Monday, February 16, 2009

Meeting Her Prom Date

"I took your mommy to the prom," a gentlemen told me with a wry grin and a thin country accent. Not what you expect to hear at your mother's visitation.

"Boy, do I have some questions for you!" I joked back.

The services for my mom were extremely well done. Meeting my mom's middle school and high school classmates and sitting with her best friend, Brenda, helped me capture a truer image of who she really was - a pretty and shy kind of gal. Pastor Johnny, Brenda's husband, married my parents 36 years earlier. It was fitting that he presided over her funeral.

The first thing he did at the service was order everyone to shout "Yea!" because my mom was now with the Lord.

Where did they get this guy? I was contemptuously wondering who decided to let Johnny have the privilege over the ceremony.

Then he asked everyone to shout out "Booo!" because my mom was taken from us so early.

OK. Not bad. Hilarious, in fact. We all shouted, and felt our emotions validated.

Johnny candidly asserted that we all had be cheated. That was the one word that kept coming to him when he thought about the situation. He told us that it is normal to feel angry and cry out to God - many Psalmists did just that, but in the end they rejoiced.

Most funerals I have attended had pastors who seemed to try and get everyone into a better mood. Johnny allowed us to feel the weight of the day and joined us in our grief. Thank you, Johnny.

The cruise was a cruise. Not exactly my type of vacation, but fitting for a dad and his two kids - we didn't have to think about a thing. The sun warmed our souls, and subtle distractions on the boat helped us to move forward. We shared stories and read old letters. We laughed. We threw pillows at Dad to keep him from snoring. It was a good week.

And it is good to be back in Danville, having one foot already in front of the other.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sunny Places

Visitation is tomorrow. Funeral on Saturday. Fly to Miami on Sunday. Leave with cruise to Mexico on Monday. A very odd mix.

"Dad, what do you think others will think?" I wondered about our family decision to get away.

"I thought about it, and I don't care," he told me. And neither do I.

My sister wanted to go to a sunny place after the ceremonies, and that's where we're going, to a sunny place, like mom.

"What about when you have to go back to the cloudy place?" I asked my sister about her proposal.

"That's when we'll have to take it one step at a time."

It will be good family time to connect, get annoyed, tell stories of our mom, and relax.

But most importantly, it will be a moment to redefine a changed family - by remembering our mom and taking a step forward, together.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

In the Dark

It is unfortunate that Congress had to take additional action on this issue, but the prospect of leaving millions of consumers in the dark was simply unacceptable. - Rep. Edward Markey.

The House voted today to delay the digital TV transition to June.

Get a radio. Read a newspaper.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Day Before (Part 1)

I am choosing to continue writing about my mom's passing because it has been very therapeutic. I am not wallowing in pain, stuck, or bitter - at least I don't think. I am facing the moment and allowing it to be what is. This is new territory, and, to be true to the blog, these are the happenings of whereabouts, Danville.


I was at Mary Freear Williams memorial service at the Presbyterian Church of Danville when I received the phone call. It was Aunt Lisa, my mom's sister. "She's probably worried about how I'm making out with no electricity," I thought, and then attempted to refocus on the service.

Freear was a wonderful, delightful woman - her love of others goes unmatched. The service was quite unique and celebrated her life creatively. Don Good, Freear's husband of 18 years, had organized a band to play several selections throughout the service, but the shoddy weather prevented their presence (Don was the fellow I visited on the day of).

So, when it was time for loved ones to bring symbols of Freear's life to the front, the band was supposed to be playing Amazing Grace.

Don, slowly walked to the front of the sanctuary and peeled the harmonica out of his pocket. There was a moment before his lips bore down on the piece of metal where heads were shifting from side to side wondering what was about to transpire.

Don wailed away a jazzy, soulful rendition of Amazing Grace that filled the sanctuary with a mournful piece of resolve. It was perfect. No words, just heart - a broken, but resolved heart.


After the service, I checked my messages, called my aunt back, heard sniffling, jumped into the car, and started for the hospital. It was almost time, mom's breath was getting shallower. In transit from Danville to Lexington, which takes about 45 minutes, I called my dad. The conversation consisted of 10 words. "Hey, you hear?"..."Yeah."..."OK."..."Call me."..."Over and out."

I didn't speed too much, ran a couple of yellowish-red stop lights, and called 911. Maybe the cops could take me there faster, I mean, they have done that for me before (late for an ACT test).

"911, what's your emergency?"

