Thursday, December 17, 2009

Things My Mama Taught Me: An Ongoing List

My mom taught me how to:

make bread
fold an origami bird
make up a bed--hospital corners!
scramble an egg
make spaghetti
knit
make chili
set a table
needlepoint
polish silver
sing alto
be a mom
do counted cross-stitch
be a friend
sew a button on
change a diaper
draw a love knot
weave a potholder
love my family
wrap a present
make a bow

...to be continued...

Emmanuel, God with us


On December 25th, we celebrate the birth of the one many of us call Savior. Emmanuel, God with us. (That word means so much more to me now that I know Hebrew…)

God with us. It is in the form of a tiny babe, Jesus the Christ, that God came to be WITH us, and that God reminded us yet again that S/He is FOR us. It is that birth that we celebrate on Christmas Day.

For many of us, though, on most days, it’s hard to remember that God-with-us feeling. It’s hard to truly know and believe that God is, indeed with us. It is hard to believe that God does not leave us.

In Christ, God came to be a with-us-God. But then he left—or rather was taken from—this world. Those of us who are professing Christians believe that something pretty amazing happened following his death, and even now, some 2000 years later, we still claim him as Savior, Risen Lord, Prince of Peace. And for some reason, moreso at this time of year than others, Emmanuel.

God with us.

Really?

Sixteenth century mystic, writer, and reformer Teresa of Avila wrote:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

I loved these words the first time I heard them. And I have made it my challenge to BE Christ in the world in this way, as often as I can, and in as many ways as I can, fully acknowledging that on most days I don’t even come close, mind you. But truthfully, in this past year, I’ve simply not had the energy or the strength to even try. It has been all I can do to put one foot in front of the other on some days. Truthfully, even on the best days, I simply manage to hide my anger, frustration, or sadness under a bushel of busy-ness and a maybe a dash of sarcasm or cynicism.

But that doesn’t make Teresa’s words less appealing to me. It doesn’t, because over this past year, so many of YOU have been the hands and feet of Christ to me. You have been God-with-me.

You have sent cards and delivered meals.

You have given hugs and taken me to lunch.

You have stood with me as we celebrated my mom’s life in not one, but two services in which the sanctuary was packed. And you helped feed all those people so that we could visit afterwards.

You have listened to me deeply, allowing me to rant and rave and cry and laugh, maybe even all in a matter of five minutes.

You dedicated a beautiful dance to the memory of my Mom, and featured my lifeline song in it, The Wood Song.

You have shared with us your vacation homes and private retreats, allowing us to take time for our family when we couldn’t have afforded to otherwise.

You have offered gallons of wine and pounds of chocolate.

You have given me gifts to heal my soul and find strength again—a gift certificate to a spa and the gift of live music.

On December 25th, as much of the world celebrates the birth of Christ, I will be marking the sixth month since Mom’s death on June 25th. You have recognized that this Christmas will lack some of its usual merriness for us, and you have understood.

The past year would have been beyond unbearable without you. You know who you are. You have been God-with-me this year. Your eyes have looked upon me with compassion. Your feet have done good for me, your hands have blessed me.

And for that, I thank you.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Joy to the World

For over forty years, I sang Christmas hymns standing next to my mom's strong, sure alto voice. She was harmony when my range called for melody. She would often sing melody if my harmony was solid. I followed her lead when the alto part was just a bit too hard for me to carry on my own. And I loved it best when we could both sing the alto part confidently together.

Tonight, we sang Joy to the World as the closing song of the Christmas program at Rehoboth. I know the alto part for this hymn. But I couldn't do it tonight. There was no harmony for my melody. And as confident as I was with the harmony, all I could hear was the overwhelming absence of her voice beside me. As everyone around me sang of joy, of heav'n and nature singing, and of the glories of God's righteousness, I stood there silently, with tears streaming down my face.

Is it January yet?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Just Keep Breathing In...

One of the things I love most about living in Decatur is Eddie's Attic. Great venue, great music, and I often find "new" voices that I love as a result of their opening for an "older," more familiar voice that I have gone to hear and support. Such is the case with Stephen Kellogg. He opened for Dar Williams when Joel & I went to see her this summer as a part of my self-prescribed "concert series to combat grief." We went with Dell & Michael Schenck, and it was, as usual, a great night with good friends.

This song is one of my favorites by Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers. It's called "In Front of the World." I hope you will enjoy it as well. :-)

Well, it’s hard to live in front of the world.
There’s only so much that you can pretend.
Write down what it is you’re thinking.
Take each day as it comes.
You never know what’s hanging ‘round the bend.
And as far from the world as we get,
I can swear that the two of us will always be the same.
Figure out what it is you believe in.
And if you must choose, try not to trade your fortune in for fame.

And you’ll learn, learn, learn.
You’ll wait your turn, turn, turn.
And you’ll get sick on the way.
By the things that people say.
It’ll break your heart against the wind.
But you will just keep breathing in.

Well, if you’re scared to live in front of the world.
I’ve got news for you, you should be then.
When your confidence gets low and you’ve got nowhere to go.
Just remember how you felt about me and our friends.
And we’ll learn, learn, learn.
We’ll wait out turn, turn, turn.
And we’ll get sick on the way.
By the things that people say.
It’ll break out hearts against the wind.
But we will just keep breathing in.

Watch the way you fall in love.
‘Cause if you’re smart, you’ll take it slow.
And don’t ask me about it, cause I don’t know,
‘cause I don’t know, know, know.
But I’m gonna learn, learn, learn.
I’ll take my turn, turn, turn.
If I get sick on the way.
By the things that people say.
It’ll break my heart against the wind.
But I will just keep breathing in.

To all my blog-reading friends out there, you are the best. Thanks for the support, the love, the hugs, and the time. Keep breathing in!

Peace,
Jill

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Prizes and Rocky Rides

On June 8th, Joel & I celebrated my parents' 59th wedding anniversary with them. On that same day, in this blog, I wrote a prayer thanking God for them, and asking that same God to please open The Door for my mom--to greet her with with cooler air, lighter breathing, and open arms. I admitted I was ready for her to be released from the pain and suffering that the stupid, f***ing cancer had brought upon her.

The next day, on June 9th, at the end of a very long and difficult day, I received an email from a dear friend with the subject line "Your Good Fortune." At a time when "good fortune" seemed to be totally contradictory to everything in my life, our good friend Brad indeed offered it to me in the form of great seats for good music with good friends over good food.

On June 25th, sixteen days after that email, my sweet mama walked through death's door and into God's open arms. And tonight, about three months later, that "good fortune" was realized, and I enjoyed an earthly prize for my rocky ride. A 2nd row table with Joel, (aka the love of my life), some treasured family and some great friends at Chastain Park for an Indigo Girls show. Seriously--if you know me, then you know that in this lifetime, the prize cannot get much better. And just because the cake needed some icing, after seeing them countless times in concert, and after years of waiting not-so-patiently, just three songs into their set, they played my favorite song.

"There's no way construction of this tricky plan was built by other than a Greater Hand. With a love that passes all our understanding watching closely over the journey. But what it takes to cross the great divide seems more than all the trouble I can muster up inside. We get to have some answers when we reach the other side. The prize is always worth the rocky ride."

Now this is a beautiful song regardless of where you happen to be when you hear it, but never has a song touched me so at a concert. Tears welled up in my eyes as I sat there with people who had walked alongside me on some very hard life roads these past few months, listening to a song that has assured me for many years now that regardless of the tired wood that is sometimes my life, a Greater Hand is at work making all things new, watching closely over life's journey.

I don't think I realized just how much I needed both the night and the reminder of the presence of God's Greater Hand. Amidst the threat of rain, with friends new and old all around me, I thanked God for both the rocky ride and the promised prize. As Emily reminded us all that "no one gets to miss the storm of what will be...," I realized again for the millionth time that life is indeed a journey; that we are not promised an easy road, but we are assured of that Greater Hand watching closely over us each and every step of the way, showing and giving us what we need, when we need it, despite how hard life might be from time to time.

Despite the fact that the threat of rain loomed over the night, despite the fact that the day (indeed, the week) had not gone so well, despite the fact that I enjoyed a bit too much wine and am paying (and will pay) the price these next few hours, the night was good. The night was good because God was at work. God was at work weaving the threads of my life with deeper relationships and memories that will sustain me when the storm of what will be comes my way again, bringing with it heavy downpours, thunder, lightening, and even flooding. God was at work reminding us all, every one of us there, that if the weather holds, we'll miss the point. God was at work assuring us, assuring me, that no matter how tired our wood gets, She is watching closely over the journey that is life.

And all will be well. TB2G.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

A Letter

Dear Mom,

Sorry it's taken me so long to write, but I just haven't been in the right frame of mind until now. And even now, I'm not sure if I am, but I have the time, a quiet morning, and a cup of coffee, and that combination often beckons me to write. And I know my soul needs it.

