencer fashion. It was even noted by the hospice nurse that mom was not the typical end-of-life patient. No surprise there!
When the end finally came, I didn’t even cry. No one cried that I am aware of. At least not while we were all together. We had been waiting, preparing and saying our goodbyes for two weeks. We cried some during that time. We laughed then, too. We had closure. We had peace about it, and mom went peacefully in her sleep at 7:08 on Wednesday morning. The funeral came and went and I couldn’t have asked for a more loving turnout of people paying their respects and giving their support. In the days since I have not experienced the deep sorrow of loss that many people do. Not yet, anyway. For that I am thankful. Just as with my dad, I know where mom is. She is with Jesus, and is restored, peaceful and jubilant. I wouldn’t want her to be back here for anything. But, I have experienced extreme “blah” melancholy moods that I am striving to ward off. I have felt overwhelmed and troubled. As well, I have encountered malaise and a lack of motivation to get done those things that go with the title of ‘head of household’ that has been thrust upon me. So uncomplimentary of the strong Christian woman I know I am. I’ve been told everything from “give yourself a break to get through this process”, to “be careful not to wallow in the grief for too long”, and “keep moving forward”. OK? So, how do I do that and which is more appropriate? Or are all of them correct? And exactly WHAT is this that I am going through? All I know to do is take one day at a time. To try and remain in the Lord and trust Him. My process is mine, and not like anyone else’s. It is my Journey of Grief. The saying, “everyone grieves dfferently” is so true. All I can do right now is lean on Jesus. He gives me grace to do that, and to figure out how to do that through this process.
LEAN ON JESUS. How is anyone able to go through life without leaning on Jesus? And precisely what does that involve? More questions. I do know that to lean on Him I must remain in Him. And to remain in Him I must let Him envelope me and saturate my whole being with His presence so that He does my battling for me. I know enough to know that when my emotions are compromised and I feel weak and helpless, I am never hopeless if I lean on Jesus, give Him my pain and trust Him. If I lean and rely on Him, He will not allow anything to harm me and that whatever may come He will handle so that I can come out victorious as a stronger, better person. I also know that this isn’t just about me. It never is. This journal is not to get attention or have people feel sorry for me. It is my way of dealing with this process, and I’m sharing it with the hope it might somehow help others. I know there are other people, including family and friends involved in this paradigm, as well as with other situations of their own. There is a whole world of people out there that are suffering from grief and hurting from other things worse. I don’t want to ever take that for granted and forget to love others in my own process. I am also acutely aware that there is a completely other level of warfare going on in the world spiritually, politically, economically, governmentally and it is taking us right up to the end times. As an intercessor, I cannot ignore that either.
I will journal about that later and post it elsewhere another time. But, I do want to say that regardless of what I or anyone is going through that seems insurmountable in their life, we cannot become so involved emotionally that we lose our focus on the bigger picture of what God is doing. There are things at stake that we cannot imagine and our prayers are key to being prepared. What God does in the lives of each individual and in the world as a whole is significant and purposeful. Not one thing goes unoticed, is ill-planned or out of His control. We need to remember that.
In closing today’s entry, I have one other thought. It is more important to have peace than it is to have understanding. Understanding is good and God often gives that to us. But when He doesn’t, peace is always something He is willing to give us no matter what. We don’t have to understand everything. I don’t need to understand this process I am going through or have all my questions answered right now. But I do have to have peace. I need peace. I desire peace. To have peace, I must have His presence. To have His presence, I must trust Him enough to give it all to Him. Including giving myself over to Him. So, that is where I’m at right now. And that is where I will end this journal entry today. Grace and peace to you.