Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter 2014

We never did the big meal. We never did the gifts.

I followed what was the habits at the Hayes house, where I grew up.  My children got new clothes, at least when they were small and would let me dress them. The Easter bunny left goodies. Ours was neat: he scattered the treats on squares of paper towel, labeled A or Z.  Before church, the hunt was on but ours was also obvious: stairs, couch, kitchen counter. One kiddo loved Peeps. One loved Cadbury eggs. Mom ended up with lots of jelly beans, especially the black ones.

I don’t know when Easter turned into Christmas 2 but I didn’t go along with that. It may seem contradictory but, although I don’t mind the commercialization of Christmas, I believed and believe that Easter is sacred. No judgment of others….the gifts and such are good for commerce and that’s good for the US. I love the baby in the manger and the gifts reminding us of the gifts of the Magi, although those did come a while after the Bethlehem birth.

But Easter is at the core of our faith: Christ died, paid the price, and rose from the dead. Death is conquered; death is swallowed up in eternal life. I choose to meditate on that and for me, too black jellies get in the way.

This year, I spent Easter weekend in Houston where my brother-in-law performed at the 2nd Baptist Church. Sister Kris and many of their friends joined us. Besides the glorious services, we supped on some amazing Houston cuisine. Later today, I’ll fly back to Indiana and drive to Kokomo. I’ve marked Monday for my last run through at the old homestead and then I’ll take up residence in Winona Lake.

I love the remembrance of the crucifixion and Christ’s resurrection. For most of the Good Friday service, I found myself with tears running down my face. My sis mentioned that last year, the first Easter without our sister-in-law on this earth, she wept through most of the services. It’s good to know. All this glorious truth about eternal life and remembrances of those who have gone on…it’s a sweet sadness. We know, we really know, that Janelle, Mike, and so many others are walking in glory with God and the other saints. We joy in this. And we miss them, oh so much.

(I have found myself weeping in my home church. I was actually glad that my reaction is not reserved to that place where I love the people so.)

Pastor Ed Young gave a rousing message, using I Cor. 15:54-57 for his text. “Death where is thy sting?” Paul wanted us to acknowledge that God has conquered death; so the sting is temporary. But, I can chat with Paul about sting.

Dr.Young reminded us that mankind has two enemies:  sin and death. Christ vanquished sin on the cross; His resurrection took care of death. Because He rose, we who accept Him will live forever.

As we were honored guests, we had a front row seat. Pastor Ed circled but quite often, he locked eyes with me and could see that I was weeping. He made a point find me after. Kris explained me. He said, “You know, we are in the land of the dying. Mike is in the land of the living. You wouldn’t want to bring him back, even if you could.”

True. My love resides in a glorified, healthy body in a place I long to go. For now, I stay here. I can take comfort in the truth of the resurrection.
But, this Easter means tears as I miss him. And now: to get on with my life.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Catching my Breath



501 Administration  Winona Lake, IN  46590

Last Monday, in a move to get me moving, I disconnected all the cable/internet/wireless stuff in the Kokomo house. I was spending way too much time messing with media. My goal was to be in one bedroom and one bathroom by the close of the week. I made it.

However, I discovered, quite suddenly, that I depended on the great out-there world for information as well as distraction. I actually read a few books at bedtime. Also, as my ‘phone’ would do little, I scrolled back through this year in my photo gallery. Quite a year.

It was about this time last year that Mike and I closed in on the reality of his disease. He had kept some things from me, figuring that it was best. We kept going but obvious signs pointed to the end of this chapter.

Except, not so obvious, at least to me. And I think that was the plan all along. I had a friend who said she admired how we just kept going. That was Mike’s idea. We would keep living until we couldn’t.
 The last semester of 2013 was hard for me. I was stretched thin; bosses (not colleagues) had dumped additional tasks on me that I did not understand and I could not accomplish. I tried. My efforts were deficient. I knew it and I had to be content with  doing what I could do and letting the rest go. However, as a formerly competent teacher, my failures felt foreign even as I went about my teaching. 