I hope you are able to see that while we all miss you terribly, we are doing okay. Dad is managing quite well on his own, and reaping the benefits of the many connections you made and kept through the years with weekly lunch invitations from a variety of folks. Truthfully, I think you'd be real proud of Dad--he has learned to do so much for himself, and although he's not doing things as you would do them, necessarily, he is finding his own way. Just yesterday I commented on how nicely his bed was made up, and he replied, "Well, it's not like Alice does it, but it's okay!" We both miss you in the little things at 2871--your glasses are still on the dresser in the bedroom, your books are still lying around here & there, and the refrigerator magnets are all still right where you left them. It is very much still your house. He's quite comfortable there, mind you, but it's your house.

I miss you in the little things in my day-to-day life. For instance, I need some help / advice on how to turn a shower curtain into a valence for the bathroom. I could probably figure it out, but projects like that were always more fun when we worked on them together. Do you think maybe you can find me somehow and whisper in my ear what to do? I'd really like that.

And Michael's birthday is this week, and we need to go shopping for a present for y'all to give him. You'd be so proud of him these days--his manners, his sense of humor, his swimming. He has matured so much these past few months. I remember how you always lamented that he never had time to "be little," but he's doing just fine. He really is. Pop in some time and watch him for a while if you can, okay?

Daniel misses seeing you each day after school. Dad has been good about making sure he has snacks for him, his favorites, even, but there's no visiting time. Daniel heads straight for the computer, and Dad shares space with him watching TV. I realize it's still time together, but I know he misses telling you about his day. I miss him telling you about his day. Secretly, I know you probably miss him the most, so I'd love it if you could find your own way to hug each other--you know, from here to there. Maybe he and I need to have a talk about how that might work.

Adam is doing well in school, and is a pleasant teenager to have around! His driving is improving, and he is working harder in school this year, out of necessity I suppose. AP World History and Analysis are both kicking his butt. (Sorry--I know you don't like that word, but it's the best way to describe it.) He's a really good kid. You'd be most proud of how sweet it is to Dad. He takes such good care of him, and helps him whenever he's around. I'm looking forward to all of the guys enjoying some football together this fall. If you can, I'd love for you to join me in the kitchen this afternoon as I serve up my first pot of chili today, the first day of college football. Maybe you can slice the pickles?

Oh, and speaking of football--we have new furniture, which I really wish you could see! It makes the "grown up room" in our house look so much more inviting and cozy. It's the perfect space to enjoy some quiet reading, spend time with each other, or watch a movie. There is finally "official" sitting space for at least six people, and the rug and curtains tie it all together. You would love it! Can you see it? I hope you can. I really do.

Maybe while they guys watch the game/s, you could help me a bit, too. I have some letters that need stamping and sealing and addressing. If we could do it together, we'd enjoy the time "visiting," as you would call it. And speaking of letters, I must confess. I know you'll be disappointed, but we have not yet sent all of the thank-you notes for the many things that were done for us in the last few weeks of your life here on earth, and in the weeks following your death. Since you're not here to gently nag me about it, though, it's always "next on the list, after thus-and-so." I need you to be here, Mom, to be with me. I need you to keep holding me accountable to the things you spent 43 years teaching me. Can you do that? I'm just not quite up to the challenge yet.

Yes, we are doing okay. Not great, but okay. I still cry when I look at recent pictures of you, just as I am crying now. I'm still pretty mad at that fucking cancer and all that it took from us. I'm still feeling a bit slighted at being only 43 and not having my mom around. But we're doing okay. I'm doing okay.

The hardest part, though, is on those days that get really hard--when life is coming at me in all directions and I just can't seem to get through it all--I want to call you. I know if I could, you would fret over me, tend to me, and worry a bit too much about me. It kinda bothered me when you were here with us, but now I realizy how much I miss it. Because on those days, what I really need most is just some unconditional love and support. And I know that I'd get that from you. I always did. I think that's probably what I miss the most.

So I'd love to hear from you, Mom, somehow, in some way. I know you probably have a lot going one--you're adjusting to your new surroundings, you are organizing and making friends and making connections with all the people there, and you are probably just now beginning to feel comfortable in the new-ness. But I really need you to come for a visit. Just a short one. I need a hug. I need to know that my mom is still with me, and that she still thinks I'm pretty awesome, and that she still loves and supports me unconditionally.

I just need that.

Love,
Jill

PS - Tell Hunter I said hello, and give him a big hug, okay?

Monday, July 20, 2009

And a PostScript

Not to intentionally begin any deep theological conversations via this blog, but in light of the post I just wrote, I also wanted to share this as well. The words in the previous post, although they were found among Mom's things and were, I believe, words for us from her, were taken out of their original context. They were, in fact, penned by Henry Scott Holland, but it is important to read them in their original context, because what they say about death OUT of context is very different from what his original intent was. Being trained and schooled on the importance of context during my time in seminary, I feel that I should follow up with those of you who are interested in deeper musings on death. But first, if these words do provide comfort for you in this life that is full of uncertainties and mysteries, I encourage you to consider thinking about them and talking about them. Death is something about which we dance around all too often, afraid to stop and stare it down lest it strike US down. Death is not to be feared, for we believe that the ultimate victor is not death, but a God who loves and creates and ultimately redeems that good creation.

If you'd like to read the words IN context, feel free to do so here:

I found an alternative that is equally comforting, and yet more "theologically sound," if you will. They were written by another theologian, a hymnist by the name of Christopher Idle. Pastorally, Idle doesn't like to use Holland's words at a funeral, because, in his opinion, they "speak things that are not true that need to be unsaid fairly quickly afterwards." And yet pastorally, he doesn't want to refuse to use the words either, because people like them for the comfort they offer, and Idle doesn't want to refuse needed comfort at a difficult time. So in response to Scott Holland's problematic words, Idle has written his own alternative that I now offer to you as well.

Death is sometimes our enemy, sometimes our friend.

As an enemy, it may shatter our lives, cut short our time, diminish our families and circle of friends.
We do not often invite it to come, nor choose the time of its arrival. I
n this world we do have enemies, the Scriptures says death is the last.

Yet for the Christian, even death has lost its sting; Christ has made it a friend in spite of itself. I
ts victory is empty; its triumph will soon pass; it cannot have the last word.
But it may still become our helper; not only a milestone but a signpost. I
t may lead us back to God if we have wandered away, or towards him if we have often been distant.

Death is a time for listening. Listening to friends, reading their words, listening to memories, hearing their music, listening to God in the quiet of my heart.

Death is a time for speaking. Telling the joys, memories past, telling of hopes, partly fulfilled; telling of growing and travelling, learning and finding, laughter and tears, a time for talk and a time for stories.

Death is a time for silence. When the words fail, sitting alone or quiet with my friends, watching or waiting, thinking and looking, the silence of prayer.

Death is a time for loving. Love never fails, love to the end; love all who love me and those who do not; love to heal wounds, love to accept, love to build bridges, love to forgive and know I’m forgiven. Love that is from God; God who is love; God who has first loved me.


Regardless of which words resonate with you, which words comfort you, which words are "closer" to "T/truth," all is still well.

And all is well.

A Word from Mom

It's been almost four weeks since Mom moved from this life to the next, and life is resuming some sense of normalcy for us all. Dad is doing well, and the three of us (Tom, Calli, & me) are doing our best to attend to him as needed, and even pamper him a bit. He continues to enjoy the cards and phone calls--they give him breaks in the long days and a bit of time to enjoy the relationships that have carried him through these difficult weeks and months. So keep them coming!

I wanted to share the following with each of you. We found these words by Henry Scott Holland paper-clipped to Mom's will as we were cleaning and sorting through "important papers." Clearly she wanted these to be her last earthly words to us. I shared it with folks at the Dublin service, and wanted to share it with each of you now.

Death is Nothing At All


I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I, and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.

Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.

Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.

Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort,
Withouth the ghost of a shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.

What is this death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
Somewhere very near, just around the corner.

All is well!


Indeed, my friends. All is well.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Other Side


(The picture to the right is of Mom and my brother Hunter, who died on July 11, 1996 due to complications from AIDS. We all take comfort in knowing that they can, once again, share a special embrace.)

It's not that the emotions or the need to pound them out have disappeared now that we are on the "other side" of our journey with Mom. For sure, the need to write, the intensity of the feelings, and the depth of gratitude are all still there in full force. I'm still pondering why I've not felt inclinced to write, honestly. I miss my mom, but I am enjoying my own breath again. I have treasured these past four or so months, indeed the past two years of our daily hugs and visits since they moved to Decatur. But once her health began the rapid decline--in early to mid-May, it was so hard to see Mom unable to enjoy the people and the relationships that have always given her the life, breath, and meaning she loved so much in this life.

We had a beautiful service for Mom in Decatur, with a packed sanctuary--close to 250 people, I'd say. That's amazing to me, given that she & Dad have only been here for less than two years. Granted, there were many folks who were here for Joel & me, as well as for Calli & Tom, but I was still quite shocked at those who came out to celebrate her life and to support us in worship. The Rev. Dr. Todd Speed, a longtime friend of Joel's & mine, conducted a beautiful service, and the women at Rehoboth hosted an amazing reception for us all afterward. The next day, we traveled to Dublin to bury a portion of Mom's ashes, as requested, in Northview Cemetery. There were only immediate family present for the burial, after which we went to Henry Memorial Presbyterian Church for the second memorial service. Again, a packed sanctuary, with an amazing homily by our longtime family friend, Rev. Frank Beall. Proctor Chambless also did a wonderful job with his selection and reading of scripture, as well as his overall pastoral presence. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for those two pastors--who loved Mom as much as the rest of us--to lead the worship service in gratitude for her life, but they did a fantastic job.

