Song by MercyMe, from their Lifer Album, which I can’t stop listening to.
Maybe one or more of you needs to hear these words today. Scroll down for the video.
There’s a ghost. There’s a ghost inside of me. Not like those draped in old bed sheets, saying trick or treat.
Different. Oh, this ghost is different. Not one that leaves me scared to death, but puts my fears to rest.
Ohhh..ohh..holiness keep haunting me. Ohhh…ohh…you are my hope, you are my peace.
Ironic in a way, I’m no longer afraid. And a ghost is to blame.
There’s a ghost. There’s a ghost inside of me. Not something from a campfire story, where I’m terrified to sleep.
Opposite. This ghost is quite the opposite. He came just like a welcome friend and I was comforted.
Ohhh..ohh..holiness keep haunting me. Ohhh…ohh…you are my hope, you are my peace.
Ironic in a way, I’m no longer afraid. And a ghost is to blame.
Not afraid. I’m not afraid!! No longer afraid.
Lead me through the darkness. Lead me through the unknown. Ohhh…lead me Holy Ghost. Lead me through the darkness. Lead me through the unknown. Ohhh…lead me Holy Ghost. Lead me through the darkness. Lead me through the unknown. Ohhh…lead me Holy Ghost.
Friday morning, my oldest son texted me the following-
How do you tell someone their father only has a week to live?
This was in reference to his father-in-law, Ron, who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer a few months ago and whose body, in the last couple of weeks, has been slowly deteriorating. The question raised was from a diagnosis from the Hospice nurse.
I called him to talk, relaying the following words,
As long as everyone knows death is coming, there is no way a living person can determine when death will arrive. Only God can do that. And only when the person surrenders.
This morning, God extended His hand, and Ron surrendered, taking a leap into faith, as he was finally welcomed home.
However, Death doesn’t just show up when a person’s life is coming to an end. Death is with us every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every month and of every year of our lives. It is because of Death we experience change,
ALL THE TIME.
Yet despite Death’s intrusive ways, we can be assured that every day we are alive and breathing, we have the opportunity to resurrect ourselves from the ashes of defeat and surrender to what is. Now that doesn’t mean we let go of hope. We don’t. But more than ever, we need to grasp onto the strings God is trailing from the heavens, and know, no matter what, when we leap into faith, no storm will ever be able to keep us down. For
Faith does not make things easy. It makes them possible. -Luke 1:37
The grandest proof of this is when Jesus, brutally beaten till blood wept from his wounds, crucified, mocked, then laid to rest behind a boulder, which was put in place to prevent His disciples from ‘coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone He came back to life’ (Matthew 27:64), rose from the dead.
This is undeniably amazing and miraculous, especially when this event, which occurred more than 2000 years ago, has continually instilled belief, and surrendering to faith in thousands upon thousands. Yet, there was also another resurrection that I never realized, till today, as I was reading through Chapter 27 of the Gospel of Matthew.
According to Matthew 27:50-53, after Jesus died, an earthquake shook the earth, splitting apart ‘the curtain secluding the Holiest Place in the Temple,’ breaking rocks and opening tombs.
Yes, you read correctly,
resulting in many men and women who had died being brought back to life.
They traveled to Jerusalem, appearing to ‘many people there.’ Can you imagine not only seeing Jesus but also a loved one, who had died and been buried, now resurrected, and knocking at your door? Talk about a disruption to life. It would certainly surpass what we are currently facing with COVID.
Resurrections, of any kind, are lessons teaching us that surrendering to Death with our faith intact, as Minister Julia Huttar Bailey, from Trinity Episcopal Church, spoke in this morning’s ZOOM service, allows to
Take Heart. Trust in Jesus, the I am. And have no fear.
I believe despite the grief being rained on my son and my daughter-in-law and her family, Ron has been resurrected into a brand-new being, and is now gloriously dancing with the Lord.
