Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Last Bath

My dear Great Aunt, whom our family affectionately called Pig, passed away in early December, just a few days shy of our family Christmas gathering also known as "the tree". Pig's husband, Uncle Russell, went to be with the Lord years ago, but he coined the phrase, "See ya at the tree!" We definitely felt the empty places around the tree this year... of those that once gathered with us but who now gather in heaven.

I had never been with someone when they passed from this life to the next, but that time was so sacred. I will never forget it.

In talking with the Hospice Aide, holding Pig's hand or stroking her hair, talking to her or just quietly being there, I had a lot to think about. I knew she was leaving us, we all did – there wasn't a hope that she would wake up and ask for a cup of coffee or ask me why I was there so late like she had done the week prior. Then she had told me to go home to my family. Not now. No, she was tired and ready to go home. I was almost asking God to come and get her quickly, so that she would be free of the body that was betraying her. Free of the pain of letting go. Because she was really doing that – she was letting go of us with each meal she refused, each sip of water that she could no longer accept. Even as she kept back her words, using her strength only to communicate the most important things, she was leaving us. The last word I heard her say was “wonderful”. And forever I think when I say that word or hear someone else say it, I will hear Pig's voice quietly in my ear, “wonderful”.

Nanette, the Hospice Aide, came about six hours before Pig left us. She was such a joy; truly an angel on earth. One of the keenly sensitive and discerning among us. A washer of feet. Early in the evening she shared with me that there seems to be something about the last bath; that each time she has given someone their last bath a change seems to occur. And she didn't pretend that there was something magic about the bath, or that she had any special power or anything. She gave every bit of glory to the Lord, and said she is humbled to be about His work with those close to death and their loved ones. I know it is a calling on her life, and I am ever thankful that she answered.

Back to the bath... I really thought Pig had already had her last bath when Nanette and I were talking. She seemed so close to the end. But at about 10pm, Pig began to moan. They had lots of medication in her to ease the pain, to clear up the fluid building in her lungs, and to ease her coughing. She had been quiet and still for hours. We had been timing her breaths since early in the afternoon. I walked over to the bed and took Pig's hand, and began to sing It is Well and Amazing Grace. Nanette picked up the harmony after a little bit and we sang together. Pig opened her eyes and looked at me during Amazing Grace, and then she relaxed and closed them never to open them again. She was saying goodbye.

I commented that since she had quit talking she had moaned when she had needed a change of clothing, and sure enough that was the case. Pig had not had her last bath afterall. Mom had left a clean gown, and Nanette and I gently and lovingly bathed her and got her changed. Of all things, I was thinking about my great grandmother, whom I never knew, and who was probably the person who had given Pig her first bath soon after she named her Mildred Maxine. Perhaps even before. And I pondered what her thoughts must have been at that time; I am sure they were much like mine the first time I bathed my own daughter, my first newborn. Such love and care; worried about her umbilical chord, careful that the water wasn't too cold or too hot. Thankful when it was over that she hadn't slipped out of clumsy hands! And then peace afterwards as she slept all warm and pink and beautiful. I felt the same looking at Pig. This dear great aunt who had co-grandmothered me and all of us with my Ma-Maw. Who had co-mothered my aunt and my own mother. I felt sure in that moment that just as I had not considered my daughter's last bath the first time I bathed her that my great-grandmother had not considered Pig's last bath or who would be there to bathe her and watch her sleep afterwards. My hope was that she would be proud – that she would know the love that poured out of her daughter to all of her descendants, that we would surround her in response to that love until the very end.

It was some time later; I was alone in the room with Pig crocheting a scarf for a friend. I felt it an appropriate way to quietly pass the time, as Pig had sat patiently with me as a child and taught me the art of yarn, later the art of quilting. And I just thought I'd check the time. It was midnight, the first moment of December 5th, 2008. What would have been Pig and Russell's 67th wedding anniversary had come and gone. Some of us had sweetly commented that perhaps she was waiting to celebrate the momentous occasion in person with him in heaven... but that had not been the case. I walked to her bedside, stroked her hair, and told her what day it was. Then it occurred to me to time her breathing - almost immediately when I told her the day I had seen a change. From 12:02 – 12:03, three breaths. My heart sped up as hers slowed down. Nanette returned to the room, and I said I thought she was on her way. I began quoting from Luke chapter 2, the Christmas story. Nanette began to pray. At 12:04 Pig drew her last breath, and then I watched as the pulse in her neck quietly faded to a stop.

What I wanted then was to see what she was seeing! Hear the angels singing, see Jesus in the middle of the light of His Glory, maybe our other family members lined up to welcome her to heaven - who knows what it's really like. On my end, I just watched her breathing slow. And then she just didn't breath anymore. And even though with all of my heart I wanted her to breath again, I knew that it was her time. I told her I loved her and to go. Go and spend the merriest Christmas of her life – in the arms of her savior.

Pig and Russell, Mam-Maw, Rebecca Lynn. We'll see ya at the tree.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Jirafa Narrates from Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie S. Bober, Chapter 12

John and Abigail Adams were grieving at the loss of their daughter who was stillborn. And the war was getting worse and worse. The congress was thinking that the British were going to attack Philadelphia, but no one could be sure. Finally they fled to Yorktown, Pennsylvania. And then finally congress voted that John Adams and Samuel Adams could take a break and go see their families. They left on the 11th of November, and arrived in Braintree on the 27th. It was 1777.

