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


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 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 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.


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.