Thursday, July 17, 2014

OLD FRIENDS

There is so much to blog about, and I am a little frustrated because we are totally "unplugged" this summer and blogging is not happening. I miss writing.

Our ancient dial-up internet had finally seen its last day, and after waiting over 20 minutes for mail to load, we called and cancelled the service. So. We have no internet (read: no email, no Facebook, no blog), and we do not have smart-phones (our little dumb phones do get most texts if they are sitting in the right window at the right time of day). We hurriedly check our email at the library once a week when we go to town for groceries and errands, so blogging is out of the question at the library.

Along with the frustration, however, is an blanket of pure inaccessibility that does bring a contentment. Very little information in the world of social media is life-changing, and we can well live without it. Our friends and family know to call us on our trusty old land line with any "vital" news. We have yet to get a call with anything earth-shattering. 

So there is a blessed quiet that frankly, supersedes the missing my blog. I will catch up at the end of the summer with my musings.

That said, since I am here in civilization for a weekend with my parents in Fargo, I had to at least share my pictures of my visit with my two sweet, wonderful girlfriends. One of my 2 best friends from high school, Peg Johnson, flew to Fargo from Seattle on a week I was scheduled to be with my parents, and Colleen Cebula, another good friend of ours, drove over from Jamestown and we met for breakfast, which turned into lunch and went into the afternoon!

22 years melted away as we picked right up where we left off. We could have just left a cheerleading practice and been sitting in our little blue skirts and white sweaters at Polar King eating a dusty-road sundae.

It was such a special time. These girls have been such amazing supportive, loving friends walking this cancer journey with me. They have showered me with so much encouragement while going through some very tough times of their own. (Peg is my friend I blogged about who lost her husband in February)

But, really, I am a little ticked that they simply HAVE NOT AGED. To me, they look just like they did in high school. SO not fair!!!!


Paul Johnson (Peg's twin, and my junior prom date!), Paul's wife Jan, Peg, me, Colleen









Colleen, Peg and me.... bet we could still do those cheers......


Sunday, June 15, 2014

MABEL

My mother-in-law died this morning. She lived a full and long life and was, indeed, ready to die, but she will be greatly missed by our whole family. I loved her sprite and unpretentious self!

She was a hard-working farm wife, marrying after losing her only sibling and parents in young adulthood. She was not a woman of great humor or spontaneous fun. She did not express her emotions well. Perhaps the great losses she had early in life or the serious nature of her daily vocation or being married to a stoic Swede tempered whatever mirth she may have otherwise displayed. But she was sweet and energetic in her own gentle quiet way.

At the beginning of our marriage, I always felt she thought I was from the wrong side of the tracks, or that Dick married beneath himself. I knew nothing of life-on-the-farm, and that was of great importance to her. For years I felt hurt that she never asked me about my career or my opinions and I was never able to engage her in discussions about deeper issues that I love to share with other women.

Eventually I accepted what I could not change, and learned to chat about things in her comfort zone. When I turned to the subjects of crops and farming and weather patterns and cooking and her relatives, she always had a good deal to share. Though I always yearned for a deeper relationship with Mabel, I learned to be content with what she was comfortable with and what mattered to her own sensibilities. When I had Sam, we often talked about raising children and she always had good common sense about that. She was always an engaged grandma whenever she was with Sam, and I loved seeing her interact with him.

She was a wonderful gardener, a good cook, and a generous neighbor and friend who was always inviting people over for dinner. There was always food for more mouths at her home. She took painting classes in retirement and became quite an accomplished artist. She and I shared a love of reading.

I loved that Mabel was a true prayer warrior. After my diagnosis, she never failed to tell me she was praying for me every day, and that touched me so. 

My favorite memory of her is also the funniest memory I have. A lifelong orthodox Baptist teetotaler, she was clearly out of her element when at my nephew Dan's wedding reception, the waiters poured champagne for all the guests to toast the bride and groom. We looked down at the table she sat at with my father-in-law and others and she turned pale as the toast was made and her husband picked up his glass and took a sip with the rest of the crowd.

The look on Mabel's face, the daggers in her eyes toward Art as he imbibed an ounce of champagne was too priceless for words. I can still belly laugh thinking about it. She was about as non-confrontational as a woman could be, but if in their marriage she ever chewed him out, it was probably that night in their motel room!!

