WARNING: This is a very, very long post. I do not expect anyone to read the whole thing. Please do not feel obligated. It is for my own benefit and for the history of my family.
Where do I begin to chronicle the past two weeks? Wow. A lot has happened. I want to chronicle it so that we can look back and see the many, many blessings that were laced throughout the tough times. My dad always says a statement that is very applicable to our past 2 weeks: "Dogs don't bark at parked cars." If you don't understand the implication, it is that Satan wouldn't be bothering us/our family, if we weren't a threat to him. We just have to remember where these troubles come from...give credit where it is due...and not let him get to us to break us down and break us apart.
Let's start back on Sunday, April 11, 2010.
SUNDAY, APRIL 11
Mark and I get up right on time, get the kids and ourselves fed and dressed. We're all ready to leave for church EARLY and this doesn't happen very often. We were in KC visiting Mark's family. It takes basically 30 minutes to get to church, which starts at 8:15, so it was an early morning! We're driving to church when Mark and I both have about half of a second to react to a car that is turning right into the side of our van. That's right. We were hit on the way to church on the week that we were going to be EARLY for once! We get out of the van, call the cops, etc. Everyone in both vehicles was fine and the only thing that Cassie was upset about was that the collision made her drop the comb that she was combing Strawberry Shortcake's hair with. Conrey was only upset that he had to sit in the car the whole time doing nothing.
We make it (at the end) to church and find out that there is no Bible class that day...just a fellowship. Basically, we had gotten up early, gotten the kids all ready for nothing. Fun.
Fast forward an hour or 2 to lunchtime. We were all enjoying our lunch when my phone rang. It was my sister. "Are you where you can sit down?" She sounded nervous, but I thought that it was more of an excited hint to her voice...boy was I wrong! "I need to tell you something...Grandmother had a massive stroke. Darlene (her best friend) found her on the floor of her apartment this morning. They think that she'll only live a few more hours. There is no brain activity and she is unconscious." Wow! You go from enjoying your lunch to wanting to throw up all within a matter of seconds! I talked to her and then my brother and realized that this was a very serious, very grim situation. My parents were headed home from church to load up and head the 10 or so hours up to South Dakota where my mom grew up. I texted my mom that I loved her and she called me very hysterically. I couldn't understand her, but eventually gathered that she was saying, "I'M NOT GOING TO MAKE IT! I'M NOT GOING TO MAKE IT!" That's when the REAL praying began. I started praying my heart out that she would live until my mom could get there to see her...to hug her...to kiss her. She made it up there late that night and was able to talk to her mom, hug her, kiss her, hold onto her.
Little did I know what other things were going on in our family (and extended family) during the course of that day. My mom's best friend's mother was admitted to the hospital with heart issues. Since then, she has been in and out (hopefully out today) and it has been a very trying time for them. My mom and her bf longed to be with each other to help each through the tough time, but the timing was awful for that.
My uncle was in the hospital and there was concern that he might not make it through the serious issues he was dealing with.
This is minor (unless you're Mandy), but while eating fast food, my sister-in-law had a long, coiled-up parasite in her fish. Ick. This was directly after my parents left town and my siblings were bonding together in their stress. Way to add to the stress!
There was torment as I tried to decide if I should rush up there, stay put and wait, go to Omaha to be with my cousins and then travel with them...I didn't know what to do! We stayed in KC through Monday, as Mark was supposed to meet with a guy about a possible job training opportunity (where he could still live in Wichita...don't worry!). That never happened, which was disappointing and frustrating. I decided that I would go home with Mark and the kids. It was tough to watch our car head south down the highway when my heart was already up north. I did laundry and felt well enough to make dinner Tuesday night. That was the 3rd time since Feb 6th that I've been able to do that.
The decision was made on Tuesday to discontinue all fluids/nutrition for Grandmother. There was and had been no brain activity. It had been surmised that the incident (stroke, aneurysm, brain bleed, WHATEVER) had probably happened Friday during the night and she had lay on the floor until Sunday. Tough to hear. She was breathing on her own and her heart was going strong, but that was all. The doctor said that if they kept giving her fluids, she could live for years, but she wouldn't be living. Her brain was dead would not recover.
Tuesday, after joking around with my cousin about needing someone to travel north with me, I posted on my facebook something along the lines of, "Anyone with no committments or responsibilities want to make a 10-hour trip with the kids and me?" Totally joking, I was quite surprised when my cousin, Sharon, called. She said that she'd been meaning to go up there to visit (she has 2 grandmas and a great-grandmother that live there---her g. grandmother was my grandmother's best friend that found her in her apartment). She said that she'd be happy to go with me and would be willing to leave early the next morning. WOW! God TRULY does provide!
I picked Sharon up early that morning and we headed out...after calling Mark to dictate the directions that I had accidentally left at home. HA! We had a great drive up. We enjoyed each other's company and she was a great help with the kids. We got about an hour and a half or so away. You see, South Dakota has a tremendous pheasant population. I had been keeping a sharp eye out all afternoon for them and had had to slow down/dodge many of them throughout the day. That's when the little stinker decided to jump out from the ditch straight into my windshield. I screamed, Sharon jumped, the kids both got freaked out. My windshield, way high up on the passenger side, thank the Lord it was located there, was shattered. It was in one piece for the most part, but shattered. Sharon had teeny-tiny shards of glass all over her. The dash, seat, and floor the same. We were all pretty shaken up, but we continued our drive and arrived in Pierre (say it with me, everyone: PIER. It is NOT pee-air. We do not pee air, we pee pee!) sans any other incidents. On that particular stretch of road, which was about 33 miles or so, we estimated about 500 pheasants. FLOCKS of them were on both sides of the road every few feet. It was incredible. The guy at the autoglass shop in Pierre joked that we would have to pay the state a fine because pheasant season had not yet opened. Let me tell ya, it was WAY overdue!