Several times, I know, I brought up the logic of my staying home with Mike. Finally, he said, “Look, I know you want to stay home. I get it. It’s not time yet.” That might have been the final word had I not been me. But, I had lived 40 years with a man who was raised among men who regularly expressed regret for something they had not done. I had tried to fix it so that my husband would never say, “I wish I would’ve.” Couldn't to it: he still said it from time to time. So my final word on staying home was this:

“Ok, buddy. I don’t care how sick you get. If the time comes that you are lying in bed and you look up at me and say, ‘I should have let you stay home.’ I’m gonna punch you right in the nose.”

He smiled at this. I smiled, too. But he knew I was not kidding. And he never, ever, said it to me. So, no punched nose, at least.

Somehow, being busy with living took the edge off what was obvious to others. I am looking at a photo I took of Mike about a year ago. He is addressing his colleagues at Ivy Tech, telling them how much he loved teaching there and reminding them that these students are the real heroes: so many have fallen and are fighting to get back, into the workforce, into the good life.

He is standing at a dais, gripping it for leverage. His navy blue suit hangs off his shoulders and contrast with pale skin. I took that picture. At the time, it was just a picture. But, I’m sure his audience noted that he looked ill.

I snapped a photo in early March as Mike played with his Oakbrook brothers. By April 14, his last gig, his jacket hangs on him; his jeans hang on him. 

We had flown for a short weekend to our place in Lauderdale-by the-Sea in January. We took another trip at the beginning of my spring break (3/31); Mike had to get back by Friday for teaching. His visage between those trips is startling.

As was our practiced plan, after 4 years, we kept looking ahead so we made reservations for our anniversary in June. We didn’t make that.

He remained hopeful that we would see the summer again at Winona Lake. What a contrast from that first summer (2009) when every thought centered around….any day now…certainly by next month….He had stopped telling people he was dying: he was dying.

Yet, I must say, that by staying busy, by living until we couldn’t this transition was not as difficult as it might have been.

I’m in the final sorting at the Kokomo house, readying it for sale and our what-nots for auction. I’m moving on rapidly; I know he would be pleased.

For this week, as I recalled our last few months together and how sweet that time was, I am also grieving that he stopped living even as I’m confident that he would want me to do what I’m doing.
But today, in my friendly little cottage, I stopped for a while and shed some real tears for this wonderful man with whom I shared my life.


Missing my Budds.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Recalling Hugs

      My brother and I had a chat today: after reading my blog about rain and tears, he gently reminded me of something I said several years ago. Sister-in-law Janelle and I were walking around the Village of Winona during a short visit. The day was gray and rainy. I had 'apologized' for the weather and she, ever a beam of God's light had said,

"Oh Lynne. I LOVE this weather. THIS is Oregon weather. It reminds me of home."

     And I promised to remember her words whenever such a day occurred. Promise forgotten. Now      remembered.
     So, as I have been sorting here, I came across one of Janelle's unique hand-made card..treasures to all of us who have them...that she sent in December 2009. Blog followers may recall: Ken and Janelle's life took a turn in 2011 when doctor found a brain tumor. Janelle left for heaven in 2012. Mike would follow the next year.
     For most of our marriage, Mike and I had observed Thanksgiving nearby as he always worked on the Friday after the feast. But this year, as he was retired and I was on leave, we invited ourselves to a long-standing party in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Precious people
     Brother Ken was famous for putting on the feed. He began with a spread sheet and gathered supplies; he began the day with Starbucks and then at 6:30, he commenced. Celebrants were many and their job was to stay out of his way, wash their hands and sit down at 1 PM. We had heard stories from others. This year, we decided to join in.
     By this time on that year, we had decided that we needed to get on with living, even as the specter of dying hovered over. I had informed my school that I would return for the next semester, even as we figured I would not finish it...I mean they gave Mike a year. We were 7 months into that year.  Mike had faced a crisis of faith; God had lead him through it. He had codified the lessons of putting important things first...he had spoken on tape twice and in person once.
     We had chosen to live until we couldn't. Although we had not idea how long that plan would take us, we felt the comfort that comes when you know you are in God's will.
     With the legion of prayer warriors doing battle, God had opened our eyes to so many blessings, some big and some small. By this time, we had already named these HUGS. And together, we felt God's arms around us.
     And, the party was every bit as grand as we had heard. We met their neighbors, The Smithsons, who became great friends over the next few years, when we re-invited ourselves. Ken and Janelle were not only happy that we came: they saw and recorded God's special blessing on us and them.
Dear Lynne and Mike –

