Between Two Worlds

A little trapped between two worlds. That’s what it feels like to me. I know they are in Heaven. I can feel the comfort, the security of that. And it helps greatly to fill the void they left. They died 43 days apart, Dad on August 19 and Mom on October 2. Of course we knew it was coming with both of them being in their 90’s.

As I held Dad’s hand and listened to his labored breathing I was aware again of the immense weight of a soul. It’s the one thing that can only be measured and felt once it is gone. Death is a mystery. One minute there is a living breathing person full of ideas, thoughts, personality, whose DNA you share. The next minute the person they were is one hundred percent gone.

It was a blessing to be there when Dad passed. We almost made it for Mom, but between the time we got the phone call and the time we got in the car enroute, they called again. But we were able to hold her hand when it was still warm and say our final goodbyes. Dad had a wonderful celebration of life and I had a brunch for Mom and many of her dear friends. I could tell they were so very thankful to be able to gather in their home and share stories about Mom. Closure is needed in times like this. As Dolly Parton said in Steel Magnolias, “Laughter through tears in my favorite emotion.” And there were plenty of both.

I have been thinking more about eternity. With so much going on in the past 6 years it’s been all about stifling emotions and just getting through each day. Some things I still can’t unsee. I still remember the panic seeing the ambulance and firetrucks at the house when I rounded the corner. And to see Dad on the bedroom floor bleeding from the head……ever since then we’ve been on autopilot. Dad in the hospital, then navigating the healthcare system over admission into the Carehome. Then Mom with Alzheimer’s suddenly without Dad for the first time in 71 years. 

In the process we got a wonderful caregiver part-time for Mom. Jo was so good for Mom and I gained a friend. Mom’s whole world changed and she spent every day trying to navigate the maze in her mind, and figure out her life in segments of what would happen next. She was so very fearful, but she loved seeing me every day. I made a vow to take her flowers every week so she could enjoy them. We had our Saturday date nights together. I gave her food and wine. Sometimes a martini. And she would fuss when I wanted to sit out in the dark before bed.

After some terrible falls and incidents we checked her in the same Care-home Dad was in and she was able to go see him several times before he passed. She got great care and we were able to breathe a bit. She was able to attend Dad’s Memorial which was a blessing.  Staff and nurses at her facility said after that day,  though, Mom changed. Even with Alzheimer’s I think it really sunk in that Dad was truly gone.

She followed him to Heaven just 43 days later.

And we are catching our breath. Slowly going through the house. I gave each of the ladies a piece of Mom to take home. I wrapped up her figurines and handed them each a bag on their way out. And the other day I remember when Dad and I went to the show and saw an awful movie called “Stanley” about a rattlesnake. Dad hated snakes and I’m not why he took 12 year old me. But now I just think of that day and smile.

O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

— ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:55-57‬‬

Letting Go

It was the night of the Strawberry Moon and I awoke at around two thirty. I sat transfixed in the passenger side of the Motorhome parked here on the California Delta. It was as if God Himself had a Yahtzee cup full of light filled diamonds and thrown them across the water.

On the opposite bank in the distance I could see the red lights of the wind turbines along the Altamont Pass on I-5 blinking out a rhythm as they slowly turn, beyond that, beyond the hills lies the great Pacific Ocean where so many happy times have been spent for so many years now.

As I watched the moon, I also tuned into my latest Netflix addiction, “Manifest.” Soon, I crept back to bed but not before I had a few scoops of artichoke spinach dip with some chips. I fell asleep with the sparkle of God’s diamonds behind my eyes.

It’s been an almost unheard of reading run for me as well. I’m on my fifth good book since summer break. I’ll give the titles in case anyone wants to check them out. The first was “What Comes After” by JoAnne Tomkins, then “Eternal” by Lisa Scottoline, “Made in China: A Prisoner, an SOS letter” by Amelia Pang, “Deacon King Kong” by James McBride, and my current read by Eric Metaxas, “Fish Out of Water.” All different, all wonderful.

