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Archive for the ‘Relatively Speaking’ Category

***Note: this entry is a raw, honest account of a tough night for my family.  If you are in need of something light and happy, please refer to posts from the more fun categories of my blog. Thanks for understanding my need to document this night.****

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I can imagine the brass bands playing the familiar tune down the streets of New Orleans on this particular Tuesday night, before Lent.

But I could hear it in my head for different reasons.

I got the call at work.  Grandpa was having trouble breathing so the Nursing Home/Rehab Center felt he needed to go to the hospital.  He’d been in the facility for less than 2 weeks to recover from a fall.

I assumed it was the effects of yesterday’s indigestion. I was not ready for what I encountered.

“It’s bad, Christa.”  Mom stated looking at me through red, swollen eyes.   Then she turned to my Dad crying “I can’t do this! I don’t want to do this!”  “This” was deciding whether to put her Daddy on life-support.  I immediately pleaded with the Lord to not put her in that position.  He didn’t.  The doctors came in letting us know it was double pneumonia.  And in his case it would be fatal.

“Time?”  was all I could sqeak out.

The answer was between the next 20 seconds and two days.  But closer to the former.

So we stayed by his bed.  Mom, Dad, Aunt Della, Uncle Lloyd and me, his only grandchild.  The doctors closed the curtains to give us privacy.

He was restless, uncomfortable from the oxygen mask and distended stomach.  He tried to talk to us, but it wasn’t clear.  What we could understand were the “I love you’s” in response to our “I love you’s” to him.  We patted him, kissed him, stroked his head, face, arms and hands.  Telling him what we so desperately wanted him to know in these precious last moments.

“I love you, Grandpa”

“You’ve been the best Daddy in the world”

“God is so proud of you,  you’ve served Him so well”

“Everyone loves you so much”

“So many people know Jesus because of you”

“So many people are ‘hitched’ because of you”

“Remember when you were going to baptize me in the lake?  I asked you if it would be ok with God if I peeked under the water to see if I saw a fish.  You said, yeah, you reckon it would be ok with God if I peeked.  So, I peeked.  And my memory tells me I did see a small fish.”  I was seven years old.

He was becoming more still.  His eyes were open but occasionally they’d get wider.  I knew he couldn’t see us anymore, but he could hear.

“Do you see Jesus, yet?  What does His face look like?  What’s it like to look into the eyes of your Savior, the one who made you?”

All of this was said and done while simultaneously watching the monitors.  The waves on the green monitor were getting smaller and less frequent, the numbers lower and lower.  It was a count down with no certain time frame.

He closed his eyes.  I couldn’t take in enough of the details.  It’s strange the things that randomly run through your brain during these desperate moments.  It’s not like ER or Grey’s Anatomy.  The ending is slow and undefined.  No sudden flatline.  No dramatic music.  Just a surreal silence.  Your brain trying to reconcile the reality of death, but not fully comprehending it even as it’s happening before you.  My hand had been over his heart, inspite of not being able to feel the faint beating for several moments.  Then his breathing  had slowed so, I couldn’t tell if he was breathing at all anymore.  The lines on the green screen were pretty flat.

7:43pm

The nurse confirmed it.  He’s gone.   Mom let out what I can only describe as a soft wail.

It had been less than two hours since the ‘fatal’ word had been given.  He did not suffer long.

I belive God.  I believe His Word is true.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  Do I truly believe what I’ve claimed for years?   Yes, but why the constant tears, the sharp pain? 

I can relate to the father that said to Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief.”

This life is all we’ve known.  It’s all we’ve been seeing, touching, hearing, feeling and living.  Eternity hasn’t been experienced yet.  God knows this and has sweet mercy on us in our weak state.  “He remembers we are dust.”  I’m so incredibly thankful for that.  Because nothing can truly prepare you for this.  It doesn’t matter how long someone has been on this Earth, you’re never ready to let them go.

We can only imagine the sights and sounds he was experiencing at that very moment.   What was happening these first minutes in heaven?  Had he seen Grandma?  Was he catching up with his old preacher buddies?  Or was he simply bowing at his Saviour’s feet?  A man who had been preaching the Word for 73 faithful years, was most likely doing the latter.  I can still hear him quoting the Scriptures on up to the end.  He wanted to go home.  Not back to Oakdale, Tennessee, but to his “home on high” as he told Mom Sunday night.

Thursday, February 26

Grandpa had lived in Morgan County for more than 70 years.  He came from Arkansas to start a church with some of his friends.    And he left an amazing legacy.   The stories we heard as people came through the receiving line at the funeral home were those of a community tightly-knit from spending your entire life with the same people.

“Brother Fred married us 63 years ago.  And he tied knots well because I can’t get rid of my husband.”

“Preacher Copeland drove my school bus and my Mom’s too.”

“Mr. Fred married me – both times.”

“Bro. Fred baptized me.”