We returned home to Decatur after the service, and were treated to a catered dinner by some neighborhood friends, then began to settle, once again, into a new reality.

Dad is doing well, all things considered. The irony of how healthy he now is, given the reason behind their move to Decatur was so that Mom could have some help and support as she cared for HIM, never escapes me. I am grateful for his continued health, and realize in hindsight that he is as healthy as he is due in large part to Mom's wonderful care of him over these 59+ years. In true Tommy fashion, he is busy "taking care of business" in these dark days--changing accounts, checking on insurance, re-titling the car, that kind of thing. It is good for him to have something on which to focus. My brother Tom has been here since Saturday, so that helps with the potential loneliness as well as with the nagging household tasks that still seem so overwhelming to him--watering plants, preparing meals, doing laundry, sweeping floors, etc. Tom leaves on Sunday or Monday, and Calli returns for a few days.

The darkness of the anniversary of Hunter's death on July 11th will be slightly different this year, given that we will be resting in the knowledge that he has our sweet Attee "with him" this year. We will all be here on Sunday the 12th to celebrate Dad's 81st birthday in grand fashion, then I suspect at that point we will begin to live into a "new normal."

It will not be easy, but I daresay that it will be easier knowing that Mom is no longer struggling to breathe, to sleep, to rest, or to love. She is still with us, and will continue to be a part of our lives. Always.

TB2G!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Arrangements

Definite: Sunday, 2PM at Rehoboth Presbyterian Church, Decatur, GA, reception / visitation following in the church fellowship hall.

Tentative, pending church / staff confirmation: Monday, 11PM at Henry Memorial Presbyterian Church, Dublin, GA, reception / vistation following in the church fellowship hall.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests, at Mom's direction, contributions to either of the above churches, or the charity of your choice.

A Life Well Lived

And that's an understatement.

Alice "Attee" Adams Hunter Patterson, beloved wife, mother, and friend.
Born: October 7, 1928
Died: June 25,2009

Thank you all for your prayers and support. Keep them coming on behalf of our family and especially on behalf of my sweet daddy, mourning the earthly loss of the love of his life.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Minor Correction

After some discussion, we have decided that it makes more sense to have the memorial service in Decatur first, then have the memorial and graveside service in Dublin, a few days later. The Hospice nurse came today, and said that she thought it would be at least another three to four days, possibly even five. But we all know that ATTEE is as in control as she always has been, and she has made it clear that she'd like to go on a Sunday. Take that as you will...

Your prayers have lifted and carried me today. Thank you all.

Heavy-hearted

My heart is very heavy this morning, and my emotions are huge. Mom is no longer communicative, and only slightly responsive. We have all said our goodbyes and shed more tears than I've seen in a lifetime, it seems. I am running out of patience and feeling very short on most of the other "good" internal resources like faith, hope, assurance, trust, etc. This is the hardest thing I have ever done, and today, words just do not do my feelings justice, so I will not try.

In honor of Mom, then, I will move to a more practical note, because that's what she often did when she didn't know what else to do. I want to share with you all the plans that we have made for services, visitation, etc. The funeral will be in Dublin at Henry Memorial Presbyterian Church, with family vistation at the church prior to the service, and a smaller graveside service at Northview Cemetary. Following the graveside service, I expect there will be a lunch at the church for family and out-of-town guests.

There will also be a memorial service in Decatur, a few days after the funeral,at Rehoboth Presbyterian Church, followed by a lunch in the church fellowship hall.

In lieu of flowers, Mom has requested contributions be made to either of the two above churches, or to a charity of your own choosing.

Please continue to keep all of us in your prayers.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Gifts, Journeys, and Shoes

Before I write, I want to share two books that have been invaluable to both Calli and me on this journey. One is called "Final Gifts," and the other is called "Final Journeys," both by Maggie Callanan. If you or someone you love has this kind of experience in their near future, give them these books now. Seriously. They have been wonderful for us.

David Lamotte sings a song that I love. Well, he sings many songs that I love, actually, but one in particular has found its way into my head these days. It's not one of his originals, & I'm not really quite sure from where it comes, but it's called "Travelin' Shoes." According to David, it is actually a "gospel song from the days of the underground railroad when slaves were being smuggled to freedom in the north." He claims that he "learned from a Texas folksinger Ruthie Foster and it's a code song. It's a song that was actually used to give people information about how and when to run to escape to freedom so the song has very rich history. You listen to a song like that and you tell me you can't change the world, and I say listen to that song. That song changed a lot for a lot of people, and it's just a song. I think we are foolish to think we can't have an impact.''

The lyrics go like this: You know that death came a knockin’ on the mama's door, singin' come on mama, ain't you ready to go. And my mama stooped down, buckled up her shoe, and she moved on down by the Jordan stream. And then she shout "Hallelujah, done, done my duty, got on my travelin' shoes..." It scrolls thru all of the various family members...sister, brother, neighbor, preacher, then finally self. Really, the lyrics aren't particularly creative. However, the song itself is really moving, especially when David weaves the story in among his singing of the song. While I know the song is a a code slave song, it is, on the surface, about death. It is about gettin' ready for the journey. It is about being done with the duties here in this life and moving on to whatever the next life brings.

We have turned a corner. We have begun the slow march with my mom towards that promised land. And while we will all walk with her toward the open door, only she can go through it, at least for now. She's got on her travelin' shoes. We know the road will be long and hard, but we are cheering her on, supporting her, loving on her, and encouraging her every step of the way, just as she has done for Tom, Hunter, Calli, & me, as well as so many others, all these years.

I'm learning so much through this. Even in her dying, Mom continues to have an impact. Even in her dying, she continues to change the world for the better. Even in her dying, she continues to teach us how to love and how to live. What a gift.

A Corner Turned

I was thinking this morning as I was driving around on few errands that one day I will look back on the summer of 2009 and it will all be a blur. It all just feels very surreal to me still, and I feel as if I am observing my life from above myself, if that makes any sense at all. I literally feel as if I am being carried through the days. Often when I lay my head down at night, I marvel at how I managed, on the good days anyway, to go about the day-to-day routines of my life seemingly without missing a beat. And if I am able to string together coherent thoughts for long enough, I offer a prayer of gratitude for the strength and perseverance that has been granted to me and my family on these difficult days.

Mom has declined quite rapidly for the past week. Just last Thursday, she was able to walk from room to room, albeit very slowly, with the help of a wheeled walker. On Friday, we made the shift to a wheelchair in hopes of conserving more of her energy. And now, just four days later, we have acknowledged that she will pretty much be in bed from this point on. She is too weak to move herself much at all, and it is too painful for her if we try to move her.

(I just re-read that last sentence, and am still utterly amazed at how this horrible thing has taken the life and energy out of my sweet mama--a woman who has never looked or acted anything close to her 80 years until just four months ago.)

Tom has been with us since last Wednesday, but left this morning for a few days at home. Calli arrived yesterday afternoon, and is here "for the duration." The Hospice aide and nurse both came today, and Goldie (the nurse) said that Mom's vitals do indicate that she has turned yet another corner on her journey. Her blood pressure, at 90/60, was lower than it has been, and her heart rate was 100, higher than it has been. Apparently this is an indicator. While no one can accurately predict anything like this, based on Goldie's experience, she estimated that we're looking at 7-10 days.

On February 10th, we were told 3 to 6 months, and thought there was no way it would happen that quickly. We are now at 4 1/2 months, and it's been the longest (and strangely the best) 4 1/2 months I've had in quite a while.

Please keep us all in your prayers. We are in the "home stretch," as they say, and it is not going to be easy on us. However, we have been lifted up through prayers and good thoughts since mid-February, and we know that they will continue to carry us. Thanks to each one of you who continue to love and support us on this very difficult journey.

And thanks to you, sweet mama, for teaching us all to care for others, and for allowing us all to care for you these past few months. As I've told you recently, there is ready-ing to be done on "the other side," and you are free to make your way there whenever you are ready. You will always be with us in spirit, and therefore, while we will miss you, we will be fine.

Traveling mercies, Attee. I love you.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A concert of sorts...



Today, Daniel spent some one-on-one time with Mom. He enjoyed playing the electric keyboard that a friend let us borrow for a while. Mom enjoyed listening to him. I enjoyed reflecting on the deep love that exists between these two human beings, separated by 68 years, but bound by a special love. And I think this picture is wonderful. I knew Mom wouldn't let me take a picture of HER, so it was pretty sneaky on my part. She looks beautiful to me, though. It was the best hour of my day, and probably of hers as well.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Meal Making

After their own week in beautiful Costa Rica, Calli and her crew are here in Decatur for a few days. I had told her to be prepared for significant decline in Mom’s overall health since she last saw her just prior to their leaving last Friday. Thankfully, she wasn’t surprised to find that her pain had increased, she has been sleeping more, and her breathing and talking are considerably more labored. I continue to be dumbfounded at how this (insert strong expletive) cancer has sucked the life out of a woman who was so energetic , vibrant, and full of life just last year.