I am sitting here with a water view out every window. Where else can you do this? We are truly blessed to have this treasure so close. I can hop on the freeway and be home in just about 20 minutes.

I have David Nevue on Alexa and scullers are just now coming by. We’ve seen 3 big freighters going out to sea. Everyone comes out to watch the massive wall of ship go by. We watch for the Tugs. When they go out, you know there’s a big one coming in.

In the normal course of life, we work, check things off to-do lists, stress, stand in lines for prescriptions, groceries, gas…..and we wait, hopefully to get to a little oasis of time where life is suspended just for a little while.

A merciful letting go.

It’s been a very rough year. In addition to the stress of COVID, my Dad entered his own suspended reality in the Convalescent Home the last part of 2020. My Mom is continuing to navigate through the rough waters of Alzheimer’s/Dementia. We watch her trying so desperately to figure out her world and the people in it. She has lost her way, and we spend much of our time trying to help her find it.

In all these things, we know God is here and continues to hold us in the palm of His hand, even as life veers wildly out of control. We grieve…..we wait for the next thing. In between we have moments of Grace.

I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief….For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. Wendell Berry

The river knows the way to the sea: Without a pilot it runs and falls, blessing all lands with its charity. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Just Breathe…..

Let there be a place somewhere in which you can breathe naturally, quietly, and not have to take your breath in continuous short gasps. A place where your mind can be idle, and forget it’s concerns, descend into silence, and worship the Father in secret. There can be no contemplation where there is no secret. Thomas Merton, Book of Hours

This book has been a comfort for many years. Though months might pass between the times I open it, the power and beauty in its pages has never dimmed or failed to renew. Merton’s words crack open a place deep in my soul where the Holy Spirit dwells. There is wisdom here that I need to return to again and again. It reminds me of who I am in Christ and the assurance that despite everything we see around us, God is holding it all together. It speaks to me of the dawn of Creation, and how we are all longing for our true home. Everything we reach for in this life hearkens back to our longing for Eden.

Being trapped is a terrible feeling. Can one find happiness in a few measured moments of peace between days that threaten to squeeze the life out of us? Care-taking affects everyone involved, not just the ones doing the caring. That’s the hardest part. Is it enough to say it won’t last forever? And what happens after? What sorrow lies on the other side? Yet I know that the sorrow is part of it all, and the sweetness of the good memories that will replace it. And the going on part will come, that embracing life once again. Finding that path of redemption and freedom we once knew. Plans will once again be made and followed through on. That’s the hope that keeps us going. 

I took Mom to see Dad yesterday. He was facing away from us and I was a little shocked at how he looked. He requested a buzz cut and he got it. He had no hair! It was a good visit for he and Mom. Mom joked about having a boyfriend and Dad laughed. They held hands as we sat by the aviary. 

I thought maybe I would feel sorry for the birds, but it was hard to watch them and not smile. They had a nice home and could fly to and fro. There was a big perch in the middle where they would simultaneously all land on, then promptly vacate as they rocked it back and forth. They were like little grey, brown and yellow comedians as they flitted around. Mom and Dad loved watching them and so did I. They had a good clean home and food and they were safe from predators. And they didn’t seem to know or care that they didn’t have their freedom. 

Maybe I can learn something from them.  They have no clue about time, just one day flowing into the next. But I am never not aware of time, right now what it looks like is a huge clock with legs. And it’s coming for me.

The other day I gave myself a day of freedom and I didn’t call anyone, didn’t go see anyone. I….just….came…..home. I felt like my old self again. Elaine and I went for a ride and laughed at everything and nothing.

Oh how I miss that.

God’s Creation

No matter how small….

You can see by the nails how small this was. I don’t even know how I saw it one cool October morning. Whenever you think you are insignificant in the scheme of things, remember this little creature. God created it and you. What kind of mind could make an almost microscopic living thing have the ability to weave a web like this?