After dropping Sharon off at her grandma's, I arrived at the hospital to find my grandmother much as I had expected. I did not expect her slacked cheeks/jowls. I did not expect her labored breathing, which had only begun that afternoon. I simply couldn't believe that she was still hanging in there after they had said that she wouldn't live through Sunday and this was Wednesday night. Everyone seemed to be faring well, considering. We spent a bit of time there before going to my uncle's to crash and prepare for the next day.
We made it back up to the hospital just before a senior neurologist came in to evaluate Grandmother. They wanted to be sure that there was still no brain activity. After all, they had taken away any fluids and nutrition and they didn't want the chance of her regaining consciousness and them realizing that they had made the wrong decisions. They wanted to be sure that they had turned over every stone, so to speak. His conclusion was not unexpected, but it was bleak. The absolute only part of her brain that was working was the core of the brainstem that controlled automatic processes...breathing and heartrate. She wasn't hearing, thinking, seeing, feeling, smelling, etc. Everything else was gone. In essence, it confirmed that Grandmother was indeed gone. In my opinion, I believe that she had already been celebrating in heaven as soon as her brain died. I believe that her old body was still functioning as it had for nearly 78 years, but her soul was gone on. I don't know if that is the truth or not, but I'll choose to believe that because it is a beautiful thought.
The doctor joked with my mom and her siblings about my grandmother's heart. Grandmother had always thought that every condition she ever heard of was wrong with her. She was convinced that she had a bad heart. Turns out, it was stronger than average, as it kept pumping over 4 days longer than they thought that it should have! She had many medical books that she referenced often. The dr said that it was a good thing that she didn't know how to use the internet! They would have been in huge trouble if she'd had the world wide web at her fingertips!
It was a long day of watching her chest heave up and down with each breath. Towards the afternoon, her breathing had become a bit more irregular. I took the kids home to nap. While we were sleeping, the siblings were all called to the hospital with the message that the end was approaching. I made it up there and spent 3 or 4 short visits with Grandmother. My cousins and I were taking turns between the kids in the family room and the room with our parents and Grandmother. My last visit in there, Grandmother started pausing 6 seconds or so between breaths. It made your heart stop each time. I quickly left to go back to my babies and my cousins. It wasn't 5 minutes later that a nurse came in telling us that it was all over. Victory in Jesus occurred at 6:46 p.m. on Thursday, April 15th. Grandmother had fought the good fight and her old body finally gave up.
We took turns going back to console our parents and to say our goodbyes. As I left the room that last time, I turned the corner andn almost ran into a gurney with a body bag waiting. My stomach churned and the world took a precarious spin. It was burlap and thick material. The kind of bag that is not designed to allow for breathing. It's occupants don't need to. My grandmother was soon to be that occupant...
Plans were made for Mark, Derin, Dani, and David to head north and I spent the day clinging to my family members. After a trip to Zesto (my favorite place on earth--soft-serve sherbet, as well as other deliciousness), we went to the park. I started feeling crummy and decided to go back to my uncle's before meeting everyone for dinner at the church building. BAD idea. On the way back, I realized that I had about 1.5 seconds before I was going to throw up. I was driving 55 and had nothing to throw up in. I was in the vehicle that we're trying to sell and was not about to get puke all over. In that 1.5 seconds, I decided that I had only one choice. I threw up down my shirt...THREE times... OH MY! I had the kids by myself and didn't know what I was going to do when I got to my uncles. I unloaded them and got them settled with a movie very quickly. I got stripped and in the shower, all the while worrying about them in a non-child-proofed home. Luckily, my dad got there in the meantime and took over. After 30 minutes or so, I was completely fine, though worn out. We decided that the gallbladder had rejected my ice cream and that I did not have the flu, much to my delight!
The travellers got in without incident and we all enjoyed being together to share our grief, to support our momma, and to laugh together...as we always do.
This was another day of family togetherness. We ended up dividing up Grandmother's furniture as to where each thing was going. This was going to be the only time that there would be big, strapping men to help move it and everything has to be out of the apartment by the 30th, so we got a jump on it. Funeral plans were made by the siblings and the rest of us just hung out, exploring the exciting town of Pierre. Just teasing. There isn't much to do there. Oh, I DID get a looong shard of glass stuck into my foot from the windshield. That was fun. Murse David (my brother-in-law, of course), removed it. The anticipation of the day was when we fiiiiinally got to go pick Dustin, Laura, and their kiddos up from the airport. That was the BEST part...the HUGEST blessing in this whole ordeal...getting to see them and meet my beautiful neice, Kiera. If you'll remember, we weren't going to be able to meet her until Christmas. We hadn't seen any of them since Dani's wedding in June, so it was so great to be able to spend Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday with them! Mom and Dad went up when Kiera was born, but the rest of us were anxiously waiting to meet little Kiera. She is precious and such a sweet baby! I loved every minute of holding her and it is going to be a loooong time until Baby C comes in October now that my arms got back into mommy mode!
TO BE CONTINUED...