I most admired about her the easy adjustment she made when she had to sell her home and move into an assisted living facility. She transitioned with grace and without yearning for the “things” she had to give up. What a great example she was of successful relocation in old age. She was so kind to other residents and to the staff and was always appreciative of any help given her. 

I was a verbal and expressive city girl, and she was a reserved farm wife. In most ways, our lives could not have been more different. 

And yet.

For the love of one man, her baby and my husband, we were united. She birthed the man whom I chose for life, the man without whom my life pales and weakens.

Mabel and I both deeply loved this one man.

In the end, perhaps it is not the breaks in the chain that define a relationship, but the links.

And our largest link joined our two hearts forever.

Rest well, dear lady. And thank you for sharing your son with me.


Friday, June 6, 2014

A SEASON OF SAD

At the temple there is a poem called "Loss" carved into the stone. It has three words, but the poet has scratched them out. You cannot read loss, only feel it.
                                         Arthur Golden, Memories of a Geisha


I feel it. Loss is all around me.

Jesus never gave promises of a life without pain or trial. He only gives us the assurance that He can carry the load when I cannot.


My dad has cancer.

My mother-in-law is dying, and the family thinks it could be this week.

Our best friends at the lake have sold their cabin and moved. 

Our best friends at our summer church have left the church and are going to another.

Our son is now over 5 hours away from us, (as he should be and we are so happy for him), but this means no more quick overnights at home for Mom's cookin' and watching a game together. Being an hour and a half away for 4 years spoiled us.

My body's reaction to the chemo is taking a toll......details are unimportant, but most days I feel like I am 100 years old. 

My best friend is struggling right now and I am halfway across the country from her and cannot hug her.


I am walking through a season of sad, and my soul is in a world of hurt.

Arthur Golden is so right. You cannot read loss or even write about it adequately. You can only feel it. Try to take baby steps through it. Use God's shirttails until you get to the other side. Hold tightly to the hope that a season of joy may be waiting for you.



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

TOGETHER

I have so many words attached to so many feelings that I have been aching to put to print, but I haven't been able to start. The fear is that if I start to write about my dad and his prognosis, I will be swallowed up in the words, unable to come up for air. 

But I need to write. It's what I always have to do.

Many moons ago, my mom and dad and two brothers "did life" together. We fought and made up, played baseball, took lots of family vacations, raised a couple dogs, made tunnels in roof-high snowdrifts, went ski-dooing on the hills at the same golf course where we would buy Dreamsicles for a nickel all summer. Doing life together was not perfect, but it was easy.

Now we must "do death" together. We face the unimaginable task of saying goodbye to our dad. The time frame God alone knows, and He is not speaking. Hospice rolls "6 months or less" off their tongues, but they admit it can be more or less. So we don't know the "when."

I put my arms around my dad last week and cried and said to him, "I don't know how to do this, Dad." He understood without another word spoken between us.

This is so, so hard.

Have we had enough time with him?

There is NEVER enough time. God tells us in Psalm 139 that every day of our lives has been ordained for us before one of them ever came to be. It is a done deal.

I would beg God for more time, but Dad would not want that. He is in pain. He is ready. It would only be selfishness that would inspire that prayer.

So right now, I attempt to process all of this, and care for both of them when I have the privilege of being "on duty."

The caregiving that we are doing right now.....helping Mom and Dad out 24/7 as we get all the kinks out and see what exactly Dad will need for assistance for the future.......that part is not hard. We kids (and grandkids) do that with love and honor. 

No, the challenging part is the letting go that is to come.

I do not know how to do this. I take some comfort in the fact that my brothers don't know how to let go any better than I do. Nor do any of our spouses who dearly love Ed. Nor do any of the 7 grandchildren who have adored their PoppyEd since they were first placed in his arms. Least of all, our sweet mama. 

We are all clueless, and there is no Google search on the planet that can give us a blueprint. 

As my son said to me, "Mom, I can't conceive of my life without PoppyEd in it."

He is so right----for therein lies the pain----our worlds without him in them. He is our northern star, our fount of wisdom, the steady heartbeat of the Hieb clan. 