I am a person who really doesn’t like spiders. I used to wake in the middle of the night and flip the lights on just to make sure none were lurking around. If they were I would wake the whole house by sucking them up in the vacuum. Now when I find these teeny ones, I take them outside and find them a safe place. They deserve it and all the more so you.

Make God your safe place. He will never leave you or forsake you. He is the God who sees……El Roi.

Renewed Hope

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I had a dream once when I was living away from here. I’ve remembered it all these years later. I’m standing on a snow covered road and Mom is trying to walk to me but she is afraid and I can’t help her. I never forgot that feeling of trying to save her, and I have the same feeling now. I feel helpless that I can’t rescue her from Alzheimer’s and her own mind. My overwhelming thought so many times throughout the day is “my Mom needs me.” 

I can’t fix her lostness right now. All I can do is remind her of who she still is. And help her remember. She spends most of her days trying to piece things together, gathering the threads of her life that have become unraveled. I do my best to field the questions, “Why am I like this?” “What’s going to happen today?” “When is Dad coming home?” “Why do I always have to leave my home?” “Did I take my pills?” 

All day long, we try to reassure her that things aren’t as broken as they seem, but she knows the truth. 

After I wrote this the other day I realized how depressing it was and I didn’t even want to share it. But then, like a thunderclap in my mind, God reminded me of my life. My wonderFul and precious life. Of everything He has helped me through all these 61 years. And the words held tremendous power: 

“But God…….” 

When added to the end of every juncture in my life, however painful or sad, it’s the blazing hope that stands out. Like a bas relief carving, the pain fades into the background as the image stands out. But God……

He has come through so many times I know I have lost count. 

I can’t write a happy ending for Mom or anyone else for that matter. We each have to decide to do that for ourselves. I can do what I can to make Mom’s transition easier but I can’t lose myself in the process. And I feel like I am lost right now. In the thick it. 

But God….God has already written us all a happy ending, and His name is Jesus. It’s what we’ll celebrate in two weeks that has made that possible. If I had to be truthful right now I haven’t felt like Holy Week is coming, we’ve all just been trying to stay afloat. 

I miss my life. I miss my best friend. I miss God even though I know He’s never left me. I thank Him for every grain of peace I can snatch up. I thank my best friend in the world for sticking this whole thing out. The only reward she is getting in all this is hours spent alone. I miss our drives, our weekend trips. I miss just driving across town and finding 10 things to laugh about. 

But God says……”For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Cor. 4:17

I am not healthy, I exercise but still put on weight. When did my body decide to betray me? In shock I saw my reflection sitting on the toilet (from the closet door) and I wonder when my profile from chin to neck changed so drastically? And the stress is always there just under the surface. I find myself gulping food like I’m in a race and I don’t realize how shallow I’m breathing until I pause to take a deep breath. I live with an hourglass in my head, and the sand is always draining away.  

But God….”My health may fail, and my spirit grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” Psalm 73:26

I am already grieving the loss of my childhood home. It’s a comfort to go there because I feel like it’s already drifting away. When my Grandma’s house was left empty after she went into the care-home it was devastating. I remember walking across town, letting myself in with my key and walking from room to room while others were out living life, I felt like part of mine stopped.

At that time I was in the throes of Anorexia. I couldn’t stop walking, I measured every ounce of food, and I wanted to disappear. I could’ve easily died. But the prayers of my Mom and Dad and many others I’m sure brought me out of that pit. 

But God….”Brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay. He set my feet on a rock, and gave me a firm place to stand.” 

God healed me. I awoke from a dream and it was as if a spell was broken and I began to eat. I began to fight for my life, and God and I won. And I can’t even explain everything else I went through after that. God brought me through it all. How can I keep from having hope in this instance too? 

And I worry about the cats at the house. Abby and I have made a truce. I think she finally realizes I am someone she can trust after 10 years. And George is used to being fed and coming in sleeping on the furniture. What will happen to them when the house is sold? 