Yet, despite Death’s continuous invasion of our lives, we can rest in the knowledge that when we choose to grasp on to the hand of Jesus, we will never walk alone.
And because of the gift of resurrection, all of us, with hope, courage and faith will rise, stronger, more capable and less fearful of Death’s presence in the ever changing minutes, hours, days, months and years of our lives.
This is a post to the many givers who are providing care to parents or other family members. And some woes I am having a difficult time letting go.
First, a HUGE hug of support to those of you who have unselfishly stepped up to provide care and help out. It was probably something that came up suddenly and/or something you never imagined you would be doing. Sometimes it is rewarding. Other times it sucks! It is stressful as hell and burdensome. Especially when the phone rings in the middle of the night or if you are the only one doing the caregiving. It is costly if you are assisting with finances or your parents or family members need medical assistance and devices which help them live with dignity and a fulfilling life, or are in assisted living or a facility which can provide round the clock care. It is a also a tremendous sacrifice resulting in not much time for yourself, your immediate family, your friends or things you want to do in your lifetime. I know. I have been a caregiver for over 25 years.
My caregiving days began when my grandfather died. At that time my grandmother needed help as she wasn’t able to drive. Despite my grandmother having 1 son, 4 daughters and several grandchildren, my mom and I were the only ones who helped on a regular basis. It wasn’t until my grandmother needed chemo treatments for her colon cancer that others came out of the woodwork to provide assistance. This, only after a request was put out for volunteers.
After my grandmother’s death, my caregiving days came to a halt. However, as my parents aged into their seventies, I realized some help was needed with stuff around their home. As they got older and their health began to wane, my caregiving increased. I remember my dad commenting, ‘ You are the only one who helps.’ Unfortunately my siblings, a brother, 5 years older than me and a sister, 18 months younger than me, choose not to frequent my parent’s home on a regular basis, unless it was convenient for them or they wanted something. I often think what my dad must have felt, knowing he wasn’t as important to his other children. My siblings excuse for not taking time? They were just too busy.
That excuse became my siblings mantra, especially my brother, whom I have ALOT of resentment towards. As my dad was dying, my brother carried on with his wedding plans to his 2nd wife. The day my dad died, June 18, was the day my brother got remarried. That was also the day the only family members who showed up at my dad’s bedside were my mom, my son and me.
As a consequence, every year, on June 18, I have to listen my mom lament over how awful it is that my brother has to be reminded of my dad’s death on his wedding anniversary. But that’s not the only reminder my brother has. My dad was buried on June 30 because the church was booked where my mom wanted the funeral service. This date is also my brother’s birthday. I find both these instances quite interesting because I believe my dad had a hand in choosing them as well as having the last word. Kind of a ‘f**k you’ to my brother, who was rarely around when my dad was alive. Days meant for celebration quickly turned into events reminding my brother to NEVER forget my dad.
Flash forward to today. My mom is 92 years young, lives on her own, is spunky as ever and a hoot to be around. Like my grandmother she no longer drives. Thankfully she made that decision.
Within the last year or so, my sister finally started helping out. She stays the night, at my mom’s house, 2 times a week, orders things through the mail, like jigsaw puzzles, and picks up items at the grocery store. While I used to help out 2-3 times a week, I now come once a week, with occasional weeks here and there where I take time off.
I learned to take time off when my siblings weren’t helping and my mom continued to keep me up to date on what they were doing in their personal lives. It irked me so much that they were continuing on with their lives, while mine was snagged in the web of caregiving. It was then I knew if I didn’t start making time for myself that things I wanted to do would not happen until after my mom died. Something I wasn’t willing to sacrifice or put off any longer.
As a result of decreasing my caregiving visits, my sister gradually started helping out, resulting in the time she puts in today. Despite this I still harbor some resentment towards her because in the past she has done the same thing, petering out after awhile due to a number of reasons like going on vacation, work schedule, being sick, family issues with her kids, etc. So it is always in the back of my mind that she will abruptly stop, leaving me to be the solitary caregiver again. And I have so many things I am working on in my personal life that I don’t want to devote my time to making my mom THE top priority like I did in the past.
