Monday, February 29, 2016

Mom's Memorial Service - February 27, 2016

My Mom had always been clear about her wishes to be cremated.  That would not have been my first choice for my Mom, but it did work out for the best in the long run.  We were able to spend a week planning her Memorial Service, and it was so nice not to be rushed. 

My Mom had been bed bound for several years, unable to attend church.  However, she loved watching my Sister's church services online every Sunday.  My Mom was very fond of Kingsland Baptist, especially the pastor, Ryan Rush.  She also loved the music led by Josh Stewart.  She would have been thrilled that they were both able to perform her services.  What an amazing job they did!  Truly, I could not imagine a service more fitting for my Mom.  We were able to honor her memory and worship her Savior.  It was perfect.

Wade & Jeff took the reigns on the planning and did such a great job.  We are so thankful for their hard work!  Clayton said a few words about his Gran and prayed the opening prayer.  Angel read Scripture for us.  Becca, my Uncle Bill, and Wade all gave tributes to my Mom.  It was a such a sweet service.  I know that my Mom would have been so pleased with everything.

After the service, Becca had the idea to do a balloon release for the kids.  They got to send their messages to Gran.  It was a neat way for them to say goodbye. 

A couple of the balloons got caught in trees/outdoor lighting.  Pastor Rush ran and got a long tool to try to set it free.  What a sweet man he is!  I will never forget him in his dress clothes jumping and tugging and working with all of his might.  Pastors shepherd their flock in a multitude of ways - and on that day, getting balloons out of the tree was a wonderful way for him to shepherd us.  I'm so grateful for him!
Several of my sweet friends were able to come to be with me.  Oh my goodness, their presence meant so much!  They drove for hours, arranged childcare while they were gone, and sacrificed family time to hold my hand.  I'm so thankful for the tribe of women (these pictured and so many more) that the Lord has been gracious to surround me with in this season.  My girlfriends made me feel like I wasn't alone.  They held me up, when I felt like I was going to crumble.  I just pray and pray that the Lord will give my boys strong friendships.  I love, love, love the sweet girlfriends in my life!
 Gran's Grands  :)
 This sweet girl is such a blessing.  Having a sweet cooing baby around made this process a little easier.  He gives and takes away, for sure.  Blessed be the Name.

Thank you to all of our family & friends that dropped all of their Saturday plans to come and celebrate my Mom's life!  You have no idea how touched we were by your presence or how honored my Mom would be to know that you went to great lengths for her.  We are so, so grateful.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Science Fair 2016 - February 25, 2016

One of the difficult things about losing someone that you love, is that time doesn't stand still because you are grieving.  You may barely be able to get out of bed, but there are still regular life things to do.  I guess that is good, in a way.  You have to keep getting up.  You have to keep getting dressed.  You have to keep feeding the dog.  You just have to.  If you didn't have all of those "to dos" you may be in worse shape, I guess.  Thankfully, my in-laws are super stars and stayed with our kids for several days after my Mom passed away.  Many, many friends brought meals in those first days/weeks as well.  That was amazingly helpful!  People were quick to take as much as possible off of my plate, and I have never felt such gratitude! 

We were knee deep in the busiest part of the school year when my Mom died.  There were projects, and papers, and tests galore.  Oi-vey!  I knew that their teachers would understand, but I also feared getting behind and never being able to catch up.  In God's great mercy, He had prompted me to encourage Clayton to get his Science Fair project done early.  Thank you, Lord, that that was out of the way!

Clayton's project was comparing the germs in the human mouth to those in the canine mouth.  It was 100% his idea, and he did a great job!  I did learn that growing bacteria on petri dishes is tricky without an incubator.  We tried a desk lamp, but it wasn't warm enough.  We tried a heating pad, but it auto shut off after 2 hours.  Finally, we put the petri dishes in a box with an electric blanket and a candy thermometer.  It still had an auto shut off, but it was set to every 10 hours.  So, we would just flip the switch off and back on a few times a day.  It worked out the best of our options, for sure.  :)

It was a fun first Science Fair for my boy!  So proud of him for persevering even during a difficult time.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

My Mom - February 21st, 2016

On February 21st, my sweet Mama went to Heaven.  She had battled MS for many decades, and her health had declined drastically in recent years.  She had a cough/respiratory illness at Christmas time.  With her immobility and inability to get to the doctor, the illness progressed to pneumonia.  That infection is what ultimately ended her life.  While this was an intensely painful experience, I could see how, over & over again, the Lord was so gracious to us! 