But God……remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.” And…..”Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” Matthew 10:29-31

Friends, when I started this post a few days ago, I felt a lot of things, sadness, depression, hopelessness. But God turned it around even in the midst of it. He is the hope-bringer and He has assured me that all will be well. We will get through this. 

Thanks be to God, for today this message comes with renewed hope: 

” But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead in our trespasses , made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved.” 

Cat Chronicles: Enter Sydney

In my last post, Briggs had entered our home. Though the loss of Buster and Rocky was still keenly felt, the antics of a comical little kitten worked like a balm to heal both of our hearts. But it was time to find him a playmate. I scoured the internet and found a woman who needed to find homes for the feral kittens she had rescued.  We made an appointment to go see them. They had all just recovered from been spayed and neutered.

The owners cats were curiously watching us from the stairs as proceeded to the “kitten rooms.” The girls were in one room and the boys in the other. We were there two hours, going from one room to another. Buster was a talky fellow so I was looking for one with the same qualities. Among the males were Tony, a solid light orange, and Frankie, a flame point Siamese mix, and his brother who could have been a twin, Sammy. It was so hard to choose, but in the end Sammy was the one who stole my heart. His fur was as soft as a bunny and his eyes a brilliant blue, and a little bit crossed at times. He kept coming up to me wanting to play. I fell in love.

Sammy became Sydney and we couldn’t wait to get him home to introduce him to his new brother. We still have a picture of Sydney in his carrier and Briggs peering in at him. If he could have talked I’m sure he would have said, “C’mon open up already, I’m ready to play!”

I think there was one hiss and that was all. Sydney was used to being around lots of cats and he was undaunted. And Briggs was so happy to have a playmate he didn’t know what to do. He played so hard he literally panted like a dog. Several times we had to rescue poor Sydney by removing Briggs from the scene so Syd could recover. Sydney was a scrapper though. He got his digs in as well.

And so our little family was complete again. Briggs was even-tempered around people and loved everyone just like Rocky and Sydney just wanted me. He was bottle fed so he was used to human handling and actually preferred that to anything else. It was like my prayers were answered. My niece had been born around that time and I was missing her terribly. I was 12 hours away by car and an hour and 45 minutes by plane and I needed my arms filled.

Sydney became my baby. He was totally content to lay upside down in my arms for hours. The Siamese came out in his meow which sounded very much like an infant crying. People would hear him in the background and often ask if there was a baby in the house.

It was as if God had answered my prayer by filling my arms and heal my heart that was missing our Lauryn, the first ever baby in our family.

Buster

Cat Chronicles, Buster (then)

After his initial dusting with flea powder, we decided it would be best to give both cats a flea bath. Rocky was first. Gentle giant that he was, he turned into a cougar when wet and it took us both to keep him from lunging out of the sink like a large furry banana. When he was done it was poor Buster’s turn. He was so small and so stressed that when it was all over, he collapsed. Horrified, we thought we had killed him. That was the last bath they ever got.

Turns out Buster was part dog (he growled, and fetched). He also had a penchant for opening drawers and retrieving underwear which he scattered different places for us to find. The front door had a window you could see through and several times people must’ve thought there’d been a break in when they saw clothes strewn up and down the stairs.

We also found out he didn’t like whistling, not one bit. I started whistling to the Seven Dwarfs tune watching an advertisement one night and he leapt from where he was on the living room floor, and headed straight for my face the source of the infernal sound. 

When he was a kitten, he tormented poor Rocky endlessly. He jumped on his back, and clung to his tail and ambushed him every chance he got. Every now and then Rocky would have had too much and just held him down with one giant paw as if to say, “Okay now sonny, I’m still boss here.” But it was obvious they loved each other.