After 7 years of being divorced, moving rapidly towards being an empty nester and being in a place of peace, I developed a new life with new chapters to dive into to continue my story. However heartless this sounds, it is also the truth, that at my age I want to enjoy however many years I have left finding a job where my passion and my purpose harmoniously collide, traveling, taking online courses and workshops to keep learning and other things. On the other hand, my mom has been able to fulfill the many opportunities that came her way, from being a stay at home mom to participating in a weekly neighborhood Bible study to caring for her parents to traveling around the United States with my dad, and having a wonderful marriage as well as many others. Not that I wish for her to die. Far from it!!! I have just reached a time in my life where I have the freedom, after years of caregiving and being a mom, to chasing down my dreams, walking through the many open doors of opportunity and finally being able to make my needs, my wants and my desires a priority.
I also deeply feel that it’s time my brother shelf his selfishness and get with the program in helping my mom more often instead of every other month. Or his most recent visits which occurred twice in the last 3 months. Although my mom keeps reminding me that he does call her every so often. Yeah like that does any good. Especially during this pandemic period when elderly adults are being HIGHLY encouraged to stay home instead of gallivanting to the grocery store or other places. I firmly believe if my brother was the only surviving caretaker, my mom wouldn’t be alive today.
It is EXTREMELY frustrating that my brother doesn’t find it important enough to not only spend time with my mom but help. Especially after my mom ridicules her brother for doing the same thing when he and my grandmother were alive.
And yes I have let my mom know my feelings about the way my brother treated my dad and treats her. She got very defensive, resulting in excuses for my brother’s behavior.
I am at the point that I am looking for jobs not only in my local area but also in other states so I can be relieved of my responsibility towards my mom and just worry about myself.
Yeah I know. Some of you are thinking what a terrible daughter I am and wishing guilt on me if my mom suddenly dies. Others are nodding their heads yes, but racked with guilt for even agreeing with me.
As stated previously, I don’t wish for my mom to die. Matter of fact, when the time comes I will not only be sad but also really pissed off. I do really enjoy the time with my mom and am glad for being able to do so.
Being a caregiver, for the most part, is invigorating and beautiful and certainly one of the best ways to give love unconditionally. However it is also challenging, tiring, and one that can cause burdensome woes and resentments towards those who have the ability to step in but choose not to.
So the moral of the caregiver story?
Keep on keeping on.
Realize the sacrifice you are making will have a lasting impact on those who are still alive and a lasting impression on you after they are gone.
Don’t let guilt and shame overwhelm you when you feel burdened and unappreciated and at your wit’s end.
Take time for you so you don’t burnout. Whether it is taking a walk, reading, praying, or just being still in the moment.
Talk, talk, talk about what you are feeling regarding the experience and life you are living. Writing about it also helps. No matter what, don’t let anger or resentment or frustration get the best of you.
Be proud of yourself. Caregiving is hard mentally, spiritually and physically. There will be bad days. There will be good days. There will be days so awesome they will carry you to the next and the next and the next.
Lastly, be compassionate. The ones you are caring for may not have extended the same to you. Regardless, it’s your chance to make a difference by helping the other person to heal a wound that may have been festering for years.
As for my siblings? I pity them for not choosing to spend time with my dad when he was alive. However, I am grateful my sister is spending time with my mom. I know my mom is elated as well to have the opportunity to get closer to my sister. And I am happy for both of them. On the other hand, my brother made his choice years ago and is continuing to follow the same path. I can’t change who he is nor can I influence his behavior. At some point, he will ultimately have to live with the consequences of his actions, whatever those may be.
In the end, after my mom is gone, I know I won’t have regrets regarding my time with her. Consequently I will be able to live without guilt driving a spike through my soul.
Today I needed to vent. Tomorrow I need to be the best caregiver I can be.