“I’ve never heard a bad word about Mr. Copeland.  And never heard him say a bad thing about anybody.”

“He never had an enemy in his whole life.”

On and on the stories came.   What an honor to be a decendant of such a great man.   

Some out of town guests stopped for a snack at a market down the road.  The person behind the counter looked at them and said, “You must be here for Preacher Copeland’s funeral. ”   They were taken aback by the accurate assessment.  We also learned that when the singers got together to practice songs for the service, they spent the first hour crying before they could start practicing.   Fred Copeland was a loved and respected man.

He had a great sense of humor an nicknamed everyone.  I can still hear him calling out to me when I’d visit him, “Come on in here, Heavy!” (Yes, he called me Heavy.) “How’s my graaaaand youngin’?”  He would be wearing his overalls with a thumb tucked in under one of the straps.  If you had been introduced to him, he would say “proud to know ya” as he shook your hand.  And you would have loved him instantly.  Everyone did.

Saturday, February 28th. 

We burried Grandpa today during a cold, rainy drizzle.  Our family has been overwhelmed at the out pouring of love from friends and family.  Sitting with us at the hospital, offering shoulder massages, bringing chess squares, sending love and prayers with Facebook, email and text messages, buying cat food and feeding the cat, driving to East Tennessee, loading flowers & plants in their cars b/c there was no more room in ours.

I just hung up from talking with a precious friend who knows all too well what this week has been like.  She understands that sometimes you want to talk about things and sometimes you just don’t feel like talking at all.    God is so good with the blessing of friends!

Witnessing a loved one leaving this life is a painful blessing.   But life on this earth is not the main event.  This is not “all there is.”  We have the hope of forever with our Savior and our loved ones. 

Grandpa, you are loved and I’ll hug you again, “drectly.”

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My Dad never asks me for anything.  So, when he asked me to attend the reunion of his Vietnam Helicopter Company, there was no question.  Of course, I would go.  It’s one of the God-given opportunities this ‘temporary retirement’ has allowed me.  

A road trip to Branson, Missouri with my parents.  I’m such a swinging single.  

The truth is, I’m insanely blessed.  Most people couldn’t survive a five-day road trip with their parents without some form of pharmaceutical assistance.  However, my parents are my best friends and supporters.  Low pressure, low maintenance, lots of love, support and laughter.  Ok, the occasional argument with the GPS lady, and some differing, VERY differing musical tastes, but otherwise, I love hanging out with them.

My Dad is a hero.  He was a crew chief and left door gunner on a Huey Helicopter in Vietnam.  Men in this position didn’t have long life spans, but he survived thirteen, yes, thirteen, helicopter crashes. Meeting up with his brothers, once a year, is vital.  And brothers, they are.  No one else can understand their histories and scars.  It’s a bond understood only by those who’ve actually demonstrated their willingness to die for each other.  The rest of us can only gaze in from the outside, observing their interractions with admiration, gratitude, and even amusement.

I want you to see what heroes look like.  True, they’ve got another 40+ years on them since flying over the tunnels of Cu Chi.  But their honor hasn’t diminished with time.

My personal hero is on the right, front row, red shirt.

So now, when you exercise freedoms like worshipping openly and voting, these are some faces you can thank God for.

I love you Daddy!  Thank you for being my Hero. 

Thanks for being one of America’s Heroes.

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My body is punishing me for living like a 20-something this weekend.  My cousin, Amanda,  was in town this weekend with some folks from her Company.  We’ve not seen each other since Christmas and wanted the chance to hang out for a bit.  She’s a sassified, spunky 29 year old. She and some friends were here for a concert and I was invited to join in on the fun.  Inspite of the great music, Amanda and I were more interested in catching up on all the thrilling events of our lives that have transpired since Christmas. 

Ok, we were catching up on the thrilling events of HER life. 

She actually goes out on real-live dates and therefore has many more thrilling stories.  Especially since most guys’ days are numbered with her.  That girl has a healthy set of boundaries.  She is not the type to stick with the wrong guy because it’s better than being alone.  They don’t measure up?  They’re booted out.  Next?!

I love her for that.

Did I mention that Amanda was in the Army until just a couple of years ago?

I love her for that too.  Immensely!

So, not only is she a 20 something… she’s a 20 something with war-time survival training.

I’m a 40 year old marathon shopper.

We share some dna (our Dads are brothers), the same last name and have sassy, talkative personalities to boot. When we’re in the same room we pretty much suck up all the oxygen and there’s not much left for anyone else.  

Amanda’s idea of dressing up is wearing a t-shirt with words on it.  

I apply lipgloss before going to the mailbox.   

Thanks to the U.S. Army, she could break your neck with her pinky – inspite of her tiny 110 lb frame. 

I can open boxes with the acrylic nail on my pinky.

Yeah, we’re pretty much twins separated at birth

<ahem> or something like that.

