Monday, July 25, 2011

Preparing for the Journey

My dear mother-in-law, Queen Darl, is at the end of her journey here on earth. She has been in hospice care for about four months, after a loose prognosis of "months" to live. The grandchildren have been coming in for several weeks for a last visit. A week-ago-weekend, Charming and I went for a visit. Last Wednesday, I went with Blackeyed Susan, Alvin Fernald, and Don Quixote. Forget-me-not also came with one-year-old Tiger Lily, whom Grandma had never seen.

Grandma held court from her recliner. We gave her the news of the summer. She shared her peanut-butter and jelly sandwich with toddling Tiger Lily. We watched the Cubs game for awhile. Every once in awhile she would mention her situation, saying things like, "can you believe we're here already?"

By Friday she had taken a turn. A hospital bed was brought in, along with other equipment. Her episodes of incoherency were a little more frequent. We decided to come up again Saturday evening.

I was reading a Family Manual, published by the Hospice people. It told what to expect between three months and one month before death; then between one month and one week; and then in the days before death. I wanted to tell you two things I learned, that were so, so beautiful.

"You may notice your loved one often dropping off to sleep. However, they may not be sleeping. They are "doing business" with themselves." They are getting their life in order, assessing their life, determining if it was what they wanted their life to be, preparing for the journey to come. And later...

"You will notice that your loved one eats less and less, and eventually may stop eating altogether. But do not confuse this with starvation." Especially if they are a person of faith, their spiritual beliefs are becoming the focus of everything, and they no longer need food: their body is being sustained by their faith. They are literally "more there than here."

Aren't those beautiful thoughts? God made us so that we can be perfectly prepared to make the journey home. So many times people are sent to the hospital at the last, and medicated and fussed over so much that the person can't be alone with their own thoughts. This is why the hospice experience is so wonderful--it is truly "death with dignity."

Darl is going through some of the things on the last list, the one called "in the final hours/days." We had good, good visits this weekend, so if we don't quite make it when we're called again, it will be okay. We are just two hours away, and get almost hourly updates from her daughter Winnie.

One more thought: remember I told you that Charming was reading Plato on our vacation. One thing Plato wondered. If so many people believed that there was an afterlife, why, when the time came to face it, were people uneasy? Death should not be an enemy. Of course, we know that Jesus conquered death for all who believe. We have no fear of death. Our dear Darl says that she is ready for "the next phase of her life." Like I said, more "there" than "here."

How beautiful.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


This is Lake Huron, from the tippity-top of the Thumb of Michigan. A perfect view for thinking in the morning, and an unhindered view for God's Sunset Show every evening.

I'm more the morning-type. The colors are "cool"-er. Most everybody is still in bed, so the thinking is better. (tho' we never miss the Sunsets--all evening activities are scheduled around it.)

The wonderful cabin, just a little slope-y hill and eleven steps down to the beach. One of the grandfathers built it in the late 40s or early 50s. Completely knotty pine inside, with all of the dressers and beds built-in. Lots of cupboards and crannies to make it oh-so-cozy.

My favorite place, the yard-swing, in the yard in front of the year-round house Grandpa built, I'm thinkin' in the 70s. The house is next-door to the cabin.

Never saw these before. They are like reverse-anthills. Funnel-shaped, they were most often found next to an anthill, but these were all around the base of an oak tree. Charming says they are home to spiders that trap unsuspecting ants on their way home from work.

The view of the Lake from "my" swing. See why I love to think here?

This is the deck which is actually the roof of the boathouse. These are front-row seats for the sunset. And for the fireworks show that Alvin Fernald put on, down on the beach.

What can you do to pass the time while in the Thumb of Michigan? Thumb-wrestle, of course! Here are Blackeyed Susan and Violet, who was able to join us this year.

The Grand Idea that didn't work. Charming proposed that we play EuchreForDishes every night. The losers would have to do dishes all the next day. Only we never got to euchre until the last night!

Violet and I spent hours--simply Hours--talking. And never got half-done. (do women ever get "done" talking? I don't think so!) We went three times to the next-town-over for ice cream at the general store. They are known for the biggest ice cream scoops. I had the "baby" size, and it was softball sized. I almost couldn't eat it. How Alvin got through the "single" (three scoops) I'll never know...

I took books along, natch. A Grace Livingston Hill romance, old and familiar. A find-a-word puzzle book. A book about Haunted Tales of the Great Lakes. That fizzled--the stories were not very good and the writer not very good, either. A book I got from the library: Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living. You know, books you take on vacation. Do you know what Charming took? Plato on Immortality. (1873)

Beach reading? Really?

The beach campfire didn't happen, unfortunately. Too much wind on the two nights we had left it open for. So I brought home the s'mores stuff, and Alvin and Susan will have a few friends over and use our little backyard fireplace. But not this week--near 100 all week. I will miss those 70's from vacation.

A blessed respite. Refreshing and renewing. All the good stuff. Thank you, Father, for all Your blessings to us!