*  The Lord chose to save my Mama as a child.  Over the years, she had spoken often of Mrs. Gussie at her home church of Beulah Baptist Church in Louisiana.  Mrs. Gussie led my Mom to the Lord at Vacation Bible School when she was little.  I am 100% certain of her salvation and her eternal Home in Heaven!  I have never been so grateful for the assurance of Heaven!  Thank you, Jesus, for prompting my Mom's heart and allowing for us to all spend Eternity together.   That is the only thing that makes our Earthly goodbye bearable.

*  God was good to my children in the way that He introduced them to death.  He took a family pet (our Sydney Dog) first in January of 2014.  Then He called our sweet Grandaddy (the boys' great grandfather) Home in September of 2015.  Then He allowed my Mom to leave her Earthly body in February of 2016.  The fact that my kids had worked through these deaths progressively made it more bearable for their little hearts.  I am so grateful for the way that He orchestrated that for my kids!

*  I was able to see my Mom almost monthly for the last 6 months of her life.  Typically, we go to Houston 3-4 times a year.  However, in August 2015 - February 2016 I made monthly trips for various reasons.  In August, Becca was in preterm labor and Jeff was going to church camp with Angel & Jonathan.  Owen & I went to Houston to help Becca with Seth.  In September, Baby Hannah was born, so we went to Houston to meet our new niece.  In October, we made the trip again for Hannah's Baby Dedication/Jonathan & Mom's birthday.  In November, we came to town for Thanksgiving and again in December for Christmas. 
     My mom was hospitalized for pneumonia on February 7th.  Over the next few days, she was moved to the ICU and placed on a ventilator.  On February 9th, I drove to Houston to see her.  She was ventilated, but completely coherent.  We played a bit of charades to figure out what she was trying to say throughout the day.  ;)  She kept squeezing my hand - rhythmic, strong squeezes.  After awhile, I figured out that she was squeezing my hand once, pause, four times, pause, three times, pause.  Ah, of course - 1, 4, 3!  She & my Dad have used those numbers since they were dating to say I Love You.  She was telling me that she loved me!  When I guessed that, she smiled and nodded.  What a gift to "hear" that from my Mom one last time!
     After that, I showed her pictures and videos of the kids that I had on my phone.  She smiled and laughed and squeezed some more 1-4-3s.  She was crazy about her grandkids!  At the end of the day, I told her that I had to go.  We both got teary.  I told her that I loved her and kissed her forehead one last time.  I had no idea that I would never get to see her conscious again...  That visit is etched in my heart.  Such a precious memory...  A true gift.

*  I had been studying the Fruits of the Spirit in Bible Study this semester.  The week that my Mom passed away, I had been studying Peace for 5 days.  All of the Scriptures about Peace were fresh in my mind when I needed them most.  Thank you, Jesus!  I know that only You could put that together! 

*  This is a little blessing, but it was actually huge to me.  I had desperately needed new tires, but we had been dragging our feet because they are so darn expensive.  In December, my state inspection was up.  The tread on my tires was showing, so it wouldn't pass inspection without a new set of tires.  I was so frustrated at the time!  Spending money on tires at Christmastime ticked me off!  But... The Lord knew that those tires were about to get a work out driving to and from Houston.  If we hadn't replaced those tires, I may have had a blow out and missed being there when my Mom passed.  A frustration turned into a massive blessing.  How many times does that happen in life???

*  Perhaps the biggest display of the Lord's goodness to me was the fact that I was able to be with my Mom when she died.  A surgeon was very blunt with my Sister and told her that a recent complication would likely be fatal for my Mom on the Sunday that she passed.  Becca was sensitive/intuitive enough to call and tell me that I needed to come.  I am so glad that she did!  I was able to leave our house around 2:00.  I got to Sugarland at 6:45 and quickly realized that my Mom was nearing her final hour.  She was no longer conscious and her breathing was very labored.  I was able to sit next to her and hold her hand for the next hour.  I cried and talked to her the whole time, laying my head on her arm.  I told her that she had fought this wretched illness so well.  I told her that I would see her again in Heaven and that it was okay to go.  I told her that I would miss her, but that I would see her again one day.  At 7:45, they came in to do an Xray.  My Dad, Sister, Jeff, and I all went into the hallway.  As soon as we left the room, the monitors started alarming and they called a Code Blue.  We knew that her broken body had been through enough, so I went in the room and made it clear to the staff that we didn't want for them to do compressions.  They stopped everything and let us sit in the quiet room - just my Dad, Becca, Jeff, and myself.  I clenched her hand tightly until she drew her last breath.  What a gift to be able to be there for the last breath of the woman who was there when I took my first!  I will never stop praising the Lord for letting me be there.  Never ever.

