Tag Archives: death

Celebrating a life well lived

Saturday I went to the memorial service for a lady I’ve only known for five of her 83 years. I met her when I became a school chaplain. She had been doing the job for two years and had the best test scores of any of the school chaplains. I “shadowed” MaryLou to see how she did it before I ever entered a first grade classroom. She did it with lots of love. Which is how she lived her entire life. Lots of sass and lots of love.

Even though well-scripted, the memorial service ran almost three hours.  MaryLou wanted all of her family to get a chance to speak. She had given them perimeters and timelines, but they all had so much to say. Also, she had a big family–four sons, two daughters-in-law, six grandchildren. She had sprinkled in eight pieces of music. There were about 800 in attendance, too. The woman was well loved.

I was so surprised when I learned of MaryLou’s death as she was in good health and living a vibrant life. Her mother had lived to be over 100 years old so it just seemed reasonable to believe that MaryLou would do likewise. She was ready to go, though. Her children and friends spoke of her longing to go home to Jesus. To be in heaven. When she suddenly fell ill and was hospitalized, the doctors gave her little time to live which pleased her. Then her church friends and the pastors were called and they prayed for healing miracles. MaryLou, although unable to speak, became distraught and communicated to her sons that she did not want that prayer. She knew where she was going and she was ready.

MaryLou will be missed by her family and her friends, but we know she has gone home, that she is with her beloved Jesus, and that she is dancing in heaven.

MaryLou and me, in our chaplain uniforms, five years ago.



Just passing through

My big accomplishment today–get the laundry done before 9 am so that we can take a trip into the foothills later this morning to visit the goat farm and buy more soap.

As I dashed through the house to pull the last load from the dryer, I encountered one of the cats dashing the other direction, down the hall. It frightened her.

“Just passing through,” I shouted to the cat in my mad dash to get that last load of laundry.

Terry, in the kitchen, cooking the last of the breakfast pancakes, shouted back, “that’s all any of us are doing.”

I chuckled. That was one of my mother’s favorite sayings, “we are all just passing through.” Seems even more appropriate today as Terry received a text this morning that his mother, age 97, had passed on, just one day before his 69th birthday.

As you pass through, please take time to brighten someone’s day, to make life a bit easier here in this hard place.

It’s summer and I’m sad

Summer is usually a favorite season of mine. Long days. Warm temperatures. Yes, we have those, but we also have some troublesome things that just make life a bit sadder.

My grandson Judah has pneumonia. He’s on the mend, but not staying as still as his mother would like. He really needs to be well in a few days for an upcoming trip. His father, my son-in-law, has just gotten sick and Jennifer is concerned it may be lyme disease as he has gotten some tick bites as he is working in forested woodland where the buggers are known to hang out. He also needs to be well for the aforementioned trip.

My blogging buddy, Ronni Bennett, is undergoing surgery for pancreatic cancer today. Her prognosis is fair, but who knows with surgeries, especially one so serious. My thoughts and prayers are turned to her as the day progresses.

Our pastor’s younger, and only remaining, brother, died Sunday night of colon cancer in a city halfway across the country. It had been a long, painful road. I was thankful that Pastor Pat could be there, holding his brother’s hand and reading Bible verses to him, but it is still sad for him to have been there all alone while doing it.

A young friend who I worked with at camp all those years ago when Terry and I still had the energy to be camp counselors suddenly died on Sunday. The underlying cause may be her epilepsy, but no word has come down yet as to why she died without warning.

My doctor’s office called yesterday. My recent blood work (after that very lengthy doctor’s appointment) shows I have gout. Or at least the uric acid that causes the symptoms of gout. I will stop taking the diuretic that I’ve taken for a couple of decades and what may be the underlying cause for the uric acid buildup, and start taking a different blood pressure medicine. I hate taking prescription medicines as they don’t usually work well with my system.