Although Mom had a hard day, it was a good day overall for our family. Adam was excited about heading to Montreat for a church youth conference this morning, and once I got him on his way, we all met at Mom & Dad’s for lunch after church. I grilled burgers and Calli and Dad helped with the rest of the meal, and it was good indeed to have so many of us around the lunch table with Mom. We spent a good bit of the afternoon there, then I headed back up there for dinner while the boys and Joel were at youth group.

Calli fixed a great dinner—I savored the familiar smells from my childhood as I walked in the door. Mmmm….chicken imperial! (I thought it was a Patterson family original, but this is pretty much it.) The sides were scalloped potatoes, a bit of leftover curried rice from Kate Hunter’s Kitchen, and asparagus casserole, another family tradition. The five of us…Mom, Dad, Calli, Ned, and me…sat down to a perfectly set table, napkins and forks on the left, knives on the right, drinks at the top right. We put our napkins in our laps, held hands, and Calli asked for God’s blessing on the food. “For health…and strength…and daily food…we give Thee thanks, O Lord. Amen.”

I had forgotten to get my chicken, so Calli offered to get a piece for me since she was closest to the kitchen. She also served our plates with asparagus, and we passed the other dishes among ourselves. We all enjoyed the meal and the time together immensely, and I silently acknowledged my new appreciation for the simple times with family lately. Calli commented that the chicken wasn’t “true” imperial because we were short on parmesan cheese, but it tasted just perfect to me. We talked about the cream sauce on the asparagus, and how she had made it in the microwave, “Peggy Nelson’s way,” she added. Mom & I nodded because we both knew what that meant. I silently noted that she had added the grated cheese to the sauce, and not sprinkled it on top, like we usually do, and decided it was really better that way. Dad complimented Calli on the meal, and we could tell he really enjoyed it. We have been blessed by countless people bringing us food over these past few months, and while it has been delicious, there was something comforting about having “traditional” Patterson foods for a change—foods that were familiar to our childhood—the chicken, the asparagus, and the potatoes, at least.

As the meal was winding down, I noticed that Mom was unusually quiet. Just as we were beginning to clear the table, she got sick to her stomach and had to excuse herself. Once she had somewhat recovered, she apologized time and time again for “ruining Calli’s nice meal.” Of course we assured her that she had not ruined it, that we were already finished, and that everything was okay. Calli and I worked together to help her get cleaned up and tucked into bed. We watched with tears in our eyes as Dad came back to tuck her in and kiss her goodnight.

“I’m sorry I ruined the meal, Tommy,” she whispered.

“You didn’t ruin it,” he assured her. “I love you, Alice,” he said tenderly. “Goodnight.”

“I love you too, Sweetie. Goodnight.”

Calli & I kissed her goodnight too, and I repeated the prayer that she said with me for years when I was little, as has become my habit when I tuck her in at night lately. “Heavenly Father, hear our prayers. Take this child into Thy care. Let the angels pure and bright watch around her through the night. Amen.”

Later tonight as I was pondering our mealtime together, I began to think about her worrying that she had ruined the meal. And as I thought more about it, I realized that not only had she not ruined the meal, but over the 50+ years that she has been our mother, she has made that meal possible.

Because you see, it was Mom who first introduced us to the enticing aroma of chicken imperial when she fixed it “for company” so many times during our childhood.

It was Mom who taught us how to compliment an entrée with coordinating side dishes.

It was Mom who taught us how to set a “proper” table, and Mom who taught us to put our napkins in our laps.

It was Mom who taught us the importance of saying a blessing before every meal.

It was through Mom’s modeling of what it truly means to be a hostess that made it so easy for Calli to offer to get that piece of chicken for me.

It was Mom who taught us how to make chicken imperial and the cream sauce for asparagus casserole.

It was Mom who taught us how to be a family.

My dear sweet Attee, not only did you not ruin tonight’s wonderful meal, but you made it all possible.

Sleep well tonight, Mom. We love you.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Mom and Dad on their 59th!



We had a great dinner and celebration tonight at 2871, complete with roses, steaks, wine, and delicious lemon pie. It was a wonderful dinner honoring a wonderful couple!

Today's Prayer

Dear God,

What a beautiful morning it is! I have enjoyed the silence, the birds, the coffee, and the crossword puzzle. I am grateful for the arms that have wrapped around me in comfort today, and for the special-ness that is this day. Fifty-nine years ago THIS DAY, Alice Hunter and Tommy Patterson became husband and wife, beginning the journey of a lifetime for them, and giving my siblings and me life and breath, through You, along the way. Thank you for that union, for their love for one another, and for their love for so many others. They are both wonderful witnesses to the love that You have for us.

Thank you also for allowing me the privilege of caring for my mom these past few weeks. And today, thank you especially for this morning’s gift of helping her take a shower. As You know, it is quite a chore for her, and it was a wonderful thing to be able to help her slough off the yuckiness of life that simply pervades a body after two days. I felt You with me as I sat on standby, just outside the shower, while she bathed herself. Then I did my best to channel Your love for us all as I gently washed her hair, massaged her shoulders, and scrubbed her back before she resumed on her own. As the water flowed over her body, washing her clean, I thanked you for the promises made to her, sealed in her baptism so many years ago. You heard my silent prayer for her as she rested a bit, then continued by drying herself off slowly and deliberately with a fresh towel. You watched and smiled as I rubbed her back and legs with lotion—just like she did with Tom, Hunter, Calli, & me many times when we were babies—and then as I helped her don her housecoat before tucking her in for her morning nap.

Thank you, God, for that woman. For her life, for her example, for her smiles, and for her love. What a gift it is to be one of her many caregivers.

But God, my prayer is bigger than gratitude today. My prayer comes to you with tears streaming down my face, and a giant hole opening up in my heart. Because you see, God, as I felt the humidity in that tiny room swell to an almost unbearable weight on my skin, I longed for my own release from it. I longed for cooler air, for lighter breathing. And I realized, God, that she is there all the time. She lives day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute with that (insert strong expletive here) cancer weighing heavy on her heart, soul, body, and mind. I sat there in that bathroom, God, with the steam from the shower clouding my vision and making it harder and harder for me to breathe. I knew that I could simply open the door and feel immediate relief. But I wanted to feel it—the desperation, the weight, the discomfort. I wanted to feel it so that I could be sure of my prayer today. And now I am.

God, open the door for Mom soon. Open the door for her now. Greet her with cooler air, lighter breathing, and wide open arms. Welcome her alongside the many saints who have gone before her. She is ready, and so am I.

Amen.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

A Sermon

For some reason, I woke up with this sermon on my mind. It was one of my early ones--I think I actually wrote it for preaching class. I also preached it twice...once at at CTS chapel service, and once at Henry Memorial Presbyterian Church in Dublin, the church where my parents were longtime members, and where I grew up. At any rate, the Spirit speaks to me most clearly in the early morning hours, so my posting it here is a Spirit thing.

A Place at the Table

My mom is an amazing woman. She’s one of those people who can make friends with anyone and maintain friendships over decades. She never meets a stranger, and will go out of her way to be friendly and hospitable to everyone. She was the one at our church who would invite the first-time visitors to have lunch with us after worship, not having a clue what we were having or if there would be enough. It was always good, and there always was enough. And most of the time, those spur-of-the-moment invitations blossomed into beautiful friendships and secured wonderful new members for our oftentimes struggling little church.

I grew up the youngest of four children in Dublin, GA, a small town just a couple of hours from here. When I was four years old, my oldest brother went off to college, followed two years later by my other brother Hunter, then another three years later by my sister Calli. My brothers were, as they say, “products of the sixties.” I remember that my oldest brother Tom’s preferred mode of transportation in the early seventies was hitchhiking. Oftentimes we’d never know exactly when to expect him home because it would all depend on whether or not he was able to get rides. And naturally, when he was traveling in his own or another’s car, he would often stop to pick UP hitchhikers. So it wasn’t unusual, when he was traveling home, for him to show up with an extra buddy whom he had picked up and made friends with along the way. My mom would make that extra place at the table, find a place in our house for our guest to sleep, serve our guest breakfast, then see that the “stranger” got out to the interstate for his next day’s ride. Amazing, when you think about it. Yes, it was a different world then, but nevertheless, when I think back on it, I’m amazed that my parents allowed it.

Today’s text is a lesson in hospitality and otherness. Listen as we hear God’s word as found in Luke 7:36-50

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.’

Jesus spoke up and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’

Teacher,’ he replied, ‘Speak.’

A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?’

Simon answered, ‘I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.’

And Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’ Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.’

Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’

But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’

And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’

(end text)

When I skimmed this text initially as our assignments were given out, I thought…Oh, the anointing at Bethany. I mulled on my knowledge of that story for a week or so, then sat down later to read it more carefully. I realized then that it wasn’t exactly the same story that I remembered, so I looked it up in the NT synopsis and realized that it, indeed, is placed parallel with the anointing at Bethany stories found in Matthew, Mark, and John. There’s much discussion surrounding this text…partially because of the similarities and differences it has with the other “parallel” texts in the other three gospels. While most scholars agree that they are from the same source, Luke’s version has a totally different feel to it—a different emphasis. I invite you to take a closer look with me.

Simon the Pharisee has invited Jesus to dinner. We don’t know why… perhaps it was a genuine invitation with no ulterior motive. Perhaps he was curious to find out more about Jesus. Perhaps he wanted to rub elbows with the man who is beginning to cause such a stir throughout the region. Whatever the motivation, Simon makes room at his table for this man called Jesus.

Jesus accepts, and while they are dining a woman from the city, from the streets…a SINNER, came in. Now this was not all THAT unusual in the day…the poor would occasionally pander for food at dinner parties since private dinners were actually quite public. But this was much more than that. This woman was clearly overcome with emotion.

Simon and his guests, including Jesus, were probably reclined for dinner, probably propped up on an elbow, lying on their sides as was the custom in those days. His feet are exposed, and this woman walks in, this woman “from the city,” and begins to cry on his feet and dry them with her hair.

We can’t really blame Simon for being a tad bit upset. Can you imagine? It’s no wonder that the meal was disrupted. Her actions were obviously quite embarrassing to Simon—they could have easily been mistaken for sexual advances.

Simon, the host, was obviously flustered. He said to himself “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” It is quite clear, by Simon’s behavior, that he is embarrassed and uncomfortable with the woman’s presence and behavior.

Jesus picks up on Simon’s discomfort even though Simon never voices it aloud. A couple of the commentaries made a big deal over the fact that Jesus “read Simon’s mind and therefore indeed must be a prophet.” But come on now…how difficult would that body language be to read?

Jesus then shares with Simon a parable about a moneylender and two debtors, one who owes a great deal and one who only owes a small sum. The lender, upon realizing that neither could pay his debt, canceled them both. Then Jesus asks Simon “Which of the debtors will love more?” Simon replies “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” “You have judged rightly” says Jesus.

Consider Simon the Pharisee. He is a law-abiding man, no doubt an upstanding citizen in his community. He sets his table and invites his guests. Jesus comes and Simon doesn’t even bother to show him the hospitality common to the day…a washing and anointing of his feet, or a kiss of greeting.

The problem with Simon lies deeper than his lack of hospitality. The problem lies in Simon’s ATTITUDE. Simon the Pharisee views himself as a blameless man. Simon has no clue of his need for forgiveness, and therefore no appreciation for the forgiveness available through Christ, and therefore, little ability to show love. In Jesus’ parable, Simon is the debtor who “owes little”—he loves less because he fails to recognize the magnitude of forgiveness he needs.

Now consider the woman, the sinner. She is a woman of the city—a suggestion that her sins are sexual. Regardless of her sins, however, we she knows that she has been forgiven. Her gratitude for that forgiveness propels her to show Jesus all the hospitality that Simon neglected to show him. She cleaned his feet from the day’s travel, she kissed not just him but his feet—a sign of gratitude for her pardon-- and then she anointed his feet with oil.

Jesus holds up this sinful woman as the model of hospitality for Simon. Shame on you, Simon, for not doing at least as much for me, your guest. As we have seen, though, it is Simon’s failure to recognize his need for forgiveness that keeps him from being able to show love to both Christ and the woman from the streets.

One’s capacity to love is directly related to one’s ability to receive grace and forgiveness.

Simon the Pharisee has set a table. And who is at Simon’s table? Jesus is there. There is a place for him there, but that’s not all that surprising. Jesus was himself a law-abiding Jew, some say even a Pharisee. And Jesus was never one to pass up a meal. Christ was known for dining with anyone…from his loyal disciples to the well-known sinners…anyone.

Chances are there are others there as well…other men…Pharisees and religious leaders. Who else might be there? I’m not sure, but there were definite boundaries and a fixed number of invited guests at Simon’s table, for Simon, the one to whom little is forgiven, loved little.

Simon has set a table. So have we. Who is at our table? One scholar said “unless we see something of ourselves in the character of Simon the Pharisee, we are so blind to our own need that we have failed to hear the story.” But wait…surely we are not as discriminating as Simon. The tables we prepare today have room for many more. Not necessarily or always physical room but symbolic room.

Our guest lists are much more diverse than Simon’s was…or are they? Close your eyes and picture it. Who is at your table? Picture all the guests you have had at your table throughout your life. Hold that image in your mind’s eye. Your family, your friends, perhaps those with whom you have things in common? Think about those who sit at your table, then answer this question: Is Christ at your table? Is he there as an invited guest, or did he just happen to show up? What about that person who offended you just last week, or that person with whom you disagree about some current hot topic?

Jesus said “Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me.”

Again I ask…who is at your table?

Simon has set a table. We have set a table. Christ has set a table. Who, then, is invited to dine at Christ’s table? Close your eyes and picture it. Or let your eyes drift to or picture the communion table. What is different about it? Lots, yes, but what is the one, obvious physical difference? There are no chairs!!! There are none, for when we set a table with chairs, we are limited as to the number of guests we might seat. Christ’s table is one at which we can all crowd around, regardless of the number of our sins. This table, the table of holy communion, God’s table… has an infinite number of places around it.

As I was preparing for today’s sermon, I remembered a book that my mother recommended to me called “A Place at the Table.” I couldn’t remember the author, so I went to Amazon.com and was not really surprised to find several books with the exact or a similar title. There were books with similar titles that had to do with women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights, the rights of the mentally / physically challenged…each lobbying, if you will, for a spirit of welcome for all God’s children, not just those who meet certain criteria. Each author, in his or her own way, reminds us that not ONE of us deserves a place at Christ’s table. We have all fallen short of God’s grace, just as Simon had, just as the woman had. Jesus said to Simon “Her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love.” The good news is that, though we have all fallen short of God’s grace, we are loved and we are forgiven. Hence…therefore…for this reason…and so…WE are to show great love…to all God’s children.

The great 13th century Eastern mystic and poet Rumi wrote: "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing , there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn’t make any sense."

For Christians, that field is the Lord's Table, where we meet today for this simple meal. It has been prepared, and it is ready and waiting for us

That marks the end of the sermon. But as I re-read it for the umpteenth time, I began to think anew about that field of Rumi's. I wonder if that is what "heaven," or "the other side," or "paradise," or whatever you wish to call it is like. If so, I think Mom will feel right at home there, don't you?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Saturday morning update

Just a quick update...the procedure went fine yesterday. It was a bit harder on mom than she was anticipating, but I have promised her that she will feel better by Monday. Let's hope I don't eat those words. She is in pain from the actual surgery--the insertion of a tube INTO her abdomen that has to come OUT OF her skin. That naturally requires some pushing, prodding, cutting, etc. that is painful, and that results in soreness for a few days. However, we are encouraging her to take advantage of pain medication stronger than Advil, and with the troops all gathered over the next week (Tom is here now and leaves Tuesday, Calli arrives Tuesday and leaves Friday...for Costa Rica!), we will make it through this little hurdle and back into the land of relative comfort, which is the goal of Hospice as well as all of you who love our sweet Attee.

I had a good, refreshing cry last night, and feel strengthened for the next few days ahead. This is, without a doubt, the hardest thing I've ever done. But I know that God can and will ultimately use ALL of this for good. I can feel Her hand at work in so many ways.

Keep the cards, flowers, food, and prayers coming, folks. All of your acts of love and support mean more than you can possibly know.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Quick Update

Yesterday, my wonderful sister-in-law Ellen (Tom's ex-wife, who is still family in the minds of all of us...including Tom) came by 2871 yesterday and brought a CD they had made from an old recording of my brother Hunter talking about St. Catherine's Island. I don't know what all he was going on about--it was over an hour of rambling, which he could easily do. It was both eerie and comforting to hear his voice again after so many years--it was amazingly soothing. He had that way about him. I find it hard to believe that it has been thirteen years. I can easily imagine him simultaneously reassuring and beckoning Mom to the "other side." It's wonderful to know that he will be there to greet her when that day comes.

We head to the hospital again this afternoon for insertion of another catheter, this time in Mom's abdomen. It will function just like the one in her pleural cavity, and will allow us to relieve the fluid buildup that has resulted from the spread of the cancer to (we think) her liver. We're doing it primarily to keep her comfortable, although the control of the fluid will probably give her a bit more time as well. Given that it promises both increased comfort and more time, the decision was fairly easy to make. She's not happy about having another "damn tube" in her, but I think she will be glad to have the relief from all that fluid, and it will be nice to have her more comfortable again.

As always, thanks for the prayers. Keep at it!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Marshmallow Tears

A staple in our house is marshmallows. This was originally for s'mores--right after we got our fire pit, s'mores were an almost-weekly tradition. At some point along the way, probably when the snack cupboard was a wee bit bare, I taught Adam about my saltine cracker / peanut butter / marshmallow on top afterschool snack. He put his own twist into it, and now microwaves peanut butter with marshmallows, then dips into it with saltines. (Think chips and salsa.) So marshmallows are almost always on hand.