How will it be possible to "do life" without him?

We will not know that until later. For now, we do WIN (my brother Mike's acronym for "what's important now."). We do what is vital, an hour, a day at a time. As the importance of something changes, we change it. We tag-team and we share a commitment that while we will need respite, we are best people to care for our dad. At whatever level that is on any given day or week or month. We know his likes and dislikes, his idiosyncracies, what upsets him, his sense of humor and his deepest desires. His personality shaped our very lives; who he is helped define who we are today. His essence lives in our souls.

We can do this thing because once, many moons ago, we did life together. And now we will do death together. Our dad will not leave this earth without us doing all we can to make the journey bearable for him, for Mom, for the whole family.

This is the hardest thing I have ever done.

Ever.

And I could not do it alone.

But as a family, will we do this. When the time comes, we will do this very hard thing.

With arms linked, 
          with God's grace upon us,
          with hearts full of gratitude for his 90 years,
          with rivers of tears streaming over precious memories,

we will walk our dad home.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My PET results were somewhat unchanged. The tumor is relatively the same size. The cancer activity has increased slightly.

My own cancer seems insignificant when faced with my Dad's. I am leaving tomorrow for Fargo.

Please continue to pray for our family.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

PRAYER APPRECIATED

On the heels of a happy graduation weekend, we have had to digest the news that my dad has metastatic prostate cancer. Horrific pain for 2 days (and plenty of daily pain for over a year) landed him in the hospital where the diagnosis was made on Tuesday.

As you might expect, our family is shocked and grieving. It does not matter how old your parent is....it is always too soon to hear this news.

They are trying to get his pain managed and then he and Mom (who has been staying at my brother's house) will return to their apartment with Hospice care.

There are so many of you who have been prayer warriors for me through this blog. Our family would covet your prayers right now; for strength to walk this journey well with Dad, for pain-free days for him, for all of the logistics of care in their home to fall into place, and for us all to feel God's undergirding and comfort.

Sam leaves tomorrow to step into the new chapter of his life. His job starts Monday, but his apartment is not available for 2 weeks so we will get a moving trailer then and move him in on the 1st. My mother's heart is pretty tender, knowing he is now 5 hours from me. It will feel like a real empty nest for the first time. It has been a bittersweet week with him packing up his room to leave home. We are so proud of him, and are so excited to watch his life unfold. I only wish we were not watching it from afar!!

I have a PET scan on Monday. They still produce anxiety in me. I pray always for total healing.

And so, transitions. They do not come without tears. Thank you in advance for your prayers.

Monday, May 12, 2014

DORDT COMMENCEMENT

     Sam's graduation weekend is over and it could not have been any more special. Commencement at a Christian college is so very different from any other college commencement I have attended. The entire tenor of the program was rooted in Christ, and just knowing that these graduates have been given the Christian worldview in all of their coursework, and equipped to go out and do great things for the kingdom of God gave depth to what is usually a very ordinary event. Richie and I were very proud parents, and given the reality that I was never supposed to have been alive to see this day, it meant the world to us. 

   The college hosted a huge luncheon for every graduate and guest after the ceremony which was really a grand gesture considering that number was well over 1000, if not over 1500. 

   Everything about the day was just perfect, though I must admit that driving away from the school for the last time was pretty nostalgic for me.....I had a few tears. I have deep feelings about this place that has given my son such a great education. 

COMIN' FORWARD


THE BJ HAAN AUDITORIUM ON CAMPUS IS REALLY BEAUTIFUL



ALL DONE!!

RICHIE AND SAM

VERY PROUD PARENTS (squinting on a very sunny day!)

SAM AND ME

SAM'S ROOMIES AND ANOTHER FRIEND




THE GANG OF BEST FRIENDS FOR 4 YEARS

SAM'S GIRLFRIEND GRETCHEN WAS ABLE TO JOIN US!

SAM AND ONE OF HIS BEST BUDDIES, SAM V.



GRETCHEN AND SAM


SENIOR YEAR HOUSING IN KUYPER HALL, 4TH FLOOR CORNER APARTMENT

SO GRATEFUL TO BE ALIVE AND HAVE THIS DAY TO HUG THE STUFFING OUT OF MY GRADUATE SON!