Highs and Lows

It’s been well over a month since I wrote something on my blog.  It’s been a month of extreme highs and lows.

frozenI left on December 8th for Orlando, Florida. With Traci, my wife and best friend in the world, where we spent 5 days at Disney World (sans kids) celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. We had the time of our life.

We had been planning on this for awhile. We flew to Olando and then rented a BMW to get us around while there. Hey, you only celebrate 25 years once, so why not do it in style. And we looked pretty darn good with the roof open!

We experienced some of the best dining in the world. We went to Epcot one day, but spent the other days enjoying the Christmas decorations everywhere and just doing what we wanted. We enjoyed temperatures in the 80’s while swimming, shopping, relaxing, enjoying the Christmas decorations, meeting Elsa and Anna, eating some more, and simply celebrating all that we overcame and were blessed with over the course of 25 years of marriage.

The photo below was on the evening of December 10th, which was our anniversary dinner. We ate at the California Grille. It was fantastic! At the top of the Contemporary resort with anniversary glitter sprinkled on our table, we enjoyed some of Disney’s finest cooking.

dinnerAfter dinner we went outside to the walkway just behind the window from where we were sitting. Now on the roof of the Contemporary, we watched the fireworks over Magic Kingdom, with the music synchronized to the fireworks. Yah… it was a perfect night!

It was fantastic. Don’t let your 25th simply slip by. It’s too big. Plan to do something memorable.

Getting Ready To Come Home

On the morning of December 12th we were shopping in downtown Disney. We had already checked out of our hotel, but wanted to grab a few, last minute things. I had my basket in my hand, waiting to checkout, when my sister called me. Mom had an apparent heart issue and had been taken to the hospital.

I didn’t know the details yet… but in my heart… I knew. Over the next few hours while we waited to board the plane, I received more details.

Mom had gone into cardiac arrest and was non-responsive, in a coma, on a ventilator, in ICU.

We arrived home from Disney the night of the 12th. I got a few hours sleep, and then got in a rental car to make the 800 mile drive up to Illinois. I arrived in Springfield a bit before midnight on the 13th in the middle of freezing rain and a small blizzard.

I spent some time with my sister in the ICU room, talking with Mom… but she was non-responsive.

I went back to my mother’s house that night and slept for about 4 hours. I awoke the next morning and drove back to the hospital. I gowned-up, and went in and spent more time with Mom.

Late that morning, the doctor spoke with my sister and I, giving us his prognosis. Their tests over the last 48 hours showed that she had no brain function and there was nothing more they could do.

Goodbye

At the age of 75, on December 14th, 1:25 pm, they turned off the machines and removed the tubes that were keeping my mother alive. My mother slipped into one of the most peaceful states I had seen in more than a decade. She rested, and then breathed her last at 1:37 pm.

Over the next few days we went through all the photos and memories, preparing for the funeral. We saw many of our good friends and friends of the family. To be honest, I hate funerals for the pain that they bring, but I love funerals for the relationships that return, seeing so many people that were a part of my mother’s, my sister’s, and my life – people I hadn’t seen in many years.

We buried my mother that week. It was tough beyond measure. I have said “Goodbye” to many people all my life – leaving for college, Africa, getting married, moving to Texas, etc. – but saying goodbye graveside leaves you numb, hollow, and heart-broken.

The photo below is my mother and I sitting at Capital Airport, saying goodbye, waiting for my flight to take me to Zaire, Africa in 1988.

attheairport

But…

But, here is the reality. My mother is alive, more alive than she’s ever been. She has been dealing with diabetes for 33 years. She’s had heart disease for much of that time too. She’s lived a life of quiet pain and physical limitations for much of the last decade, working hard to balance her arsenal of prescription medication.

On December 14th, at 1:37 pm, she left our hands to be welcomed into the Savior’s presence. She met Jesus face-to-face. No more diabetes. No more neuropathy. No more kidney failure. No more heart issues. No more disease.

My mother, as a strong and firm believer and Christ follower, has stepped into eternity and has prepared the way for those of us who remain.

While this is in the context of Christ’s return, we can understand what lies ahead for us believers as we step into eternity:

 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. – Revelation 21:4

Hope. I have never been more aware of that word than I have for the last month. Hope is what we have. It is what we crave.

Here is a photo, my best guess is the age of 2, 1940. My mother and her big brother (my Uncle Harold). This is one of my favorites!

momanduncleharold

Highs and Lows

Here’s the deal… what I experienced this last month was nothing new… for “there is nothing new under the sun.” While it was new for me (25th anniversary and losing a parent), I know that many of my friends have experienced some of these same things. One of my very good friends, Ken, lost his daughter this last summer.

Highs and lows are a part of this life. It doesn’t make the lows easier, but it helps to know that the road you are journeying on is already worn by the many who have already gone before you.

I can say this – how I celebrate and honor the high points in my life is a choice I have been given. It is a freedom and a blessing. I choose this day to love to my wife, my kids, my sister, nieces and nephews, cousins, friends, neighbors, and strangers. It’s a choice, and I won’t brush them aside as common or insignificant.

I will manage the low points in my life through the eyes of hope, grace, and love, founded and rooted in the faith I have in the One who holds all things in His hands.  His grace is sufficient for me so that the power of Christ may rest on me. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

It may also sound strange that I feel blessed for having been able to go through this pain. To feel a loss means you actually had something of value to lose. I am blessed to have experienced a deep loss.

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