The air conditioning in my friend’s house went out just as we started a string of 110 degree days. This is the friend with whom I just had lunch and wrote about last week. She thinks she will have to send her very sick exhusband somewhere if the equipment cannot be quickly repaired. It seems that these devices always break down at the least convenient time.

I have a bright spot to look forward to in this litany of sadness. That trip I mentioned at the beginning is a family trip, all six of us piling in a van and driving to Portland, Oregon, where we have rented a house and my daughter will attend a national church conference, getting to see so many friends. We will play like tourists and have fun, too. I just want everyone healthy and feeling good for it.


In praise of bloggers everywhere

Last year a charming blogger whose writing I prized, Helly Bowman, died. A few days ago, another favorite blogger, Dianne Schmidley, passed away. I am bereft.

Both of these women shared their life with all of us. They opened their hearts and minds and let us in. Not only did I enjoy reading their own posts, but also the comments they left on mine. Now, those posts and comments are gone. It’s as if the light in the world has grown dimmer.

To the rest of you bloggers, please keep posting. Please open up and share. Your writing makes a better world for the rest of us who are trying to put words to feelings. Thank you for the words you leave here, for me. Your comments assure  me someone is reading these words. I also read your comments that you post on others’ blogs. That’s how I found some of you. Your comments were so insightful that I wanted to read more.

Helly. Dianne. You are missed.

When friends are gone

It’s been nine years since I took up residence at this URL. I don’t post every day, but I visit other bloggers on a daily basis. A few I actually drop in on every single day, others get a visit on a less regular basis. Sometimes it’s months before I get back to a blog, especially if the blogger doesn’t write on a consistent basis. Last night I checked in on one of those writers only to find that she had died on September 1, just weeks before her 50th birthday. Her husband has taken up the task of writing on her blog, to let her readers know what happened. Helly was such a vibrant, exuberant redhead. It’s as if a light has been turned off.

It made me so sad to read of her demise. Her ending was slow and agonizing. Doctors couldn’t seem to get the right diagnosis. Medicine failed her. Helly often wrote about her husband. She adored him. They did so many things together. They had such fun living life. As you can imagine, he is bereft. The life they built is but an empty shell now that she is gone. All the the things that mattered no longer do so. He writes that it is just “stuff” now.

I never met the redheaded Helly from Atlanta in person, but I so enjoyed her writing, as I do so many of you, that I felt I knew her. You open your life’s door and let me come in for a moment. You share the good, the bad, and sometimes the ugly. Although we aren’t sitting at a table, across from one another, sharing a cup of coffee, you still allow my comments and thoughts to penetrate your world. I appreciate that aspect of the blogging community. You are indeed my friends and I wish you a happy, healthy life. Please keep writing. I’ll be by to see you.

More Compuserve friends

The Women’s Forum wasn’t the only CompuServe forum I joined. I also signed on to the California Forum and from there, due to friends I made, the Travel Forum. Gretchen was a leader in both, and I really liked her style. She was kind, funny, well-traveled, knowledgable, and could stand up for herself and others. Even in the early days of the Internet, there were those who seemed to be spoiling for a fight.

The California Forum was great fun because most of the members lived in the state, but we got lots of questions from those who wanted to visit. California is a really big state, and that seemed a hard concept to grasp for many who were planning a trip. Especially those from Europe where one can travel to numerous countries within a few hours. They wanted to fly into Los Angeles, see Disneyland, and for some unfathomable reason, Death Valley, all in one day. Then they planned to take in Yosemite and San Francisco in the next day. Those of us who live in this wide-spread state, could only chuckle. It takes hours and hours of travel time to go from place to place. Even with a whole week in California, one would have trouble seeing everything.

Gretchen was a moderator for California Forum and she always had good advice as she lived in San Francisco. Bernal Heights to be exact. She wrote of attractions and restaurants there and in India where she also traveled during her vacations. As a tax consultant, she had summer and fall off to do many things. Many times she would put together meet-ups when those traveling from other places arrived in the Bay Area. I was able to join a few of these and get to meet many forum members in person.

