Posted in Death&Dying, Grief, Inspiration

Anytime, Any Place: Journeying Through Grief

I drove a familiar route to my eyebrow touch up appointment this afternoon, passing two special places. IHOP and Bucharest Grill.

Neither are my favorite places to dine–well, IHOP used to be–but after November 2017 they will forever be in my heart. That was the weekend Kevin and I attended our first Weekend to Remember hosted by Family Life Today Ministry. I can hardly put into words how excited I was to be there, how perfectly God aligned everything so that we could attend. That’s a story for another post.

Nevertheless, the event was in the Renaissance Center, downtown Detroit, which is full of dining options. There was no reason for us to have to leave the venue to get something to eat. But that was #myKevin. He always did things “his” way.

Having a limited supply of portable oxygen with us for the weekend was of no concern to him. He wanted to get out of the hotel, into his truck, and into the streets so that’s what he did. Here’s what was involved: filling up 4-5 portable tanks, me pushing him in a wheelchair through the hotel down to the valet to retrieve the car, then driving to wherever, getting back into the car, back to valet, wheelchair ride for him (drive for me) back to our room. The words on the page don’t do it justice how tiring this was. It was totally against what I had in mind for our weekend. I expected the most walking we would do would be from our hotel room to the workshop sessions, just a floor below. I figured whatever food we wanted we could grab in between sessions or have delivered to our room via room service. I was willing to pay that cost for us to have relaxing weekend.

Relaxing? Hmph. Kevin wasn’t having it! But I was always the one accused of not being able to sit still. Anyway, we left the hotel 3-4 times over that weekend. It was ridiculous! I was furious in the pit of my belly but I said nothing. We were going to have a good weekend. I was determined.

Back to the restaurants.

IHOP was our first stop on day one. Bucharest Grill is where we went for lunch on the second day after the morning sessions. Regardless of how irritated I was–and boy was I–there was peaceable joy in my heart being in any time and space with him. As life does, I had no idea that would be the last time I’d go to those particular places with him. Now that time is forever etched in my mind. Not the irritation of it but the memory of sitting across from him enjoying a meal. The memory of him connecting with our IHOP waiter over a mutual interest they shared. The memory of watching him walk out of Bucharest Grill with our food in hand as I waited outside in the truck, probably praying that we weren’t late getting back for the afternoon session. Lol.

I know there are memories all over this city awaiting their time to fall upon me. Anytime, any place. I’m ready for them, my box of tissue just a reach away.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Posted in Death&Dying, Faith, Grief, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Comfort in the Midst of Grief

It’s Saturday night. Ten o’clock but my clock is set for eleven in preparation for daylight savings time. I’m laying on the right side of the bed–my side of the bed–with a cup of warm lemon ginger tea on the nightstand in the special cup given to me by a dear friend in my first days of settling into my family’s temporary home.

If Kevin were still with me, I’d probably still be in bed or laying on the couch, in for the night. Even before sickness invaded our lives, we weren’t a couple that engaged in too much night life. Though he was the life of any party he went to, he was really a homebody, where he could be himself. So sitting up in my bed, binge watching the Murder She Wrote marathon on the Hallmark Channel is not out of the ordinary for me on a Saturday night. However, tonight  the volume on the T.V. is turned down low as I sing along with some of my favorite R&B jams playing on the Whitney Houston station on Pandora radio.

Kevin loved to listen to me sing.

“Girl, I love to hear you sing,” he’d said since the first time I sang with him in my car. I was singing Tamia’s song, Last First Kiss. He said that was the day he knew I was a keeper.

It was no accident that I was listening to that song when Kevin got in the car. We’d been seeing each other for a couple of months by that time and I had fallen so hard for him. It’d been quite some time since I’d felt so strongly about a man.

No lyrics ever rang so true as those did for how I felt about him then and throughout our relationship:

“When it comes to you I wouldn’t change a thing…I wouldn’t even change the things I could change. ‘Cause babe you’re perfect, perfect to me, simply means that you’re perfect for me…”

I never mistook Kevin’s feelings about my singing. He said he loved to hear me sing, not  necessarily that I could sing particularly well. The love he had for me made my singing  music to his ears. He was the one with the real singing talent.

Now, alone in my bedroom, turning pages of photo album filled with pictures of us, I’m singing my heart out, comforted that Kevin is resting well. Comforted by the love that we shared, the love that will always be in my heart.