OK – I promise that this will be the last time we gush over how meaningful it was to have you spend Thanksgiving with us.

We just thought you might like to know a few of the ways we noticed that God was ‘hugging’ you (Michael especially) throughout the weekend.

1)  OJ and Sprite…we rarely have either in the house. I did buy OJ because we were having company and Ken uses  the Sprite for his gelatin cranberry salad, but he usually gets a small bottle or can. If he’d done that this year there would’ve been none left for you.

2) Chunky applesauce…Ken has never bought chunky applesauce before. In fact, he usually just grabs the smooth, doesn’t look around and leaves. This time he actually read labels and thought, “Hmm. Chunky. That’s different.”  Different isn’t normal for him.

3) Ham…we’ve never had ham for Thanksgiving, no matter how many people we were expecting for dinner. Always turkey. Always. Never even thought of ham. Never even considered that someone might not like turkey. Now we know. Some people don’t.  In my mind, this was a huge hug from God to you, Mike.

There were probably more, but those are the ones that come to mind now. They might seem like little things, coincidences, to some..but not to me. They were big. Really big. God giving you the desires of your heart because you’ve delighted in Him. Incredible blessings. Love from our God who never stops giving.

With all our love and prayers for a Christmas filled with delightful surprises.

Ken and Janelle   09

I saved this card for many reasons but one is to remember how God hugged us all. You are more likely to remember all that He has done when you write it down.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Rainy Days

So. Back from Texas. Rested. Got stuff to do. Able to do the stuff.

Hit a wall: I've had these days before. Sometimes, you wake up with your mind turning over with the list of 'must get done.' The list, written or not, is so lengthy. And there's no clear place to start. "Should I....?"  or "Go to the....?" "Call....?"  "Get those....?" So, the temptation is to just pull the covers over your head and quit.

Except I can't quit. There ARE things that must get done in a falling-dominoes kind of way. And then, a few unexpected items got thrown into the mix.

Doesn't help that all that snow has been replaced with COLD/WINDY/RAIN/PUDDLES and did I mention? GRAY SKIES.

So, I found myself in meltdown mold, even as I was enjoying a nice lunch with a good friend; after getting both Ivy and my hair done, another good friend offered a sweet reminiscence of Mike and after acknowledging it, I sat in my car and cried and cried.


I haven't shed too many tears since his passing, but once in a while, THE WHOLE THING just washes over me and leaves me so sad.

I could point to a few touch points....apparently, I messed up some estimated tax payments in June; yeah, yeah I had a lot on my plate but really! I've misplaced several important tax documents...they can be reissued but many people are on spring break so my calls haven't been returned. My tax guy is kind and patient and certainly wouldn't want me in distress. But I am.

Also, I flipped open the check register and looked at all those bland, boring entries...some written amidst  much stress and sadness....and it made me so sad.

I'm stretched right now between the Kokomo house and the Winona Lake cottage so I couldn't find my coat, my hoodie, anything warm for my shoulders on a day that called for something warm. And it made me sad.

And yes, I walk with God these days and He is leading me....I know I need to fall into His arms and let so much of this trivial stuff go.

So, after a fitful night...."I should just get up and pack something....but I'm so warm here...and it would disturb Ivy (who I had taken into bed for comfort)"...I got up this morning, made the bed, dressed and began the agenda.

You know, it never bothered me much that at school, I often had to tackle multiple tasks, in random order, and without the satisfaction of START - FINISH on the first trial. This is so much like that.