"Ummm(sniffle), my mom is kind about to die at a hospital in Lexington and I'm in Nicholasville and there is a lot of traffic and I was wondering if I could get some help getting there quicker, maybe send someone."

"Ok, calm down, where are you headed? Ok, good, do you see [name] street?"

"Yes." Perfect, they have an officer real close. I'll hop in and he'll speed me up there, I thought.

"Well, take a left there, then at the end you'll wanna make a right onto Harrodsburg Road. That will take you straight to St. Joseph's Hospital."

Let's just say, I didn't get lost, and I made it to the hospital in under the typical 45 minutes. Thanks 911.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Day Of

It is hard to go to sleep one night, and know, without a doubt, that by the time you wake up in the morning the person who brought you into this world will have passed on. You try to stave off sleep, flipping through TV channels, rustling in the down comforter of a hotel room - the red numbers on the clock changes from 3:51 to 3:52. To accept death is to accept life. And to accept this is to let go and move on, while remembering, and going to sleep - a wonderful, peaceful sleep.

I woke up groggy and disoriented. I met my cousin and aunt and we sat in the parking lot for ten minutes before deciphering a plan. I was out of it. We left Lexington for Danville, and after eating a hearty lunch, I crept into the church, hoping I wouldn't run into anyone. I slowly made my way down the hall and stopped within hearing distance of the gym. Several kids and adult leaders were laughing and joking around with one another. I smiled. I checked email, made a few phone calls, and then suddenly stopped.

It was one of those moments were time didn't seem to exist. My mind recounted the past 24 hour's events - think John Madden play-by-play recap of a football game. The events sunk in, I blinked, then rustled to the car.

I went to the sanctuary of the Central Kentucky Wildlife Refuge, 20 minutes outside of town. The ice hadn't melted from the trees, so I was anxious to beat the final flickers of the sun's last rays.

The dripping of the forest and the almost silent chirping of the chickadees mixed together, singing rebirth. Spring is coming, and with it new things.

I decided to drop by a friend's house, his partner having passed on just a while back, thinking it would be good time with an old hippie who spent his glory days in Colorado.

After driving another 10 minutes away from Danville, I noticed that power was still out at his farm. We greeted one another with big smiles and some chicken feed.

We fed the 70 chickens, horses, cats, and dogs - farm chores. I am allergic to horses and cats, but no matter, we paced to his work shed where we were graced with warm wood stove.

We chatted for what seemed a while, and I couldn't really tell you too much of what we talked about. I just know that there was heartfelt laughter, stories told, teary eyes, and loved ones remembered.

A good end to a good day.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Many have tried to muster images of what heaven would be like. Clouds, angels, and unending light. An ever-lasting dance. Complete union with God, questions answered, dreams fulfilled. The song, Amazing Grace seemingly attempts to define heaven.

When we've been there ten thousand years...
bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise...
then when we've first begun.

An evangelical writer, John Eldridge disagrees and once said that heaven can't be about singing hymns for eternity. It is a complete reunion. I agree. Well, at least I hope heaven isn't about singing endless hymns.

I think heaven is pain free, painless, the end of pain.

My mother passed on yesterday morning, and the last thing I said to her was, "No more pain, mom, no more pain." I don't know what heaven is like, but, on no justifiable grounds, I'm sure there is no pain.

Diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia/Alzheimer's in 1997, her long journey with the incurable disease began. She lived with my grandparents in Kentucky in the beginning stages, then digressed into a nursing home. They say the disease degenerates the mind to the extent that the person gets younger. By that I mean, they will begin to loose manual dexterity first - the last thing a young child learns - and move backward. Speech skills falter, then use of other extremities wanes. She was bed-ridden by 2004, and used a feeding tube soon thereafter.

This past summer, doctors termed her illness as terminal rather than chronic. This meant that the feeding tube could be removed. I know there are huge ethical questions surrounding the topic, but our family agreed it was the right thing to do.

She was transferred to a Hospice unit in Lexington about two weeks ago, where she received excellent care. Her struggles finally ended, and now she is free to dance painlessly.

There are probably some who would disagree with me posting such personal information on the net, but I strongly disagree. I think it is just to relay to people, by whichever means, that yes, everything will work out just fine (addage from Beau Weston), but that doesn't mean it won't hurt. Life is filled with struggle and pain, and rightly so. Without it, love would not be able to triumph. Somehow we have been shielded from this fact by the pacifiers of culture.

It is good that my mom passed on, but it hurts. I'll be sore for a spell, but it just takes one foot in front of the other. And as I told my sister, "She'll be right, mate, she'll be right."