Posted in Christianity, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Spiritually Speaking– Give Us ThIS Day

Very early in my relationship with the man I eventually married, he disclosed a medical condition that he was diagnosed with some five years earlier. Dermatomyositis, a rare inflammatory disease, in which symptoms include muscle pain, muscle tenderness, fatigue, and possible lung problems. After being treated for the symptoms he was experiencing at the time, he became symptom free and disproved the claim by the doctor that he’d be in a wheelchair within five years. Fast forward another five years, symptoms returned, likely ignited from the constant travel he was doing with his job. Fast forward another few years and now he’s been diagnosed with a life threatening lung disease for which there is known cure. The week of Christmas his lung doctor informed us that she doesn’t foresee him qualifying for the lung transplant that he needs to save his life in time before the disease ends his life. She advised us to call Hospice for Palliative Care.

Merry Christmas, right?

By God’s grace we still had a wonderful holiday. We hugged more, gazed into each other’s more. Reminisced on our time together. No matter what had transpired between us throughout the years, we always enjoyed holiday time with our families. Since it could be his last Christmas with us, my husband dazzled us in the kitchen: corned beef and cabbage, pot roast and carrots, crablegs. Everything was delicious!

“You could’ve been doing this all the time, SIR.” I said with a wide grin on my face but very serious.

My husband is standing toe to toe with his mortality. In turn, that means I am too. Over these last several months that we’ve been dealing with my husband’s health challenges, he has said too many times than I care to count, “I’m dying, Char.” “I might not be here tomorrow.” Specifically during this holiday season, “This might be my last (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve).

The stinging in my heart is always the same and so is my response. “Honey, tomorrow is not promised to any of us. We have to enjoy and be blessed in this day that we’ve been given.”

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalms 118:24 KJV)

“Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matt 6:11 KJV)

“Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought of the things of itself.” (Matt 7:34 KJV)

God gives us our lives in daily increments. Not weeks, months, and years. In our human nature, giving little thought to the many possibilities of death that we face in the world every day, we make plans for the future. Our short term and long term goals. Where we our next home to be or our next car. Where we’re going to vacation to next summer. In just this first few days of 2016, some people already have the entire year planned out.

It’s nothing wrong with being hopeful for the future, but God’s message to us is clear. We only have today, right now. Not five minutes, not an hour, not five hours from now. Right now. Anything else that follows is God’s grace.

So although my husband is dealing with this life threatening disease, I encourage him (and myself and friends and family) to live each day as though it were our last. Because it could be. I thank God each day that I wake up. I thank Him the same for my loved ones and friends and I encourage you all to do the same.

On this first Sunday of 2016, I say “HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Posted in Caregivers, Fitness, Health, Lifestyle

Wellness Wednesday For Caregivers

Yes, I have a particular interest in caregiving these days. Perhaps because I fell into the role about eight months ago. And even in that short time I can attest to the devastating effects it can–NO, it does take on the caregiver’s life. At forty years old, a divorced, married, divorced, and married again mother of two, I’ve experienced my share of ups and downs and this, is, by far, the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to deal with.

But there’s good news!

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President Obama declared November 2015 the first National Family Caregiver Month and the Internet is splattered with resources to help family caregivers, first take care of themselves, so that they are better prepared to take care of their loved one.

So for my Wellness Wednesday post, I’d like to share some of the things I’ve implemented in my life is to avoid burnout and live while I’m helping my sick loved one.

  1. Going to the doctor for myself. I’ve never been to so many doctor offices in my life. And that’s including my children’s’ well baby exams and impromptu urgent care visits. But once I realized that I needed to get involved with my husband’s medical care, I started attending every doctors’ appointments. Several months had gone by before I realized I hadn’t made time for my own annual physical!
  2. Make the most of my time. I’m a caregiver who also works a full time job. Since home is also a place of work–it kind of already was being a wife and mother–I tried to get as much done during my nine hours away from home. I try to write or read during my lunch time or other down time at work. I use breaks for exercising (.i.e. walking or hula hooping, stretching, or dancing).
  3. Have some fun. Honestly, it took me some time to not feel guilty when I had to get out and have some fun that didn’t involve my sick loved one. I felt like I was being selfish, leaving him home. But a light bulb went off in my head when I realized that when my loved could get out without me to enjoy himself, he did just that and didn’t appear guilty about in the least. So why wouldn’t I? Besides, whether sick or not, each of us only has one life to live. A caregiver can’t give theirs up completely because their loved one is sick.
  4. Pamper yourself. Hair appt. Manicure/pedicure. Massage. Facial. In caregiving, you’re doing all if not most of the giving. You must take time out to let someone do something for you. Minimum once a month.
  5. Pray/Meditate. This should be at the top of the list. God is a healer, a comforter, a way maker; your strength in times of weakness. EVERYDAY you must engage in time with Him. Start and end your day with thanksgiving and praise because, believe it or not, your situation could be worse.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

(c) LaCharmine (L.A.) Jefferson 2015