Archives

Lessons on dying from women of grit

DSC03236

There’s something about the final week of July and the women in my life.

I’m not one to be superstitiuous. Not that at all. Bear with me.

This past week my 94 year old Grandma went Home after being bedridden for over 10 years

She was a sharecropper’s daughter who spent part of her childhood moving from farm to farm in a truck. I’m sure those early roots were part of what made her so tough, opinionated, and gritty.

She also clung to her faith in Jesus, though the last dozen years of her life were probably her hardest, darkest days. In her dementia, she was often unkind and tough to manage, but she never forgot about Jesus and heaven!

She shares her Homegoing week with my sis-in-love, one of the “grittiest” women I have ever known.

My lovely sis faced suffering, pain, and death with courage, faith, and love.

She was full of grit and grace.

I sat by a third death-bed this week in July nine years ago.   Such a different kind of grit in this little woman — my husband’s grandmother!

We visited her frequently (six hour round trip for us every few weeks) at the assisted living home where family had mutually agreed for her to live.

She needed 24/7 care and therapy, and none of us could give her that. She was angry and bitter for the last six months of her life. She dug in her heels and refused to be happy or even try to recover. In the end, her grit did her in.

Sitting by three different deathbeds makes me face my own mortality. How well will I face death?

Only God knows the day, time, and circumstances surrounding my Homegoing. One thing is certain, death is inescapable.

“All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.” I Peter 1:24-25

Coming to grips with life’s frailty is our first step toward “good grit”.

Psalm 144: 4 “Man is like a breath. His days are as a shadow that passes away.”

If we think we have forever, then we forget that every day matters!  Those we touch with our words and actions will carry those memories for good or ill. Forgiveness and acceptance take grit — the kind of grit needed to get over ourselves or to move on when life isn’t fair.

Don’t waste your one and only life being a “tough old bird”!

The best grit comes from humble, grateful dependance on God!

When I say “best grit” it reminds me of sandpaper. The roughest grit is only good for the rough projects. The “fine” grit helps bring the final polish to beautiful furniture!

We want the grit that brings beauty.

God’s unchangeable Word is the bedrock of our grit. “The Word of our God stands FOREVER…”

My Grandma talked frequently of Heaven. “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. In My Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would I have told you. I go to prepare a place for you…” (words of Christ). This good news bolstered her when facing another bedridden day felt like more than she could bear.

My sis never forgot in her pain and misery that God is good, and HIs love for her is unchanging.  She heard and believed the Good News that Christ died for sinners. So she gave thanks, even on her deathbed. Beautiful grit polished her lovely soul!

It’s up to us, my dear caregiving friends, to keep ourselves in the eternal Word that builds our faith — and gives us the grit to go on. 

I’m grateful for the lessons these women of grit taught me.

What kind of grit do you have?

Grit with grace! That’s what I pray for you as you care for your loved one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you a “courage club” member?

IMG_1587

It’s nearly the one year anniversary of my sister-in-love’s homegoing! At this time last year she was in the hospital dying — I didn’t know she was dying at the time.)

I was watching her little ones for the week, ages 4 and 7. Then the call came. The shock. Only 48 hours to live! With babies in tow, we hightailed it to the hospital.

During my last visit at home with Jess she had mentioned her friend’s book launch, The Courage Club. She wished she had written about  her own cancer journey and the lessons learned along the way. I could hear the regret in her voice.

Don’t worry, sis! We haven’t forgotten you or the courage God gave you in your brief 33 years of life. This post is for you! We all need a share of your courage for this journey. Like Elisha prayed, I want a double portion of your spirit.

As one of her caregivers, I had a front row view. What I witnessed was extraordinary faith! She knew how to “be strong and of good courage”.  Bear with me. I want to share some of the nitty-gritty.

I’m hoping to leave a few of  her footprints in writing.  Footprints this big from a tiny person are hard to follow.

Courage club members put on their big-girl panties and do hard things!

You don’t ask for big things from God and sit on your duff. Labeled stage 4 cancer after her double mastectomy, Jess asked for healing. Then she rolled up her sleeves and went to work. Her diet changed from processed foods to organic, gluten-free foods that often tasted and smelled very strange. Never mind the green smoothies!

Next, she learned how to swallow pills. Couldn’t handle vitamins before, but she did it! She joked and choked. Score!

Add the needles, IVs, the nausea, the hormone changes, the loss of hair, lack of sleep, and unremitting pain, at times.

Courage club members make a path for joy in suffering.

Oh, my! The things we laughed about! The bodily fluids and functions we discussed!

The memories she made with her family are precious! We begged her to slow down. Never mind that. Spending time with those she loved was top priority.

When she was feeling rotten, she planned happy outings for her kids. I got to execute  some of those! Quiet house for her, happy day for the littles.

My girl will never forget her Aunt Jess and wearing fake mustaches and fedoras together.

True to her last wishes, those she loved had a final party together with her in a hospital waiting room. Despite terrible pain, she looked around and positively beamed at those she loved.  That was, hmmm, maybe forty of us? For a hospital it was a BIG party.

Courage club members care about others even in the middle of their own suffering.

Her phone was always filled with messages. Other cancer patients were continually calling her. They knew she would find time and an encouraging word to give them

Then there was Beau. Early twenties with end stage cancer. At this point most of his friends had disappeared. Not Jess. With help, she planned his final birthday party at the hospital. It was the last birthday she planned.

She excitedly told me how she had told more people about Jesus in her last year, all because of “blessed cancer” as she nicknamed it.

Courage club members never give up hope!

Hope spurred her on for four years of stage 4 aggressive cancer. She never made it to the last specialist she planned to see. Her liver failed. But her hope hadn’t.

She admitted to me after Beau died that she was scared. It was the only time I ever heard her say that. It was probably her realization that her own brave fight was almost over, though neither of us could bear to admit it at the time.

Her motto was, With God, nothing is impossible.  We shared a love for Michael Hyatt’s Living Forward. She was smiling at the future, just like the Proverbs 31 woman.

I wrote the following post in the middle of this four year cancer fight.

Week 9: Five Ways To Keep Up Your Courage, Dear Heart!

I really had no idea how MUCH I would need to keep up my own courage.

You see, at the same time Jess was dying, my own chronically ill husband was diagnosed with cancer.

Turned out to be stage 3. We’re facing a second surgery soon.

Unfortunately much of our fight this year has been with a broken medical system on top of fighting cancer and chronic pain.

It has been stressful, horrendous, and courage-sucking. We’ve felt like cogs in a broken gear system. We’ve even been shamed for courageously bucking the system and fighting for compassionate, prompt care.

A few caring docs along the way have brightened our path. We’re SO grateful for those. They are bright spots of compassion. Compassion is often sorely lacking in the medical field.

Compassion ought to be the number one requirement for every tech, office worker, nurse assistant, doctor, and nurse.

Courage club members learn compassion for the suffering.

Jesus showed compassion all along his earthly journey. He came to “show us the Father.” He touched the hurting that many despised.

He demonstrated ultimate compassion in laying down His life as the sin-sacrifice.

His courage spurred Him on to the cross. “Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the Father.”

Are you a part of the Courage Club? Let’s lift each other up in prayer this week,  and keep up your courage, Dear Heart!

Sis, thanks for giving me such big footprints to follow. You continue to inspire me, and your legacy of love and compassion fuels my fire to keep loving and living forward. Till I see you again…