So John Adams had been away for several years, I don't know how many, maybe a year, but it had been halved into two parts. And he had said that the next time he came back that he would stay for awhile. But he came back and had to go away again for a short period of time to try a law case, but while he was gone Abigail received some letters from Congress that said he was voted to go to France and meet Benjamin Franklin for some reason I can't remember. And then John Quincy, which was their son, asked to go with his father. So Abigail had to get a whole bunch of stuff ready in a short period of time.

Before John left, he gave Abigail a locket of a lonely woman watching a ship go by, leaning on a stone that said, "I yield whatever is is right." Abigail's Uncle Norton lived near where they were going to leave from, so they went there. John and John Quincy then left in a boat called the Boston, to go to France. And his father gave him a notepad to take, a diary type thing. A journal. Four and a half months passed and Abigail thought they were dead because there were rumors that the boat had been seized by the British and every man killed. And also that Benjamin Franklin had been assassinated. But it wasn't so. They couldn't write to her from the boat, because there was no other boat to take the letters back to her. Secondly, many boats were seized by the British, and plus it was winter, so it was harsh weather. So that meant that few letters were able to get through, even though they were writing every time they could get a ship that would take it on. So she was very happy, overjoyed it said, I think, when she got a letter from them. And then Abigail's other son had to go to school about that time, and then Nabby their daughter who was then 14 was begging to go see her father and brother. But Abigail did not let her go.

I can't wait to hear more later, Jirafa!

A Narration from Paco

Paco and I read the first part of Master of the Harvest from Margaret Gatty's Parables From Nature, and this is his retelling of the story thus far:

Once upon a time there was a man and a woman. The man was a farmer. And the man did not like the ground because it was dry. He did not like the sky because it wasn't raining. He didn't like the corn because it didn't poke up yet. And his wife was calm, and she told him to be calm and have faith and hope. The corn seed heard the boss farmer whining and said, "Why is he so whiny? We've done the best we can!" Then it rained, and the corn raised up and grew. And the farmer felt good, but he didn't say thanks to anybody. And his wife didn't feel too good because she was sick, and her husband did not have faith.

Buen Trabajo, Paco!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Some Highlights from the Fall

Okay, partly to wrap up last semester and feel fresh for starting back to school tomorrow, and partly because I am sick and don't feel like doing much - I'm playing with the bells & whistles of the blog world. I created a slideshow - whoohoo! It isn't that exciting, but alas I hope you enjoy it. If you want to read the captions, after clicking the "play" arrow you will see a little conversation bubble at the bottom left of the window - click that & you'll see the captions. I wrote too much on some of them to be able to read the whole thing before it changes - so sorry!

Tomorrow we start with a "special" day because Jirafa has a 10:30 appointment with the orthopedist for his elbow (I can't bring myself to call him the 'orthopedic surgeon' because that implies Jirafa will be having surgery, which we really don't think he will). So after breakfast & chores we'll have our Bible time, which is a hymn, scripture (we're making our way through Proverbs), prayer, and then the Pledge of Allegiance. Our next door neighbor has a 20 ft. flag pole in his front yard, so we go out there to say the pledge, cool eh? The boys have almost learned the pledge in Spanish, so we take turns now doing English sometimes & Spanish sometimes. They haven't done either in almost a month, so it may be slow moving tomorrow. After the appt., we should be able to get a bite to eat with Sr. Smith, put Hermosa down for her nap, and then get our full day of lessons in while she sleeps. We're missing our friends Alice (in Wonderland), George Washington, Robinson Crusoe, Queen Elizabeth, and more! It will be fun to get back into our work.

Glimpses of 2007

Friday, January 4, 2008

Let it Be Resolved...

Queen Shenaynay over at The Beehive has issued a challenge, and I am taking her up on it. You can find her blog in my links, which I have updated to include some fabulous women that I am blessed to count as friends and fellow sojourners in this journey that is homeschooling and life. I encourage anyone reading this to take the time to read "My Resolutions for 1997" at your earliest opportunity. You don't even have to read the rest of my post - hers just sparked mine and it will spark one in you, too, even if you don't have a blog ;o)

I'll preface by saying that her post struck a chord in my soul, because I find myself often explaining to others that while I've made lots of great changes in my eating habits, there are still some I need to make, and that I just haven't had that "the buck stops here" event in my life (like cancer) that makes me do the right thing every time. But I tell ya what, after reading this post, I think I've had it. I think I will let her experience and her willingness to be so transparant with her past 5 months not be in vain - I will vicariously have "that moment" through Queen Bee and resolve to do not just what is better, but what is right.

With that, let it be resolved...

That I will rise each morning before my children, and take a walk at least 4 times per week. It is simply grit that keeps me from doing this consistently - and I have grit so I need to use it!

That I will seek to use my Spanish more - an idea is to join a Bible Study with Spanish speakers. I will also make more of an on-going effort to impart this knowledge to my children - the poor things have something in common with the cobbler's children...

That I will go before the Lord before disciplining my children - not punish them in haste or just seek peace & quiet.

That coffee and sugar have to go. When I have a treat it has to be a treat, not an everyday indulgence. And to do this I am going to remember what Queen Shenayay said, "Every day that you treat your body right counts". It doesn't hurt that Sr. Smith has given up Cokes and started running - he's my hero!

That's it for now. But only because little Hermosa is willing to let me hold her right now, and I don't want to pass that up.