Sunday, September 3, 2017

The things I treasure

Yesterday I spent the day helping as a crew emptied a house of its contents.  It is now empty.
The house isn't the one I was raised in - or even special memories.  The memories from that house are pretty rough and ones, although I'd like to forget, that will linger for a lifetime I suppose.

The house has a story, and I'll share it sometime, but the sorting, throwing away, donating process made me really consider what I treasured.  When it's my children's turn to sort through my possessions, what would they find?

They would find my grandfather Lonnie's pocket watch.  It still works 52 after his death.  I didn't know him, but I have a piece of him.

They would find my Big Daddy's book of lessons.  Also 52 years after his death, he is still teaching.

They would find my Big Mama's dishes and punch bowl. I might sell the punch bowl but it is really pretty... but those dishes... I ate a lot of meals on those dishes.

They would find my other grandmother's (Ma Butch's) monogrammed playing cards and fur stole and some pearls and her recipe for cornbread dressing which I'm going to try to make gluten free.

They would find my Fisher Price doll house (with the wooden people!) and two rocking chairs from my childhood.  I was walking into my  house with those yesterday and my husband commented about what I was carrying.  "I am carrying my childhood."

They would find lots of Bibles from my parents, grandparents, and one from a great-grandfather.  These are probably the greatest treasure:  a legacy of faith in Jesus Christ.

It's really not about the things. It's about what is significant about the things. They are part of my history - the fabric of who I am. They are a story of struggle and survival and faith.

There are many many things that I just grabbed and boxed and will sort as I have time, and as I am in the mood.  I have lots of musical things.  My mother's piano music, her piano (which is designated for my son), my dad's trumpet - (which is what I played),  the remains of my parents wedding china.

The process of sorting trash and treasure is rough.  As my husband told the crew yesterday, "This all belongs to my wife.  She makes the final call."  I liked the control but the responsibility was large and choosing to be a part of it, with trash bag in hand, was healing.

At some point, I'll go sort again, but for now I'm giving my feelings a rest.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Learning from my grandfather

Today I was reading the Sunday School lesson for tomorrow.  Helpful, since I'm the teacher...

The content is deep and I needed some help from a Greek scholar, so I called my daughter, who just finished five semesters of Biblical Greek.  She qualifies.

The content was also somewhat academic, and potentially dry, and given that it is from the book of Romans, it begged for some feeling.  So I sought the help of another family member - my grandfather, Roy Sims.

Big Daddy died in 1965, at the age of 53, two years before I was born.  So how did he help me?  Well, Big Daddy was one of the Sunday School teachers of the Men's Bible Class at Vidalia Baptist Church.  He wasn't an educated man by his own admission, but he was blessed with wisdom.  He would hand write his lesson based on the curriculum while on the road as a salesman and then my mother would type it for him when he was home.  While I was cleaning out my dad's house a few weeks ago, I found the notebook full of his lessons.  There were handwritten notes, a father's day card from my aunt and her family, and newspaper clippings.  I got to see his handwriting, not much different from my own,  and read his own words.  This man, who I resemble, since I inherited his ears and his green eyes, I had never known.  But, somehow, I have always known him.

I remember, as a child, standing in my grandmother's living room, staring at his portrait.  He seemed so old to me then.  I wondered what it would have been like to know him, to have a grandfather, to hear his stories, to feel his touch.  I'm a little bit of a day dreamer...

Today, I decided to pick up that book to see if he had any wisdom to share.  I almost read every word.  There were stories of his faith.  Stories about the faith of my great-grandmother and her love for Christ. Stories of people he loved.  His thoughts about the civil rights movement - ya'll - he LOVED EVERYONE and hated violence. He was a peacemaker.

He was so passionate about Jesus Christ.  Tell everyone - tell everyone before it's too late for them.  Jesus loves everyone. I read his words with tear-filled eyes, getting to know Big Daddy.  If he had been an educated man, I know he would have been a preacher.  What a heritage he gave to us.

I also learned that the radio station in Vidalia used to broadcast the lessons from the class (not just his) so the people at the nursing home could have a Bible lesson.