Fear of the unknown. Fear of what others think. Fear of following our heart out of the comfort zone. Fear of saying a GREAT BIG YESSSSS!!! to a risky decision we are making to ensure a better future. Fear of love. Fear of rejection. Fear of taking the mask away, being our total true selves and not giving a damn whether we are accepted or not. Fear of professing our faith. Fear of living.
Is hauntingly driven by stress, kept alive through anxiety and will ultimately suffocate every dream, every plan and everything you believe and know about thriving. It’s a bitch for sure.
However…it can not only be tamed but overcome. Here’s how…
FACE EVERYTHING, no excuses. Pull up your bootstraps, put on your adult panties and own it, feel it, face it full throttle till you befriend fear.
AND RISE with courage and believe you can do the hard, challenging thing fear was derailing you from. For it is when we choose to stand tall that fear will back down and slither away.
Fear is a virus that will spread like wildfire if given a chance. However, unless you create a cure within your being, you will never know hope, you will never know how awesome a person you really are and you will never realize what you are capable of accomplishing. Because everything you desire and want is on the other side of fear. You just have to face it to thrive in the place your life is begging you for.
Last October, I began my voyage, from Michigan, in a car, at 4 a.m. on a cold Sunday morning, to be present at my son’s graduation from IBOLC at Fort Benning, Georgia. For those not versed in military acronyms, IBOLC stands for
Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course.
Now the month before, when my son asked me to come down, I immediately felt fearful as doubts began swirling through my mind and the blanket of comfort wrapped itself tighter and tighter around my body
Drive to Georgia? By myself?!? That’s just crazy!!
What if i get a flat tire?
What if I get in an accident?
What if I…..
So I searched for flights. But fear proceeded to push at me. And the blanket of comfort got tighter as my thoughts rained the I can’ts.
Then one night, as I lay in bed, I grabbed a hold of fear and comforted it and loved it till fear was so smothered with acceptance it abruptly turned into
So I did. And I discovered
I am WAY MORE capable than I ever thought.
Being alone, in a car, on the road for many hours, through state after state and mountains filled as far as the eye can see with trees, is invigorating.
Leaving in the wee hours of the day is absolutely wonderful as I got to watch the moon say goodbye and the sun rise in all its glory.
I am able to deal with unexpected issues. About 3 hours from returning home, the low tire light went on. So I stopped, filled it with air and continued onward. Of course furiously praying the whole way home!! Yes I made it safely home, taking my car in the next day for a tire patch.
Would I do it again? Before COVID I was planning on it to attend my son’s graduation from Ranger School. Unfortunately due to the circumstances that got cancelled and he ended up coming home, very disappointed but with Ranger tabs in hand.
Through it all I also discovered a very important lesson
The journey and the unknown is never as challenging as our thoughts make it out to be.
And if we never take the first step, no matter how frightened we are, we will never know just how capable we really are. And just how wonderful the adventure of journeying outside our comfort zone really is.
I usually read two books at the same time. One that is inspirational and one that is a novel.
I just received the new Charles Martin book The Water Keeper. So that is the novel I am starting May with. And a while back I purchased The Crossroads of Should and Must Find and Follow Your Passion by Elle Luna. The text is interwoven with quotes and drawings which are are quite tantalizing to my eye and creative soul. So it is the inspiration I choose.
Here are two quotes from The Crossroads…which begin the book and really resonated with me.
During this time I have really thought about how it will change me spiritually, mentally and physically and what path I should wander down next.
The first time I gave myself permission to unlearn what I had been taught was when I got divorced. Not to say I wasn’t scared. I was. But isn’t that time to make a move?!?! And despite it all, I did, one tiny step and one day at a time.
And today? I can look back, with no regrets, and with gratitude that I did what was right in my heart even though there were plenty of challenges and hurdles to overcome.