In 2002, when I mentioned I had never had dim sum, Gretchen invited me to meet her and another Bay Area resident in Oakland for the “best of the best dim sum.” I stayed at my daughter’s apartment in Berkeley, took BART to Oakland, and met the two for a fun-filled and delicious afternoon. Another time, when staying at my daughter’s apartment, I took BART to the Mission District in San Francisco to meet Gretchen for lunch at a favorite spot of hers.

After our tax preparer of 30 years disappeared (that’s a whole ‘nother story), Gretchen offered to do our taxes, long distance. I would mail the paperwork to her and she would turn it around in a few days. A couple of times when we were in San Francisco, we actually went to her apartment to sign the paperwork. She lived in Bernal Heights, on the third floor of a small apartment building.

In 2012 Gretchen wanted to travel to India again but she didn’t have a housesitter which she needed for a 6-week trip. She had a cat who couldn’t be left for that length of time. I offered to do it but wanted to do a trial run first. It worked well as she had a week’s conference in Las Vegas. Terry dropped me off at the apartment and took Gretchen to the airport as he was headed back to Fresno for the week.

Gretchen never made that last trip to India. Her health was failing even as she made the trip to Las Vegas. Living on a third floor walkup was getting harder for her. She had diabetes and other health issues. Within a year she had given up the  apartment and moved to assisted living. Last week, as we were leaving for San Mateo, I received the message that Gretchen was in hospice. Thursday evening, as we were taking our grandchildren to a concert in the park, Gretchen slipped the bounds of earth and died. My heart broke. Writing these words brings me to tears.

Just think, I would have experienced none of this if I had not taken the plunge and joined CompuServe all those many years ago thinking I would be helping my students. There were many who thought I was crazy back then as the Internet was the wild frontier. Those connections have made my life so much better, and I wouldn’t trade any of it for a safe, cozy existence. Take risks.

It’s all about change

I’ve written quite a bit here about our change of church this past year. That was a huge change in our life, but we have embraced it with faith and gusto and have found a lovely new church home and family at Westminster Presbyterian.

Another change I’ve been dealing with is friendship. Those of you who have been with me for so many years will remember that I had two long time friends, going back to the time of our daughter’s birth, 37 years ago. We had met at our workplace and forged this bond that seemed fail-proof. Here we are, back in the late 90s, at a birthday lunch.

Me Shirley Gail

At Thanksgiving, 2011, one of the three died, and it was up to the remaining two to clean out her home and get the estate ready for the attorney to settle. Then the other friend’s husband got a bad case of shingles and things really changed. All of this within a  few months, and it has never regained its old stability. We hardly ever see each other. The other friend is not on social media, refuses to text and seldom reads her email. Due to her husband’s illness and need for constant attention, she can’t even talk on the phone. I have tried going by their home a few times, but felt thwarted in that they seem to want to remain secluded. 

When we have talked, I get the feeling that she does not want much contact with others and finds it difficult to make plans or to try to go out. I’ve left the ball in her court only to find it lies there for months. I recently sent her an email and got a reply but no other word to my reply, saying “yes, let’s go to lunch. You call me and tell me a good time.”

I miss my friends. The one who has died is gone and is not coming back, but I’m beginning to feel the same about the one who is still living. It is a change that I’m having trouble grasping.

The final days

A note: this post was written after the death of an acquaintance. I am fine and in good health, but these are definitely questions that I am asking myself.

If you know you have only a short time to live, how do you say the final goodbye? How do you chronicle the last months, weeks, days? Would you even want to have those last moments shared with others?

Some pretty tough questions that I’ve been batting around this week since learning of the death of a long-time Fresno Unified employee who I met almost 30 years ago while doing my student teaching. Elaine was in charge of the parent/child class for teen moms. She would occasionally join a group of us who had lunch together. The other teachers were all seasoned veterans and were kind to a newbie who was learning how to teach in an inner city high school. Elaine always had a sense of humor about the job she performed with the teen moms and their tiny ones. I admired her. As I did all of those in the group who did their job so well.