Buster also liked cookies and would try to bat them out of my hand before they got to my mouth. Rocky and Buster went through several out of state moves together which they handled like pros. They observed all through bright curious eyes, except the time we encountered a violent downpour crossing the desert and both of them dove to the back under the blankets. Buster was thrilled with the Arizona house with its wooden banisters two stories up. He scared us to death by sailing through the air and landing on the skinny railing, part cat, part monkey.

The next move to New Mexico was also just fine as long as we were all together, except for our stop in Gallup. Buster went mad and wouldn’t stop yowling and we couldn’t figure out why. Later we found out that there was a frequency there that humans couldn’t hear.

After our two years at Intel Corp. in Rio Rancho, NM we both put in for a transfer. We longed to move closer to California so we transferred back to Arizona. 1 hour and 45 for a flight, and 12 hour drive is do-able.

Our temporary stay for the first weeks there was a local business hotel with many rooms and a homey atmosphere right in the center of Chandler. There was a Great Pyrenees dog show nearby and they were all lodged at the same hotel. Buster and Rocky just took it in stride. They never had potty accidents there or any other place. 

In fact, the only bathroom incident Rocky ever had turned out not to be. While we were still in California, my Mom had kicked off her Birkenstocks and Rocky decided there was a smell on her shoes he liked so much he had to mark it. While we all looked on horrified, he filled up the entire shoe. We determined he was exactly a size eight bladder.

Arizona was our home again from 1998-2016. After renting for awhile we put an offer on a nice house on a corner lot. We built a huge fire pit in the backyard which Rocky loved. Happy times were spent there. But those times also were tainted with sadness. Rocky and Buster were getting along in years.

Now: We have spent almost 5 years living here at my Aunt’s property in a Motorhome and four and a half months without a cat family member. (Since 9/28/2020) when we put Briggs down. There are cats around, the two Weigumina’s and George at my folks. But we miss the patter of feet. The constant presence, the expectant looks, the furry body in the lap, and the purrs. It’s amazing how one small cat can fill up a space in a home and a heart.

“Animals are proof God loves us”

The Cat Chronicles

The Cat Chronicles 

I guess I have to preface my departure from my usual posts by saying that writing has become very difficult. There are just too many emotions I have had to tamp down lately with all that’s going on with Mom (dementia/Alzheimer’s) and Dad now in a Convalescent facility. Writing has been one of my outlets and I have missed it but the words just haven’t come. One thing I can still write effortlessly about is cats. 

I hope you come with me (and bear with me) on this little journey. Prayers will be woven into all I write in these posts as you will find. 

For every hard thing and great thing, and everything in between, for the past 33 years cats have played a central part in every change, monumental and otherwise in my life. I didn’t grow up with cats, we had dogs. My Mom and Dad had one when we were small but I don’t remember him. They said he was crazy, but I think they just didn’t know what to do with a cat. For example, you can’t drive two hours with a cat in the car to visit relatives and think it will happily make friends with the relatives cat. They fought, of course. Like small tigers. Then they tried to get them apart, another huge mistake. 

Another time when I was older, my Dad brought a kitten home from where he worked and my Mom and I thought it would be a great idea to bathe it. A 9 ounce kitten can be very slippery and hard to hang onto. I don’t think we ever caught him to get him rinsed off. Dad found him a home. 

We were all really cat clueless. I had always ever been around cats you couldn’t pick up and hold and I was a little scared of them, though I loved them from afar. 

In 1987 after my husband died, I wanted a cat. I knew I wasn’t emotionally ready for a dog I had to walk and take outside to poop. I was in a black hole that tried to swallow me up and it almost did. My folks knew some lady that had some kittens, so we went out there and I peered down into a box filled with adorable white cats grey ear tips and sky blue eyes. I picked one of them up and he shot straight out of my hands. I chose another, and this one relaxed and purred against my face. I fell in love with him and named him Max. 

I took him home to my apartment and for months I wet his fur with my tears, as I wrote letters to my husband in Heaven. Max was my partner, but I still didn’t know as much as I should about cats. Irresponsibly I left him at my folks one night and the next morning I got a call from my Dad that he got out. My Maxie was hit by a car and killed. I let my best buddy down, and I blame no one but myself. 