So, a quick prayer. A deep breath. Splash of cold water (not rain). Back on track.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

a little word from Max Lucado

My successful New Year's Resolution: daily readings from Grace for the Moment by Max Lucado.

Today: God's Child

"The Father has loved us so much that we are called children of God. And we really are His children." 1 John 3:1

Let me tell you who you are. In fact, let me proclaim who you are.

You are an heir of God and a co-heir with Christ. (Romans 8:17)

You are eternal, like an angel (Luke 20:36)

You have a crown that will last forever (I Cor. 9:25)

You are a holy priest (I Peter 2:5), a treasured possession (Exod. 19:5)

But more than any of the above -- more significant than any title or position -- is the simple fact that you are God's child....

We really ARE His children

 As a result, if something is important to you, it's important to God.



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Funny how things work out



Way back when Mike’s cancer was identified, when the most optimistic doctors indicated that we should think in terms of one year, I found myself ‘problem solving’ at warp speed. We mapped out what needed to be done:  close the office and get affairs in order; Mike lay beat up from a surgery that gave us bad news; I looked around at my home, sizing up how big it was for two and how much bigger it would be for one.

The main plan was: sell everything, EVERYTHNG, and move to San Antonio, to be near my daughter and my grandsons. I would quit my job and the identity I gained from it; I would transfer all doctor/dentist/eye records to some far away place; I would disappear from the life I had known and just melt into a new environment, mostly anonymous and mostly alone.

Yeah, well, that’s not what God had in mind. He gave Mike and me so much more time together; He gave Mike opportunities to discover and be discovered; He gave me 7 more semesters and, into my heart, place over 1000 students I would not have known; He gave us clarity in our faith; He showed us both that, once again, MY idea is not always His idea and so it is not best for me.

We got to spend a lot more time at the lake which Mike kept filling up with furniture from his workshop. So many of these were his ‘last’ project. We lazied around on hot summer days, sipping tea with neighbors and strolling through the nearby woods. And God surprised me as I surprised Mike when I realize that I wanted to move to the lake ‘after.’ Mike would say that I had never been a lakie and my plan seemed odd. But I had never spent long stretches there, mostly in the company of my sweet husband. The cottage and the lake snuggled into my heart.

So, 4 ½ years after I planned out my life, I am now preparing to make Winona Lake my home base. Several creative friends are busy with the finishing touches in and around the cottage. When I get back from this trip in April, I plan to change over addresses and such as we ready the old Kokomo homestead for sale.

But I figured that I would spend lots of time here in San Antonio with grandsons and soon-to-pop granddaughter. (!!) And as the winter-that-never-seems-to-end is ending, I’m comfortable with the idea of NEVER spending winter up north again. So, yes, I guess I’ll become a snowbird.

My daughter and son-in-law have a very nice guest room; I am welcome any time and can spread out in there. However, even THEY would grow tired of my face from, say, October to April, so we have discussed my getting a place in San Antonio. They live in a gated neighborhood with new houses, 3 bedroom to 6 bedroom. Because of the military presence, homes go up for sale and/or rent often and according to those who know, “they get snapped up quickly.”

So they have been on a lookout for a house for me. When they have called me about one, boom, it’s gone within a few days. When I arrived for this trip, I took it upon myself to walk Ivy around the neighborhood, surveying the goods. On the third day, I decided to take God into this. (I believe He’s OK with 3 days) Still learning. I pointed out about 7 of the small homes, telling Him that each of those ‘would do.’ My identification did not take into account the current owners, their life situation or the price, as I knew none of this.

 I’ve been tutored well in the last 5 years. I included in this discussion that He knows if I’m supposed to rent a house; He knows if I’m supposed to spend my winters down here. He knows what the next year or two will involve. And 10. And 20.

And then, there is one house, 5 doors down. “Father, THAT one would be perfect.” Small. Not too far for boys on bikes. Not so close we’re looking at each other through the windows. And NOT taking into account who might be living in this house and whether or not it might become available some time.