As the years passed, and I became the veteran inner city teacher, Elaine went on to be an administrator for adult education. I would see her name here and there and remember those early days when I was figuring out how to do this education thing. I would remember her smile. In retirement she teamed up with another friend of mine to tutor elementary children in reading. Again, I would see her name on Facebook posts and remember those long-ago times. She was still doing what she did best–teaching and being kind to those with whom she worked.

Early this week I saw the obituary in our local paper. She and her husband had moved to the other side of country last year so I had lost track of what Elaine was doing. I sent a message to my friend who had worked with her last, sending my condolences. She responded with a link to a blog Elaine’s husband had written during the last seven weeks of Elaine’s life. You can read it here.

After reading the whole journal in one sitting, I began to wonder if I would be able do something like this should the occasion arise. Elaine’s passion for living was summed up well in these posts. The love and care of her husband is so evident. Friends and family posted also which added more to Elaine’s legacy. There were moments of joy and also heart-breaking moments. This could not have been a easy chore for Elaine’s husband, but it was an act of love, love for his wife and for their friends who wanted to share in his pain and her suffering.

Before reading Elaine’s journal I knew nothing about CaringBridge. Would I use it? I can’t say at this point, but I’m glad to know it’s one avenue that is out there for those going through similar situations.

What I had planned versus what I am doing

Terry has left for a funeral of a 30+ year friend. We have known this man and his family all these many years through the church we no longer attend. Terry said goodbye to John on his last Sunday as cameraman as John also works on the church television ministry. The next Saturday, John was dead, at 71, of a heart attack. His family had been gathered at their home, planning John and Carol’s 50th wedding anniversary.  It was quick and unexpected.

My plan had been to attend the funeral with Terry. John and Carol are dear people, with great faith, and I have long admired and liked them. However, I am concerned that I may be contagious with a virus I seem to have had attack me in the last few days. Instead of dressing and going with Terry, I am instead lying on the couch in the family room, looking out on the backyard, recuperating.

I was reading a blog post, before I came to write this, about heart attack symptoms in women, and realizing all of the symptoms, sans the heavy feeling in the chest, were mine with this current bout of whatever. I gather that fever, chills, diarrhea, vomiting, and pain are symptoms of many ailments. If I had been around anyone who has just returned from Africa, I would have been at the emergency room immediately, as I have read those are the symptoms for Ebola. Along with a heavy dose of sneezing.  Had that, too. Viruses are nasty little creatures.

Many years ago, upon flying home from Portland, after depositing our daughter at college, I became very ill. The doctors could find nothing. This went on for two weeks. They even thought I might have a concussion due to the nausea and vomiting that were nonstop. Finally someone ordered a blood test that showed I had an elevated rate of a deadly bacteria. By that point, my body had fought it off well enough that they saw no point in giving me any meds. I was in recovery.

And so I think I am now. I am feeling much better this morning. I had a decent breakfast and will spend the day doing very little except resting as I have a very busy week coming up and cannot be sick. I just wish I could have attended John’s funeral.

Sorrowful Sunday evening

Facebook can bring good news, silly news, and help keep us up to date on our friends. This Sunday evening, cooler than the previous days, brought sad news. A friend of mine whom I originally met on Compuserve long ago in the 1990s posted an update to her health and it is very bad news. She has been hospitalized for a month.

We had all hoped she would be stabilized and could carry out her plans to move from a third-floor walkup apartment to an assisted living facility. It did not happen. The dialysis that she required took one bad turn after another. Then came today’s news–stage 4 lung cancer. To top that, she has no where to go. Due to health constraints, she can no longer manage the stairs at her apartment. I’m sure there are complications to moving to assisted living places. She writes that she had wondered how her life would end and now she knows. It made me cry.