I currently have an avenue I’d like to walk down. The thought of which has been slowly coming up in my thoughts since the day I sheltered in place, working from home. However fear is driving indecision, just like it has in the past. Except this time I know I need to meditate a bit more on the path being presented before I leap. Not that I don’t believe I can do it. It’s just a decision that could ultimately cause an impact on my finances. And during this unsettling time there is no guarantee of getting into another position where I would be getting income. Although there are no guarantees in life either. Anyway I think this book will help, whether I leap now or decide to leap later.
In the beginning of March, due to COVID-19, the company I work for decided to allow the majority of the employees to work from home. On Friday March 13, I was told I was an essential employee, meaning I was one of the few that was expected to come in everyday. As a result, on the following Monday, the company went from allowing 300-400 employees in the building to 20. I have to admit it was a bit eerie the first couple of days. But by day 3, I was LOVING it!!!
I am what is known as the ‘Director of First Impressions’ as well as the Office Administrator. Which means I get approached and bombarded ALL DAY long by others who need genuine help as well as those who can’t think for themselves and need a ‘mom.’ So having days when I was able to get my work done and not have to make decisions for others was quite heavenly.
Then, on March 23, the governor made an executive order to ‘stay home, stay safe’ until April 30, unless your business or you, as an employee were deemed essential. By the end of the day, I abruptly made my own executive order, relaying to my boss that I no longer felt comfortable coming into work.
March 24 began day one of my staying home, staying safe and working remotely. And let me say, it has been absolutely fabulous!! Not only am I getting my work done quicker than when I was in the office but I am also taking free online courses offered by FEMA and other organizations to learn about a variety of job related topics. These classes are pivotal in enhancing my knowledge professionally and personally as well as my passion for learning. I am also obtaining CEU credits which is great!
Yesterday, the governor extended the executive order to May 15. At that point I will be incubating at home for 52 days, 4 days shy of 8 weeks. Many have been home for longer. However, I have to say I am glad for more time at home. Don’t get me wrong, I have gone out once a week to get groceries for myself, my son and my mom. But other than that, I haven’t ventured out, except to get some exercise.
And even though my pay was cut by 20%, I haven’t lost any sleep at all over this whole mess the world is in right now. As a result I am feeling a bit awkward about it because all I hear from colleagues and friends and family and the media is how hard this has been. Every day I wake up I brace myself for those feelings to invade my life. And so far I wake up more energized than ever! I believe this is due to a number of reasons.
First, I am an introvert at heart, through and through. As long as I can remember, even as a child, I had no problem being a loner and dancing to the beat of my own drum. Due to that, I was never one to follow the crowd. Thus, I was never popular. As I got older, I learned how to play the social game, which I have become quite good at. However I LONG and THRIVE in peace and quiet with a pace that matches.
Second, I am at an age where I don’t need or desire constant supervision, connection or someone checking in with me all the time. Give me a job to do, leave me alone, then be amazed at the results! And don’t invade my space with small talk or mundane facts. I’m not interested. However I am open to getting to know you by having a heart to heart conversation.
Third, I consider myself a uniquely quirky different brand of human, whom very few understand and get the privilege of being given an invitation to know the real me. Even if I invite you in, I can feel the vibes of whether you get me or not. Especially if you are ‘faking it’ because you think you might hurt my feelings. Subsequently I have a very limited number of people who I consider close friends.
Third, I have successfully made it through breast cancer, a divorce, Stevens Johnson Syndrome, death of my dad, being the sole caregiver for my mom, (which thankfully my sister is now helping) and day to day challenges of life. Through those messes I have depended on my faith in God to get me in and out the other side. Not unscathed or unscarred but stronger due to the imperfections that have lingered. These scars are reminders that when shit hits the fan and the normality of life gets skewed, I have no control over what the future holds. What I do have control over is my reaction and my attitude towards what is occurring. Which has sometimes veered towards panic, feelings of instability and a WTF attitude. After all, I am human.
