What is the most important thing we can do for you today?
This is the question that was on the wall of the hospital room that Helen was in at The Queen of The Valley. Terry and I thought about that question and decided that smiling was the most important thing on this day. We had to put on robes and gloves because Helen had a bacteria. Helen was sad and I started making her laugh. Terry said, "she is silly mom" and Helen said, "I love her and she makes me laugh". I'll never forget words that she spoke during the time I shared with her. Terry has his own memories too and a lot of laughter while we were with her and tears on the way home.
1 Timothy 5:4-6 (NIV)
4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. 5 The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. 6 But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.
Somewhere along the way of life, many of us kids become the adult of our parents. We take on their lives by taking care of them and making hard choices during times they can not choose for themselves. So many people leave aging parents alone. Even young people can't handle standing or sitting by the side of their family member. Not only does the Bible teach us to take care of widow's and family, but it's the right thing to do. Through this process of life and death, someone has taken care of us. They spent time that we don't know in sleepless hours and restless nights. Crying out in old age if not easy to watch.
As I walked through the halls of the care home, I would hear cries of help me and look inside rooms to find old people left alone. Actually, even people in their 40's. Hearing stories that nobody comes to visit them anymore. I hope this never happens to me or you who reads this. I want to write today on Helen and our journey. Writing from the middle of my heart as always.
Helen's life job was raising kids, then taking care of mentally ill people in two care homes she owned with her husband, then retirement would find her taking care of old people until they died. Yes, she was 75 years of age and still taking care of old people. She would tell me stories and then say, "I never wanted them to feel alone as they pass to Heaven". I learned from that example and sat many hours with her as she transition to different levels of leaving earth. I counted it a pleasure to sit with her for almost 12 hours one day. She couldn't see at this point but we were sure she could hear. I continued to tell her what a great mother in law/love she was and I love how she cared about others.
Helen's life was human and she cried a lot. A mom who wanted her kid/adults to make good choices and live for Jesus, but that didn't happen in all her children. She told me that she was scared and glad we were there. I wasn't always the best daughter in law at times. I got frustrated in younger years and didn't realize the depth of her story. As I got to know her, I realize how she spent her life caring for others and had a lot of broken dreams herself.
There are a few people I want to say thank you too. Carl and Joan flew in from Florida and I will never forget Helen's face when she saw them. It has been about 20 years since she saw her first born child and her response was this, "where have you been all my life". A beautiful love between a mom and her first born child. It didn't seem like 20 years at all when they met again. Instant joy, happiness and priceless.
Helen was able to attend our daughter (Tracy and Sean) wedding on September 19th. Helen shared how she always wanted to see Tracy get married. God answered that prayer about two weeks before Helen's journey of sickness would happen. Helen got to see her step daughter (Tamara) who flew in for the wedding. Helen was so happy and always talked about how she admire her strength. A single mom who never complained Helen would say. Pictures were taken and memories of good times.
I can not end this blog without saying that Terry was one amazing son to her. Taking care of her and making hard decisions. I saw him cry a lot and the wonder if he did the right thing. Confirmation would come as Hospice talked to us. Jessica was an amazing hospice nurse who took care of my mom when she entered Heaven too. We met a new nurse named Catalina and felt an immediate connection with her. Both nurses are young single moms and working very hard. We can not thank them enough and our prayers are with them always.
Before Helen's illness, her daughter Brenda would come down from Lake County and spends night with Helen at her apartment. Toward the end, it got to be too much for Brenda and she couldn't come anymore. Each of us handle things different and only God knows how much we can do.
The last day of Helen's life, Terry had just let to run an errand and I was alone with Helen. I didn't know if she could hear but I went ahead and talked with her. I told her it was a beautiful day outside and I was glad to spend time with her. The hallmark channel had Christmas Movies on, so I told Helen let's watch this Christmas Movie and I'll share some funny parts. Then I heard a deep breath and gasp for air, I look at her and immediately knew she had passed. I am no sure why I said this, but I asked her, "You didn't want to watch this movie" and called the nurse. I guess I thought in a crazy way, it might make her laugh. The one nurse said, "she still has a pulse. So I called Terry, Tracy and Chad to come quick. But there was not a pulse, she was in Heaven. I called Ashley and the girls to tell them that great grandma was in Heaven. Later, her first born grandchild (Carlene) would come to spend time with us. It felt complete as began to mourn together with stories. Chad's girlfriend (Ashley) would brings flowers and buy us lunch.
Kids to adults, we see things and cherish memories. Family is important and you really know who stands by you in all times. I'm thankful for phone calls from Ashley (Mom) and the girls too. The girls couldn't go into Helen's room because of a bacteria, but Ashley brought them to look through a window at her. Helen talked about there great grandkids dancing and singing for her. Willow called and I couldn't let her see Helen this way, so I just said she was sleeping. A 4 year old who love her lots.
Precious last days memories and then Helen would bust out in a song with Terry. Moments that are not always captured in a picture but words to our hears. Helen sang this song to Terry, "When the saints go marching in" about a week ago. She couldn't remember much, but she knew the song. It's a crazy journey from being the kid to being the adult of your parent. The circle of life certainly happen to Helen and my mom (Alice). Terry and I had arguments and frustrating moments through the process of taking care of them over time. Yet, we were always there for one another. Testing times as we watch things change and the balance of bringing back to doing our best in hard times. It's not easy, but necessary. We do our best daily and that's all we ever asked of our own kids. Do your best and that's enough.
STORIES ~ Tracy had a school paper to do on family. She sat down with Helen years ago and I think that she might be the only one who knows Helen deeper. Her grandmother shared so much with her and I know Helen was so proud of Tracy. She loved that she went to college, got a license in mental health for kids/adults and works for Napa County.
I must also thank Darlene (Speedy) for calling on her vacation to pray with us the other day. She is on a cruise and not able to be reached by telephone. She doesn't know yet. She had stood faithful through this with us. We are family!
Our Pastor's text message from India yesterday. A special thank you to Melody and Mark for coming yesterday morning after they heard the news. They know the pain so well as her mother just went to Heaven recently. Stacy Marks texting from Disneyland. Pastor Ben, Pastor Jordan and Pastor Tony from our church. Tom Smith for making things so easy on such a hard day. So many text messages, phone calls, and Facebook messages to our family. The friends who came to the care home to see Helen and us. I don't want to mention names as I might forget a name, but we know who you are. We value friendships and time.
So as you are start this holiday season, looking for that perfect gift for someone, please know this, the best gift is TIME and a SMILE!
I thank you for taking this journey of life with me today. My mother in law/love now rest in Heaven as of yesterday. I would continue prayers for our family as change is hard. My prayers continue for you, your family and friends. Making people smile is important. Remind yourself that only you are important and value this new day you have been given. Blessings!