This afternoon, Michael saw a new bag of miniature marshmallows on the counter and asked if he could have "just a few in a cup."

Wow. With his small request, I entered what felt like a time machine.

When I was a mere two years old--maybe even less--Mom would leave me with Rosa (our maid / housekeeper / nanny) while she went grocery shopping. I did not like for my Mama to leave me. At all. So as a "distraction," these two wise women, my Mama and my Rosa, would set me up on our kitchen counter with a small, metal quarter-cup measure that we had, filled with miniature marshmallows. The cup was like a tiny little saucepan, actually--and was exactly one-quarter cup. I knew it was a ploy to get me NOT to focus on my mama leaving me, but I did love those marshmallows. So I would quit crying long enough to enjoy their tiny, fluffy, heavenly goodness. I can still remember the noise they made as I scooped them out of the metal cup. Dry on dry, with an occasional hair-raising scrape if my fingernails were on the long side. I remember the saltiness of the marshmallows as my remaining tears found their way into my toddler mouth along with the tiny puffs of pure sugar. But most of all, I remember what it felt for my mama to leave me. I knew she would come back, but I did not want her to leave me. At all.

I am grown now, with children of my own. But today, as I passed a small cup of marshmallows to my youngest, I ate a handful of them myself. Marshmallows mingled with tears. And I remembered the taste just like it was yesterday.

Thank you, sweet Mama, for the many happy childhood memories that you made for me. I will treasure them always.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lunch?

So for weeks now, every time my fingers type the word "lung" when referring to Mom's health, they first type "lunch," then I have to go back and correct it. "Lunch" is an often-typed word in my line of work. I love lunch. Lunch is a pleasant thing. Until recently, I rarely, if ever, had the need to type out the word "lung." My fingers only just now do it correctly, and even so, I have to think very intentionally about it in order not to make the usual typo.

I have no idea what "lunch" cancer might look like, nor do I care to find out.

I do know that "lung" cancer is an awful, terrible thing. Lung cancer has taken the spirit out of my mom. Lung cancer has taken the smile from her face. Lung cancer is my most hated enemy right now.

We've been fighting with a bloated abdomen these past few weeks. We had first assumed it was related to the prednisone, which Mom was taking for pain and breathing both. However, when she stopped taking it, the bloating persisted. Yesterday, we went back to the oncologist for his opinion. Actually, we saw his PA since he's only in the office on Mondays. She confirmed that it was, indeed, fluid buildup, and to our dismay, suggested that it was likely a result of the spread of the cancer to another part of her abdomen. Not what we wanted to hear, but what I suspected. Because she is on Hospice, we won't be doing any scans to determine where it has moved, so we can only surmise. We leave the "healing" up to God, knowing that bodily healing is only possible on the "other side." But we can do things to keep her comfortable on this side. Today she goes for a simple procedure at Emory--draining of the abdominal cavity. We hope it will be much like the initial draining of her lung (I did it again...lunch), where she got immediate relief. At that time, they will decide whether or not to put in a permanent catheter like the one she already has for her right lung. For her sake, I hope this will not be deemed necessary, but if so, we will accept it and move on.

So to those of you who pray, please keep her...us...in yours. The combination of the discomfort, the difficulty breathing, and the cessation of the prednisone (which often causes extreme tiredness) have made for a rough few days at 2871. My sister Calli drove up yesterday and will take Mom for today's procedure while I go to Michael's awards day at school, then take Dad to a dental appointment. We anticipate that she will feel groggy most of today, and then hope for a much better day tomorrow once the abdominal pressure is relieved.

As the three of us...mother, daughter, and daughter...got in the car yesterday, I said, "Okay, let's just pretend now that we are going to a nice ladies' lunch, just the three of us. We're on our way to the Swan Coach House." They didn't really want to play along, but I liked the idea. We got there and were settled in the examining room a bit later, and I said, "Okay, now it's time for dessert. What will you have?" Mom resisted at first, saying didn't want any. I pushed. "Creme brulee," she said. "With raspberries and chocolate?" I asked. "Yes."

As we were checking out, I was taking Calli's dessert order and Mom said she wanted to change hers to Lemon Icebox Pie. Because she's my mom, I allowed it.

But I imagine on that "other side" she can have both Creme Brulee with raspberries and chocolate AND Lemon Icebox Pie. And that both will taste heavenly.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Update from 2871

We had a wonderful Mother's Day this past weekend, with Calli, Kimble, Clare, and Ned driving up after Ned's graduation from Auburn on Saturday. Dad & I drove down for that, and it was wonderful to be there for such a happy occasion! Ned is headed to grad school in the fall at the University of South Alabama, pursuing a master's degree in chemical engineering. Environmental engineering is still his "concentration," so it will be interesting to see where that takes him. His girlfriend Courtney will be down there to, finishing up her doctor of pharmacy degree, so they will be able to keep each other company. :-)

I wish I could say that Mom is doing well, holding her own, but that's not the case--at least as best I can tell. She continues to have more bad days than good ones, with the good ones getting "less good," the bad ones worse. Medication is a tricky thing, and it takes patience to get the right combination for pain, breathing, fluid retention, alertness, etc. I'm not sure how much of her struggle now is with meds and how much is with cancer, but I can see that she is struggling more and more with each passing day. She is still able to get up and dressed each day, but doing much more than that takes more trouble than it is usually worth, so she pretty much stays home. Occasionally, when I have errands to run, she will ride with me, just to get out, and she seems to appreciate that.

Flowers, cards, and emails are still great ways to stay in touch, as well as brief visits (< 15 minutes) if you happen to be in the neighborhood. And as always, we continue to appreciate the prayers and good thoughts. Keep 'em coming!

All will be well, and all will be well.

Peace to each of you.

Goliath

The newest roller coaster at Six Flags is aptly named Goliath. It is big, fast, hilly, terrifying and exhilarating.

My life feels like Goliath these days.

I see the hill that is there to be climbed, my heart races as I approach the top, the fall down is scary but I know there is an end to it. I twist and turn, able to see the track ahead of me, yet not knowing exactly what to expect, but knowing that I am safely buckled in and that all will be well.

However, there is one big difference between the Goliath that is the coaster and the Goliath that is my life. The Goliath at Six Flags lasts only about a minute, 90 seconds tops. My life has been like this for, oh, six to nine months now, it seems.

I'm ready for the ride to be over. Seriously.

(For those of you reading this blog for updates on Mom, this has nothing to do with her, and everything to do with life in the church. Another update on her is forthcoming...)

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Hoarding God

Today's Nouwen: The Temptation to Hoard

As fearful people we are inclined to develop a mind-set that makes us say: "There's not enough food for everyone, so I better be sure I save enough for myself in case of emergency," or "There's not enough knowledge for everyone to enjoy; so I'd better keep my knowledge to myself, so no one else will use it" or "There's not enough love to give to everybody, so I'd better keep my friends for myself to prevent others from taking them away from me." This is a scarcity mentality. It involves hoarding whatever we have, fearful that we won't have enough to survive. The tragedy, however, is that what you cling to ends up rotting in your hands.

There are folks that are in my life (well, affecting my life is a more apt description) that are hoarding God. "There's not enough God to be with everybody, so I'd better keep 'my God' for myself to prevent others from taking God away from me."

At the end of the day, though, God cannot be hoarded. At the end of the day, God will not be rotting in anyone's hands. At the end of the day, mean people will no longer be mean. At the end of the day, pain will be no more. At the end of the day, all will be well and all will be well.

Some days I am just so ready for the end of the day to come.

On another note, Monday morning, after a hard rain, I was waiting at North Dekalb Mall for the Cliff shuttle to take me to campus for a meeting. I was the only one at the shuttle stop, and happened to notice a long, wriggly worm in the middle of the parking lot. He was squirming around obviously seeking some dirt, but he was nowhere near any. Being the bleeding heart that I am, I picked him up from the cold, wet pavement and gently tossed him into the nearby bushes. I felt ridiculous, on one hand, trying to save a worm--the same kind of worm that I have pierced with a fishing hook (more times that I can remember) and sacrificed for the sake of simply hoping to experience the joy of catching a bream that is even too small to clean, much less eat. But I knew I couldn't just stand there and watch him squirm when I knew I had the ability to take him to that for which he was desperately searching. And I felt kinda good about helping him.

I went to campus, did my thing, got back in my car from the shuttle stop and headed home. Just as I was rounding the curve after turning into my neighborhood, I noticed a squirrel run across the road. As I watched him make it safely across and bound across a nearby yard, I took my eyes off the road only briefly. And in that split second another squirrel crossed my path.

Too late for me to swerve. Please let him be okay, please let him be okay.

I looked in my rearview mirror with that sick feeling in my stomach, and watched his tail give one last flick on the cold, wet pavement.

Simple words that I write, simple stories that I share. I have no strength to tie up the words or experiences with a nice bow, problem solved, move on. All I can do is just put them out there for what they are. For me, in these days, these simple things that I experience and encounter reach into the depths of my very being and call much about life into question. I see the hard truths of life in the smallest things, so much so that it's frightening, really.