So am I surprised…not really, that the next day, a moving van pulls up in front of the perfect house? A recently stationed military couple just got new orders and must move out by the end of the month. I know this because we boldly walked up to the woman who was sweeping out the garage and asked her. She was not too pleased with this new development in her life, but she handed me the landlord’s card.

I called him. I wasn’t clear, I guess, because he said he did not have any houses for rent for several weeks. I read him the address. Pause. “Oh.”

Now, here we go, Lynne lunging toward a big decision on what seems to be a lark. So, I prepared for the 3 taps on the head to alert me if I was not to follow through. Instead, I received 3 confirmations. 

So, ok. In fact, good.

The landlord and I met two days later; he took down some info to research this eager rented and the next day, boom: I signed a lease.

Whew. 

So, my final weeks in Texas are full of renter things: setting up utilities and purchasing basic furnishings. I realized, as I chatted with the very nice water person, that I had never turned on water, electricity, gas, etc., before. Much like I didn’t know about changing oil in a car until I owned one. (Thanks, Daddy.) No big deal, I’m sure but it’s another activity that is new for me. Mildly stressful. I needed to meet in person, not just because I’m out-of-state but also I wanted to write down the instructions and repeat these to the agent to make sure I was getting it right. Big surprise for me: I can set up a way to pay for these without being physically in Texas. I know. Everybody already gets this….but not I. And knowing how my brain works, it will take several months of this working for me to relax.

South Texas seems foreign….climate, foliage, food. (chili pepper on fresh pineapple???) Just exotic enough for an adventure or two. Perhaps new topics for the blog.

As I reflect on this big decision, as well as several others I have made within that one-year time frame (as in “do nothing major during the first year”), as my younger sister would say, “Nice problem.”
And for those of you who are tracking this adventurer, the winter address is

 7222 Willow Rain   San Antonio, TX 78244.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

TRACING the Leading


One winter activity: to trace the last 5 years through Mike's diagnosis, treatment, living, and then moving on. We knew and were reminded daily that God was walking with us and that so many friends prayed for us.
When those prayer warriors began in April 2009, no one knew what a commitment they had taken on. But they stayed with us.
We came to see God's hand in so many aspects of our living. I plan to recount as many as I can because that's where the Father taught us about His love and protection.
How, in the midst of confusion, does God get our attention? I found two early blog entries that demonstrate His presence and care.
June 2009: it's time to make some decisions about treatment. Or no treatment.
"Mike and I are facing some decisions in the next weeks. We are grateful for your prayers and we want to be good stewards of what God has given us. We will keep you posted.

FRIDAY

The doctors and other health professionals who care for the terminally ill have a playbook with cliches’.

 

“I don’t have a crystal ball.”
“We’re all going to die.”
“Medicine is not an exact science.”

"We don't know."

 

So we met our oncologist/radiologist on Monday.

 

Mike: So, Dr., how do you see me?

 

Dr.: You are a relatively young man with advanced gall bladder cancer and no symptoms at the present time. Your cancer was not found early. That’s usual for gall bladder cancer. We do not have much data for your kind of cancer. You are a statistical study of one.

 

Mike: What do you propose?

 

Dr. We suggest that you begin a therapy regime.

(6 weeks, daily radiation, targeting the gall bladder bed; insertion of port (outpatient surgery) and 24/7 chemo)

Goal: so that the cancer does not grow back there. For how long? Not a cure. But we don’t know.

Side effects: Rad/Onc says that the chemo will be the harder; Oncologist said that radiation would be the harder; they both agree that "You’re such a young man in good health. You’ll do just fine.”

 

Me: As there are no symptoms at this time, what if we wait?

 

Dr: We don’t know. Maybe it will make no difference. Maybe it will make a difference.

What they DO know is that we can expect Mike to feel weak and ill, nothing unmanageable, several days a week. And that will mean no more flying. And the port will mean no more swimming.

 

The Dr. left the room and I told the hub that I would support whatever decision he made. But he pressed me and I confessed that I hated to see him give up what he’s doing right now, especially since they don’t know if waiting will make a difference.