Here she is. Beautiful and brassy as ever.

 Love you, Cuz! 

P.S.  You need to move back home!  I don’t care that you’re in the middle of building a house. 

House, shmouse.

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Pictures of the funky hotel that Mom and I stayed in last weekend.

Funky Hotel Lobby

 

Fun Purple Chair

 

Mom and Me in Fun Purple Chair

 And this photo is why I will never wear that shirt again.  Yikes.

 

 

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So, here’s a little more from the Mother/Daughter road trip. 

Friday’s adventures had only begun after we checked into our lovely & funky hotel.  We were expecting a quiet evening of eating chocolate (thank you Russell Stover!) and watching movies in our room while in our pj.s 

And then “Friday Night” came. 

Our lovely room on the 2nd floor was directly accross from a happenin’ night club.  Apparently the AC wasn’t working in the venue as they felt the need to open their doors wide and let all of 5 points thumpety-thump with them, for free.  No cover charge needed folks. How generous of them. <do you sense my sarcasm yet?>  At midnight, I realized, we’ve got a minimum of 3 more hours of this.  (Don’t ask me how I know this, it’s really not important.)  So after a couple of calls, we were moved to another room.  A suite on the 7th floor on the EAST side of the building.  Had it not been midnight, and I wasn’t so self-conscious of being in my pj’s in front of the bellman helping us move: I would have been struttin’ down the hall singing “Well, we’re movin’ on UP, tooo the EAAAAST Side, we finally got a piece, of the piiiiiee!” 

Day 2:  We happily slept in a little late in suite 701.  The rest of the day was filled with the blessings that only shopping, starbucks and a movie can bring.  Topping the night off with a lovely dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.  Here we are, two tired but happy chicks.

(Front row L to R: Lemoncello Sorbet, White Chocolate & Rasberry Cheesecake)  (Back row seated L to R: The Best Mom in the World, the most blessed and spoiled rotten Daughter)

Day 3.  Day three started with Tornado sirens going off – at 2am.  So we spent another 30 min or so watching the weather channel and wondering if there would be more episodes of “PJ’s in public” due to an evacuation.  Fortunately, the storm passed we were able to go back to sleep in the quiet that was Suite 701.

The drama ceased after that.  We drove to Boaz to see the discount outlet of the South.  Guess what.  It’s closed.  Not just for Sunday either.  I mean it’s like a Southern version of an old ghost town.  No offense to the locals, but my advice is to just stay on I-65 and move on.  We laughed about it. The goal of the trip was time together and THAT we accomplished. 

But we had to end on a sweet note, so we made a return trip to good ole Russell (as in Stover).  The mocha almond fudge ice cream was heaven sent.  Really, it was.

Dad, Thanks for letting me have Mom for the weekend.  And Mom, thanks for being the best Mom in the world, and my best friend.  (Who else can tolerate and even be amused by my random outbursts of old TV show theme songs.)

Love you!

C

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Just thought you’d like to see what the World’s Best Mom looks like.

Mom and Me

Happy Birthday, Mom! (a day late, but we’re stretching it out and milking it for all it’s worth. ;0)

Love,

Your Baby

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So I ‘drug’ myself out of bed this morning at Grandpa’s.  90th birthday parties can be exhausting, I tell you.  Mainly because birthday boy keeps his house at 90 degrees as well, so all of us youngins were sweaty all day and couldn’t sleep much at night.  But sleepily walking into the living room this morning to the greeting “Well, hello, Heavy”  made it all worth while.  Yep, it was “Cricket Lynn” when I was a child and now it’s “Heavy.”  Grandpa nicknames everyone.   

Grandpa’s is a different world than mine.  I mean, Oakdale isn’t even on most maps.  There is no cell phone coverage, no cable and worst of all, no Starbucks. Only instant Maxwell House coffee, that I’m sure was just scraped off the highway somewhere.

The language is even different.  Here are some words that I’m in danger of picking up when in Oakdale.

Forty-lebm – (forty eleven) meaning: often, many, a lot.  Example:  “If I told her once I told her forty-lebm times to shut that winder.”

Winder – known in some parts of the U.S. as “window.”

Idie – a thought, conception or notion. Example: “I have no idie how he got that tractor a runnin’.”

Aig – the roundish reproductive body produced by the female of some animals, such as birds.

Drectly – in a little while, a little later. Example: “I’ll git to it drectly.”

I could go on, but alas, you did not sign up for East Tennessee 101. 

All in all it was a wonderful trip.  I got to spend time with both of my Grandfathers and a couple of hours were just Dad and me, riding around seeing sites from his childhood and visiting an old high school buddy of his.

As we were saying our goodbye’s this afternoon, I warned Grandpa against having any wild parties and women over at the house.  He didn’t miss a beat, “Awwww it’s a sight how they just flock over here.  I have to beat ’em off with a stick.”

I don’t blame ’em one bit. ;0) 

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