I hope that when all is said and done, I will end up with a beautiful masterpiece of a quilt rather than just a few bits and pieces and scraps of words on a page. I pray that with God's help, I can stitch all of it--the questions, pain, joy, sorrow, laughter--all of it--into a meaningful way of living, being, and doing in the world that leaves peace, love, beauty, and wisdom in its wake.

May it be so.

Monday, April 27, 2009

More Nouwen Wisdom

Today's words from Henri Nouwen's Bread for the Journey do a great job of summarizing what writing does for me. I have been amazed at the outpouring of support and love from my most recent post here, as well as another soul-baring post on Facebook. What a wonderful community you all are for me and for my family! I am still under a deadline crunch for a few things, but once I have met my responsibilities on that front, life promises to slow down a bit for us, just in time for summer. We have 19 school days left--hooray!

Writing to Save the Day

Writing can be a true spiritual discipline. Writing can help us to concentrate, to get in touch with the deeper stirrings of our hearts, to clarify our minds, to process confusing emotions, to reflect on our experiences, to give artistic expression to what we are living, and to store significant events in our memories. Writing can also be good for others who might read what we write.

Quite often a difficult, painful, or frustrating day can be "redeemed" by writing about it. By writing we can claim what we have lived and thus integrate it more fully into our journeys. Then writing can become lifesaving for us and sometimes for others too.


I continue to be amazed at how pertinent so many of these are to where I am in my own life these days. Blessings & peace to each one of you.

JPT

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Moment of Truth

In dire need of some quality family time, the five of us watched Marley & Me last night. In this cute Jennifer Aniston / Owen Wilson movie, the adorable puppy who seems to eat everything in his sight enters their life post-marriage / pre-kids. This cutest terror you will ever see is with them through thick and thin of becoming a family, and the movie is simple and heartwarming. While I don't want to spoil the end for you, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the average dog lives, oh, ten to fifteen years, and the average family lives forever. At one point during the movie's end, in my rough effort to lighten things up a bit, I whispered into our darkened den lit only by the glow of our big-ass (sorry if that offends you...) TV, "Raise your hand if you are NOT crying." No hands went up.

For me, it was like opening the floodgates. I cried tears like I've not cried in years. It didn't take too long for me to realize that the tears moved beyond those sweet tears elicited by Hollywood to real gut-wrenching, life-induced tears after about the first two minutes. I tried to hold them back because I just did not want to deal with them, but I couldn't. So out they came, and with them, a flood of realization.

Let me preface all of this by saying that I know a big whine-fest is forthcoming. It will make me sound spoiled beyond belief to any of you who think I have a "perfect life." Even now as I sit it with it all bubbling up in my heart, eking ever-closer to my head where my feelings will be put into words and make their way out through my fingers and onto this screen, I am telling myself that I am crazy for even considering putting this out there in internet-land. But it's 4:30 in the morning, and God speaks to me most clearly at this time, and she (the God who speaks to me this early in the morning is most-decidedly the female nature of God) has made it quite clear that this is what I am to do, and quite frankly, I am too worn out to argue. I'd lose anyway.

It has just been one of those weekends where I just feel like my life is full of things that are just getting too big, too difficult, too hard. And those few things that I really do enjoy doing are made harder than they used to be because those yucky things take so much of my time. I enjoy caring for my family, including my parents, but that's harder than I want it to be because of soccer practice, writing assignments, and college-student angst. I enjoy spending time with my husband, but that is nigh-unto impossible lately because of the crazy schedules we keep, the pressing need/s of so many folks around us, and our mutual inability to tell the world to stop so that we can enjoy a few moments of time together without interruption. I enjoy hosting friends for dinner, but that was harder than I wanted it to be this weekend because of soccer games, my inability to express to the aforementioned husband what I am feeling or what I need, and his, more often than not, total oblivion to either anyway. I enjoy the 11:00 worship service on Sundays, but that has long been impossible for me these days given congregational politics, dreadfully slow hymns from the Dark Ages, and a resentment because all too often, the hard work that Joel is doing and the sacrifices we, as a family, are making result in misunderstanding and even abuse by a small handful of mean, angry, bitter folk. The things that really make me happy, that I really want to do, the things that I really NEED to do are complicated by things around me that are less fulfilling, less enjoyable, and yet seem to loom larger.

I have got to figure out how to re-focus, how to re-frame life so that the things I enjoy move to the foreground, and the things that make them harder than they need to be move to the background. I fear, however, that I am so mired in that I can't make or find my way out.

My friend Whitney blogs about her own "glimpses of grace." She pulls this from one of my favorite Frederick Buechner quotes: "Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace."

I'm listening, Freddie. I'm listening, God. Speak to me words of life. Speak to me words of grace. Because I'm kinda needing a big dose of both...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Gum and stuff

So apparently, the sweetener used in the Trident / Orbit / Dentyne sugar free gums is not really good for you. Not only can it cause gas and bloating, but it has also been linked to stomach cancer. Well, in rats, anyway. But it's mainly the gas / bloating thing that has Mom chewing good old-fashioned sugary gum. Wrigley's Doublemint and / or Spearmint. I add this only as a correction to the last post where I suggested possible things she might appreciate from those of you who want to do something for her.

We still seem to be on a steeper incline than we were the first two months after Mom's diagnosis, but we are doing well, all things considered. We met with the Hospice doctor for the first time this week, and that went really well. Dr. Britton is her name, and she was very helpful. She has convinced Mom to give a meds a try for pain, and she reported to me today that she thought it was helping. She is also committed to getting Mom to sleep better at night, and is working on how best to address that with meds too. All in all, it's my opinion that she is getting the best care we could possibly hope for, and that is wonderful.

I have been carefully finding one-on-one time with the boys to make sure that each of them knows the gravity of Mom's illness. With all three, I have generally begun the conversation something like this: "You know Attee probably won't be with us much longer." Both Daniel & Adam nodded stoicly in response, and we continued to talk about the importance of spending as much good time with her as we could.

Yesterday on the way home from Target, I had the conversation with Michael. He simply nodded, grim-faced, and said, "I know. Please don't remind me of that again." So I told him I wouldn't, and we went on to another topic.

If only I could put it out of my own mind that easily.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Seeds She Has Planted

My friend Bethany's Facebook status this morning read: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."

I've thought a good bit lately about death and fruit-bearing. It is, after all, Easter weekend, and like any "good" pastor-type person, I've been pondering Jesus' path to the cross this week. My friends on Facebook have posted sermons, meditations, frustrations, exhaustions about their Holy Week trials as first-time or solo or harried pastors. (I was reminded earlier in the week why we (the boys & I) have opted to leave town for the past three years during Holy Week. Between the Masters and the Easter preparation, there's been high excitement / stress in our house this week.) The frenetic energy is all over the place. So even though I'm not in parish ministry, I am quite aware of the weight that pastors and their staff feel this week.

Continuing with the theme of life coming from death, my students and I watched a Nooma video on Tuesday night entitled "Tomato." It was about dying to our old self so that we live a life in Christ, and further echoed the passage from John 12:24 above about how in order to have life, death much come. Kind of like the whole Lion King / Circle of Life thing...but I digress.

In the midst of my thinking about the death of Christ so many years ago, and the beautiful lives and promises of life which have sprung from that, I cannot help but think about my mom--about the seeds that she has planted throughout her lifetime, and the beauty those seeds have shown forth these past two months. We have been overwhelmed. The cards continue to pour in, her email inbox is perpetually delivering new messages from far and near (from the east coast to the west coast, and from as far away as Australia), and they get at least one "real," face-to-face visit each day. I have always known that my mom had a special gift for reaching out to people, for showing forth true hospitality, and for loving and welcoming people of all backgrounds and stripes. But knowing that and seeing its fruits are two different thing.

It's as if over the past eighty years she has been carefully preparing one of those instant-garden rolls, adding seeds that she has collected over time to create a beautiful panoply of color for some future date, and now life has necessitated that it is time to lay it down. The beauty, the vibrance, the variety, the sheer magnificence of the life that has sprung forth from those seeds that our sweet Mama has tended all these years is absolutely breathtaking.

But Attee's gardening days are over.

This realization is hard for her, and hard for us as well. But because of the hand life has dealt her here at 80 years of age, her hosting, her hospitality, her ability to tend is ending. She is no longer able to be the energetic, life-giving hostess that she once was. We realize that those of you that come to visit to not come to be hosted, but to thank her for the many years of hospitality, of love, of welcome that she has shown you at some point in your life. And we are grateful for that. But at the same time, those who care for her now feel very protective of her. We see the toll those visits take on her, and we worry about her. We worry when a day with no one "on the books" turns into a day where three or four different people just 'drop in' for a few minutes. We worry when a "quick visit" turns into an hour-long stay. And while we are acutely aware that people want to savor every minute of Alice they can get, we are also acutely aware that Alice has a very hard time with the visits. She wants to be "up" for them, she wants to see those of you that come by, but each visit takes a toll on her. And in true Alice fashion, it is a toll that she does not allow anyone to see. But as her caregivers, we can see what it does to her, and so we struggle to find a balance. We want to balance the hospitality and welcome that she has always shown to everyone who walked through the doors of 1409 Edgewood, who now walks through the doors of 2871 Delcourt. But we know, too, that she needs her downtime, and we want to be sure that she gets the rest & quiet that she needs as well.