I vowed that never again would I let that happen. 

When I met who would become my best friend in 1988, she had a huge gentle giant cat named Rocky. He was huge and had a face as big as a humans. He was the biggest cat I had ever seen, this sweet orange and white giant. He was a cuddler, and he never minded being picked up. When we decided to move in together I wanted Rocky to have a mate, a buddy. 

We went out to the same lady I got Max from and she had one kitten that reminded me of him. She charged more for him than the others because he looked to be part Abyssinian (a fancy breed that looks like a mini cougar) He had to be dragged out from under a barn and he was covered in fleas. We dusted the poor little guy with so much flea powder that when he shook, he looked like a little white cloud. 

He and Rocky became best buds and taught Buster everything he knew. We journeyed together many years, the four of us. Next time I will share a bit about Buster and the cat he was.

I hope you come along with me as I continue all of our stories, both cat and human.

Love and blessings in the midst of COVID……Lori 

Taking a breath

Taking a breath

This season in my life is especially difficult for us all, and COVID has made everything worse. Dad has landed in a Convalescent Home. It all started the night Mom called me in a panic at 2:30 AM shouting into the phone, “Are you there, Lori, Lori, I need to call her…..” We had had several panic calls from Dad over the past year and I just figured this was another one. Something about this one seemed different.

When I rounded the corner and saw the ambulance and firetruck my heart dropped. It dropped even further when I came in and saw Dad lying on the bedroom floor with blood behind his head. Some things you cannot un-see, and that one will be there forever. They left so fast, there was no time to find his ID. Elaine thought to look in his pants pocket and we then rushed them to the hospital.

After several days he came home and collapsed again. 

So we are a small village of caretakers now. My brother, myself, Elaine and I. Mom can’t stay alone. I go from one place to another and back again. Mom doesn’t remember why Dad is there and asks continually when he’s coming home. It’s been mostly bad, but there a few moments here and there that we laugh together, and she expresses the joy of a child when I warm a blanket and throw it over her. 

I made her table look like Christmas and she exclaims surprise and joy all over again when she sees it. 

I feel like my soul is scoured out most of the time. Empty. I don’t do what I used to do. I no longer sit by the river, it gives me no comfort. I see it and it moves by soundlessly but it doesn’t touch me. I am continually distracted by the next phone call, the next text. My life right now is a treadmill and a schedule. Driven by the clock.

And yet, I have a best friend who is my emotional rock. She’s a pillar of strength. I’m not going it alone. There will be an end to this all. And God will be ready to embrace them both when it’s their time. Until then we do what we have to do to make things better for them. 

Books remain a joy, God has left me that. I snatch moments now and then. I can’t read at Moms because the questions are nonstop. She is trying so hard to map her world out right now. I feel so sad for her.

Churches remain closed and it amazes me how our whole world has changed since we stood on the beach at Moss Landing on the cusp of 2020. I wonder what has happened to us? I can’t help feeling in some ways this pandemic has revealed the apathy of the American church. How we have changed from the Pilgrims who risked everything to be able to worship freely. How much we have changed from our parents and grandparents generation. 

Have we caved into fear, or is it the right thing for society as a whole to keep everyone “safe?” Was being safe even a consideration of the early church? Have we missed the opportunity to show the world what God can do? It’s hard to know what’s right anymore. I don’t pretend to have the answers. Thankfully, God remains the same. Yesterday today and forever.  On that we can be assured. His mercy remains the same as well, thankfully.

Until then we soldier on and do the best we can. Help each other the best we can. We will get through this. It’s almost a new year and I need to remember who Jesus is. I have felt lost this whole year, but maybe writing can help me find my way back home. 

Whoever is still sticking with my inconsistent blogging, here’s to a hopeful 2021. My prayers and best wishes go with you all.