*  In the wake of my Mom's death, our family & friends rallied around us and showed us a depth of kindness & compassion that I had never experienced.  We were all in shock and unable to make even the simplest decision.  So, people just swooped in and made decisions for us.  We were loved so well!  People prayed for us, sent sweet messages and cards, fed us, clothed us (Literally!  My best friend brought me 10 dresses that she had bought for me to choose one for my Mom's funeral.  Precious love on display!), sent flowers & plants, and, most importantly, showed up!  That was the biggest take away that I got from all of this.  When someone you love is hurting, just do something!  Big or small, it doesn't really matter.  Anything that you do will be perfect.  But, not saying anything or doing anything is hurtful.  In the future, I am going to try to love others the way that I was loved.  Being loved extravagantly when you are in the midst of deep sorrow is incredibly meaningful.

Becca sent me a screenshot of this Facebook message.  I don't know this gentleman (I blurred his name and picture to protect his privacy), but his memories of my Mom... wow.  He touched my heart when I was at my very lowest.
I found this article from when my Mom retired.  She was such a gifted teacher...
 I snapped this picture of my Drew on the way to my Mom's visitation.  He always has his nose in a book, that boy.  On this particular day, he was reading his latest copy of the Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse magazine.  My Mom had given my kids a subscription to that magazine years ago and has renewed it every year.  I knew that my Mom would have been tickled to know how much he enjoyed it.  He was still benefiting from her gift, even after she was gone.
 I always thought that flowers at a funeral were kind of excessive.  Boy, was I wrong!  Those flowers meant the world to us!  Knowing that people went to the trouble and expense of ordering flowers was so very precious to us.  Reading cards and knowing the thought behind each and every bloom made us feel loved.  Plus, flowers just make you happy!  Those arrangements brought us such joy in the midst of heartache.

 Our sweet Hannie wore a dress that my Mom had smocked for Becca & I when we were babies to Mom's Visitation.  I know that made my Mom smile a big smile from Heaven!  So, so special!
 Sweet Diana...  She had taken care of my Mom and cleaned her house often in the final years of her life.  I will never forget coming home to my Mom's house the day after she passed away.  We had been at the funeral home making horrible end of life decisions.  When we got to the house, Diana was there cleaning.  She was mopping the kitchen floor and sobbing.  I lost it.  To see her working so hard and mourning my Mom all at the same time.  What a precious angel she is!
 After the Visitation, the kids all wrote cards to their Gran.  My sister had arranged for their messages to be attached to balloons and released after her services.  Their childlike, heartfelt messages to their Gran are priceless to me.

 Drew wrote his all by himself.  No adults were even in the room.  Oh, my heart...
  My Clayton...  He gets it.  So proud of that kid.
 My Mom's 3 Girls
I know that this blog post was a little weird.  I probably overshared.  I am just so worried that I will forget, though.  I want to remember every detail, and this is the best place that I can store those memories.  I call this blog "my brain" and refer to it often when the details are fuzzy.  I definitely want to remember everything that I can about my Mom.  It is important to me.  She was such a gem, my Mama!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Valentine's Day Pink & Red Dinner - February 14, 2016

We enjoyed our annual Pink & Red dinner for valentine's Day this year.   I hope that my guys all know how much I love them!  It is fun to express how much I adore them through fun decorations and a festive meal.  It is one of my favorite days of the year.  :)

Monday, February 15, 2016

First Grade Manners Ball - February 12, 2016

At our little school, our 1st Graders participate in a manners ball in February.  It is such an adorable event!  The kids dress in fancy clothes, practice their manners, dance to a song that they have learned, recite an acrostic poem, and enjoy a breakfast buffet.

 Drew pulling out his partner's chair.

 Cute little line dance.  :)
The kids wrote an acrostic poem using the letters in their name.  Drew used his "long name."  A - Awesome  N - Ninja  D - Dog Lover  R - Really Strong  E - Energetic  W - Wacky
 Sweet little table of friends
 All of the 1st Graders in their Sunday best
 The Carpenters can't pass up a good photo booth
 We love our precious Drew so much!