So...for those of you that are reading this, here is what we ask. Continue to visit, please! But if at all possible, plan your visit in the morning between 9:00 and noon, or in the late afternoon between 4:00 and 6:00. This gives her a large window during which she can rest and just "be," without having to feel like she needs to entertain or host. (We know that those who visit don't expect to be hosted or entertained, but we simply cannot get the urge for her to do that out of her blood!) And if possible, call a day or two in advance to let them know when you'd like to come. Want to bring something for her? She still loves the flowers that she gets. And Dentyne Ice in the blue / peppermint pack and caffeine-free Cokes (not diet, but caffeine free) are the two things that she requests most from those who are her "grocery fairies." Easy to prepar meals are great for Dad to have, but Mom has very little appetite, and prefers bland food over rich and / or spicy foods.

It's been two months since her initial diagnosis. In February & March, I felts as if we were coasting on a rode with only a shallow incline...downhill, yes, but we were traveling very slowly. We had more good days than bad, almost at a 5 to 1 ratio. Now, almost overnight, it seems that we are having more bad days than good, and I realize that the road we are on is getting steeper, and the car's speed is increasing. It's scary, but we have our seatbelts on (our faith) and we have our friends around us (each of you), so we will be okay. All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.

We have "family in town" this weekend. Calli, Kimble, & Clare are here from Montgomery, Ned drove up from Auburn, and Sarah Alice is here on spring break from her studies in Cairo, Egypt. We will enjoy Easter worship tomorrow at Rehoboth, then have a big spread for dinner at Chez Tolbert here on Delcourt. It promises to be a great day to celebrate life!

My prayer for you this weekend is that each of you will celebrate this LIFE in some way--whether you celebrate the new life that we are promised in Christ, or the new life that is springing forth all around us on the heels of that cleansing rain we got last night--celebrate LIFE, and be at peace. :-)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Today's "Bread for the Journey"

Here is what the late Henri Nouwen (pictured at the right) tells us today in Smiles Breaking Through Tears. "Dying is a gradual diminishing and final vanishing over the horizon of life. When we watch a sailboat leaving port and moving toward the horizon, it becomes smaller and smaller until we can no longer see it. But we must trust that someone is standing on a faraway shore seeing that same sailboat become larger and larger until it reaches its new harbor. Death is a painful loss. When we return to our homes after a burial, our hearts are in grief. But when we think about the One standing at the other shore eagerly waiting to welcome our beloved friend into a new home, a smile can break through our tears."

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rockin' & Rollin', Steakin' & Shakin'

Well, this week I was supposed to be deep and heavy into writing. At the end of last year, I signed a contract for my first big contract curriculum writing assignment, and the due date is May 1st. I had hoped to get it done before our Costa Rica trip, but that turned out to be a mere pipedream. In mid-January, I marked off this week and last week on my calendar, reminding myself to leave my days as clear as possible so that I could get the bulk of it done. Last Monday, I sat patiently and began to wait for the writing fairy's visit. You see, she comes every now and then, bringing with her inspiration, motivation, creativity, and blocks of uninterrupted time.

It's the end of my two weeks, and I'm still waiting for her.

The good news, though, is that I've had a really good week of doing other things around the house that needed to get done, and catching up on emails and stuff like that. And I've gotten out for a couple of fun things, too, like this...
If you know me at all, you know that I am quite a fan of the Indigo Girls--for almost twenty years now. They just released yet another CD, and had a CD release show on Tuesday of this week at Criminal Records in Little Five, so Adam & I went with my friend Rachel and her two kiddos. It was great fun...the Girls did not disappoint and the kids all managed to summon up the required amounts of patience. Noah, Adam, & I were right AT the stage, so we got some good shots. Rosie and Rachel hung out a few rows back. The word is that Rosie enjoyed and was sufficiently awed at her first live exposure to the beautiful poetry and tunes of "my" Girls.

On Wednesday, we had a covert visit with Proctor Chambless, Mom & Dad's pastor from Dublin. It was their first time to see him since her diagnosis early last month, and it was a good thing. They spent the better part of the morning together, then he stopped by for a quick visit with me before he headed back down the road. According to him, his report to the Dublin folks will be that "Alice is not dying with cancer, she is LIVING with cancer." That was nice to hear, since that is what we are all aiming for.

Finally, last night, after another day of (not) writing, Mom & Dad suggested we go to Steak 'n' Shake for dinner. Because I had been busy (not) writing all day, I had nothing planned for dinner, and therefore thought was a great idea! Their Frisco melt makes me happy every time. So off we went. I was quite impressed that Mom ordered a double cheeseburger with fries and a small shake, and ATE THE WHOLE THING! I've been worrying about her not eating enough, and have encouraged her to eat protein in hopes that it might help keep her energy level higher. I'm not a doctor, but it seems to make sense to me. Dad ordered a double as well, with fries and a small shake, and he cleaned his plate too....but that's not all that unusual. :-) It was a good night out.

Mom & Dad continue to have a steady stream of visitors, which is truly a blessing, but also sometimes wears her out. It's nice that they have the company, the distraction, and the love that comes with each visit, but then again, it does tire her to have 3 or 4 visitors in one day. We're still trying to figure out the best way to balance the visits with the rest that she really needs each day. I keep thinking the visits will decrease with time, but it's been six weeks now and there's no sign of that. And I must admit that I think it's good for them both to have a reason to get up and moving each day. It is nice, though, when a day rolls around that there are no scheduled visits and no errands for them to run. I can see a big difference in her when she has a full-blown day of rest. The cards, flowers, letters, and emails keep coming, and those are wonderful! Her email address is alicethom1@gmail.com. Drop her a line if you feel so inclined. :-) She is truly loving her little netbook, and I continue to pat myself on the back for thinking of that one, and to be grateful to Dad for agreeing to buy it for her. And kudos and thanks as well to my dear sweet, ever-patient (most-of-the-time) Joel for setting up their wireless network.

All in all, this has been a good week. I realize that I posted the prayer on Sunday night, at the week's beginning. Thanks for those of you that have been in prayer for us. We have, indeed, been uplifted and strengthened by them this week.

We are in for a rainy weekend here in Atlanta. As I listen to the rain coming down, and see the droplets trail down the windows and drip from the trees, I am reminded that with God's "tears," all things can be and are made new. I am eagerly awaiting the profusion of more vibrant colors that I know will come soon.

Peace to each of you, this day and always.



Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Prayer for My Mama

Gracious God, thank you for the warmth I felt just now as I made the short walk home from Mom & Dad's house...for the sunlight and the clear blue sky, for the hint of spring in the air--a reminder that you are at work, making all things new. Thank you for this day and the many things that it has held--for worship this morning, for visits with friends along the way, and for the genine care and concern that those friends have shown for Mom, for me, and for our family, today and in the past few weeks.

Thank you, most of all, though, for Mom...for the mother she has been all these years, and the mother that she continues to be. Help her to know your peace, to feel your comfort, and to rest in the knowledge of your love and your care for her THIS day. Rest her worries and ease her fears about the tomorrows to come, reminding her as she has so often reminded me that she can do ALL things through you, and that her strength will come, as needed, from you. Hold her hand, God, and gently guide her through these next few weeks and months, giving her the strength she needs, the strength she wants, to continue to live her life to the fullest. Give her energy and motivation to share and laugh and reminisce with those who come to visit.

She is brokenhearted, God. Her heart aches for the things the she thinks she will miss in the years to come. Heal her heart, and help her to trust that you are greater than time and space. When her mind insists on thinking about the future, give her the courage, the excitment, even to begin to embrace the great unknown parts of death that so many fear. Keep her sure in the knowledge that YOU, not death, will have the final say, and that the final say is abundant, eternal Life. While we don't have any idea what that will look like, help us, help Mom, to trust in that great promise even though it is beyond mysterious to us.

Death will not come today or tomorrow, or even next week for Mom, God, so help her to keep her eyes and her heart focused on the here & now. Keep her ever-mindful of the many people whose lives she has touched over the years, and help her to be at peace with those many people being present with and for HER now. Help her realize that by allowing others to "do" for her, she is giving them a great gift....the gift of being pray-ers and card-writers and caregivers and friends.

And finally, Lord, be with those who continue to pray for and support us, both near and far. Help them to know that their prayers mean a great deal to us, that their prayers keep us going on days when we don't think we can take another step down this awful, dreadful road. Give them strength to continue the prayers, the gentle reminders of their love and support. It is the threads of those people that have formed the net that is below us--the net that will catch us when we fall, and thrust us even higher and closer to you.

This is a big prayer, but I pray it with boldness and with confidence that you are listening, and that you can, that you WILL, send the peace that passes all understanding to my sweet Mama now and in the days ahead.

It is in the name of your Son that this daughter prays....Amen.