 

So this week has been ‘sleeping on it’ and praying about it. Yesterday, Mike sent this to his oncologist

 

If I interpret (radiologist/oncologist) correctly, he advised that it will not make much difference whether I do chemo or rad commencing Sept 15, 2009.

Is it necessary to do both at the same time: Can I do one at a time, beginning with radiation? Will that make a difference?

Lynne and I do lots of fun things in the summer and we have some trips planned. Doing the treatment will kill those plans which I suppose could be changed.

If I do the chemo, I understand that I understand I must a port…when does that need to be inserted in relation to the start of chemo, should I elect to do that?

I am probably going to do both of them, particularly if it can be put off relatively safely until September.

Thanks you for the help. Please advise further.

 

She called this AM

 

"Your diagnosis is ‘microscropic metastatic gall bladder cancer.’ The therapy will be done together. If you wait for 6 months after diagnosis, there will be no benefit to therapy."

The therapy offers a chance of more time. But how much. And will it be good time?

We don’t know.

 

They traffic in optimism and hope at the oncology center.

 

So we are faced with a decision. Mike is a champ at a win/lose column comparision. This is perhaps the last time we will work this system.

 

We are going to be praying about this during the weekend and will ask you to join us. God’s grace will help us NOT REGRET the direction. You will be covering us, we know. Thank you, our friends."


God knows that I have a short attention span: He often answers prayers quickly and dramatically, so I won’t miss it. The day after I posted the last entry:

"Intimates know about our door bell situation.

 

Days after moving into our home, we accidently clipped those wires. Then “fix the doorbell” was on the job list for several months. But gradually, we adjusted and then realized that we were just fine without it. We avoided casual door-to-doors and other annoyances.

 

So to this day. Friends understand that we spend more time near the rear of our home and so they come around to the back door. Then, if the door is open, they call in or walk in and announce themselves.

 

So I was surprised when, on Friday afternoon, I answered the loud knocking at the front door and opened it to a visitor….not expected, not invited, but not unwelcome,  a local minister who offered his hand and began, “I’m not really sure why I’m here.”

He said that he had just this morning heard of Mike’s illness and something (hmmm, shall we say The Holy Spirit?) brought him to our home for the first time.

 

He’s not a stranger. 20 years ago, I served on a pastoral search committee that brought him to town. Since then, we had moved to another church and he had left and formed a new church. In recent years, he and I had bumped into each other on those occasions when I was treating myself to breakfast and he was meeting with a men’s group at our finest local diner.

 

Several months ago, he asked me to proofread a grant proposal where he recounted his life experiences for the last few years. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and is currently in remission but there’s so much more. Let’s just say that he is a modern-day Job and we’re no where near chapter 42.

 

Again, “I don’t know why I’m here.”

 

I gave him a short summary of our last few months. Then, Mike joined us. After 30 minutes, they thought maybe I had something better to do. 2 hours later, the emissary left.

 

All this in the context of our seeking God’s guidance in the course of Mike’s illness.

 

We did not speak of it until we were on our way to the lake. Then, Mike said, “Well, what do you make of that visit?”

 

I said I had no idea except that we had been praying and I knew that others were praying and this guy just shows up. “It must have something to do with what God is trying to tell us.”

 

Mike agreed and said, “It means I’m going to take the treatment.”

 

Ok, then I was dumbfounded. When it comes to decision-making, I am the impulsive; he is the deliberative. But not this time. We had not had time to work the win/loss column thing. He had seen the decision as crystal clear because of the visit.

 

And so this afternoon, I have contacted his doctor and we will meet next week to get all the particulars scheduled.

 

And please continue to pray. Although we realize that God’s will here is clear, today we are both quite blue.

 

And rejoice that God answers prayers powerfully.

 

Blessings to all of you. We will keep you posted."


I’ve never been one to ruminate on no-return decisions but it’s obvious that God wanted us to choose this route because He had a job for us to do.

And through His strength, we tried to follow His path.