Lastly, I don’t find these circumstances devastatingly disruptive. No one in my family is sick or has died, which would be a HUGE hit to my mental state. I’m still employed, even though this event has caused me to rethink the trajectory of my career path. I have a roof over my head, food on the table, running water that I can chose to be hot or cold, clean clothes and electricity. I also have coveted cleaning products, of which I stocked up on WAY BEFORE the pandemic, a limited supply of enough toilet paper and paper towels to last a few more weeks and not eons, as well as hope for whatever the future holds. Hope is something that has continually stuck like glue when life has kicked me to the curb, beaten my ass black and blue and spit on me. And even though I was temporarily defeated and doubted myself, I never stopped breathing and I never stopped praying.
Let’s face it, life is a bitch and has no qualms f**king up certainty, normality and security. Right now life has surely done a job on the world through this virus. No matter who are, how much money you have and where you live, every one, in one way or another will be affected by it. Unfortunately some will be hit harder than others and are already facing dire consequences which will vastly affect their mental state and their futures.
Regardless, my hope is, after calm and a sense of security return…
That those who have been hit the hardest will regain jobs, dignity, peace of mind and courage to brave whatever the future holds. That the community, the time with family, the resurgence of the basics of reading, cooking, playing games, doing puzzles, engaging and laughing, faith, and the urgency to stay connected doesn’t die.
As an introvert I have throughly enjoyed being at home. I have also enjoyed witnessing others extend kindness, faith streaming through all avenues of the internet and the global unity of not only the support towards one another but the gratitude towards those who are sacrificing their lives, their mental health and their safety on the front lines every day.
I shouldn’t feel awkward for not feeling topsy turvy about the current circumstances. And the goodness that has resulted, shouldn’t have to end.
I don’t look forward to getting back to work or living the life from ‘before.’ And I pray and I hope the lessons gifted to all of us will not be forgotten, resulting in a better world then what was evident before this epidemic invaded our homes and our lives.
This morning as I reflect on the past week I feel invigorated, glad for the repertoire of new memories, and awed by the beautiful views I encountered while driving. Especially the mountainous ranges brimming with endless trees in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Most importantly I feel empowered.
When describing my plans many expressed wonderment at the fact I was traveling solo. But since I’ve done it before, I wasn’t fazed by doing it again. The only obstacle this time was traversing 835 miles, through 3 states, in territory I had not ventured through by myself….EVER!!!
Was I scared? Initially yes. I thought about everything that could possibly go wrong. I even second guessed my decision by searching for how much a plane ticket would cost versus driving.
But you know what? All the doubts screaming through my head were immediately stifled by accepting this was an adventure of a lifetime, which I intuitively knew would change my life. And it did.
-no matter the distance I can make it anywhere.
-stopping to periodically rest is more important than worrying about what time I arrive.
-traveling on the weekend is much better than traveling during the week. For one traffic, especially morning rush hour is at a minimum.
-being prepared for weather changes is essential so it’s wise to always pack a few extra seasonal clothes just in case temps are warmer or colder than the region you are traveling from.
-to stay level headed. About 3 hours from returning home, my low tire pressure light came on. So I stopped at a gas station, paid for air which thankfully I had coins for, and filled my tires. However the light stayed on. Regardless I made the decision to keep going. Stupid though it was. As extra insurance I prayed many prayers that I would make the last leg of my journey safely. Upon arriving home I quickly slipped into the local Belle Tire, where air was free and topped off the pressure. Thankfully the light went off and I made it home without any problems.
-always have some cash on hand, even coins as you may never know when it may come in handy.
-I want to do it again and again and again.
There are places I traveled through I would like to revisit like Gatlinburg, Tennessee; Savannah, Georgia; Lexington Kentucky and others.
This trip made me realize I can travel, solo, in a car 🚗 or on a plane ✈️ anywhere my heart ❤️ desires. Because I discovered how wonderfully capable I really am!!! And that is a gift that is irreplaceable.
So I will continue to venture on the road in front of me. For not only is traveling an adventure of a lifetime but so is living.