I would like to close with Big Daddy's own words, written in 1965:
"I am not an educated man, but I love my Lord, who saved my soul. I thank Him that I have been spared (he had previously had a heart attack) to testify for Him.  I have been on the road over 20 years.  I have many friends who are Jewish, Japanese, Chinese, and Negro.  And if I am to be the Christian He would have me be, I will be understanding.  I will love them. Everyone of every race are children of God."

I am proud to be the granddaughter of Roy Manry Sims and to be able to learn from him fifty-two years after his death. I am a teacher and I teach students from many nations (even at a small Christian school) and I will love them.  Everyone of every race.  My grandfather set an example that I am going to follow.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Last Words

I love Lent.  I'm serious.  What a great season to really touch on what is important.  I love the music.  I love the message.  I love remembering.  I love the tears turned into joy.  I love the whole thing.

My pastor has been preaching a series on the Seven Last Words of Christ and they have been just for me.  Not really, but it has FELT like it.  Forgiveness and Relationships and Family and Abandonment.  It has been perfect and difficult for the season of life that I am in.  It has made me think and pray a lot.

I know I am not alone but when I look at the piles of photographs my husband brought back from my dad's house, I am the only one left on this earth from those photos.  But the photos around my house, we are all still present on this earth.

I still have a lot of things to deal with.  Creditors to write and inform there is no money to pay bills - so sorry, but that's the way it is.  We have a house to clean out and sell.  I've got piles of memories to sort through as we go through the house.  I have no problem discarding things.  It actually feels good to me... actually great.  But memories can't be discarded.  Like things, some will fade.  Some are gone, but I know going through the stuff will renew some of those memories.  I'm trying to brace myself for the feelings.  Feelings are... well... not my favorite thing.

I don't really have any "last words" or a way to end this gracefully, except to say good night.  Or maybe like Scarlett, "I'll think about that tomorrow.  After all, tomorrow is another day."

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What time is it?

For as long as I can remember my dad has worn a watch - Timex, analog, with date and an expansion band.  Over the years they have looked different but always had that same profile.

As long as he was allowed his watch, he wore it on his left arm.  He has always been time conscious - almost obsessively.  If someone said they would be there at 11:00, he would check his watch or whatever clock he could see and monitor the time at least 15 minutes ahead of time.  This became more pronounced when he was in the hospital.  "They said lunch is at 12:15.  Lunch isn't here.  Call the nurse."

Even after his stroke, when the neurologist asked him what time it was, he answered it old-school.  Looked at his watch and said "23 minutes before 11."  The neurologist and her two students had to look at their watches and confirm that he was indeed correct.  I laughed at them.   Out loud.  The looks on their faces was THAT funny.

He always wore his watch - until today.

As I sat next to him this afternoon, he had gotten fidgety and keep fooling with his bedspread, his shirt buttons, and his watch.  He was trying to get the watch off and pinched his skin. "Ouch."  He rubbed the pinched skin and I asked if he wanted me to hold his watch.  He nodded and kept rubbing the skin.  When I asked if he wanted me to help put it back on, he said, "No.  Keep it."

He had been compulsively looking at his watch the last several week.  I would ask him what time it was and he would drop his arm and not answer.  I knew he had lost the ability to tell time.

He has been singing and talking and talking to people I can't see.  I heard him say tonight, "But I don't want to wait."  A few minutes later I had his watch on my arm.  I talked with him about singing and being in choir and asked if he wanted to go to choir.  He brightened up. "I like to sing."  He joined my mother's choir many years ago to get her to agree to date him.  I suggested to him that maybe Mama has a choir in Heaven he could join.  "I like to sing," he said again.

I thought maybe this watch was a sign that it's time.  Time for him to sing again.  Time for him to meet Jesus face face.  So tonight, before I left his side, instead of telling him I'd see him tomorrow, I told him goodbye.  I don't know he if knew the difference, but I do know he's ready to say hello to his forever.

Soon, Daddy.  It will be time soon.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Waiting on God

Today while visiting with Daddy at the nursing home, he told us he was ready to die.  "Why won't these people let me die?  Why can't I see a doctor? I'm ready to go."

He has seen a doctor - I've talked with him.  We are adjusting medications and helping him be comfortable.

We talked about a lot of life is waiting on God and we just can't push that.  He's ready to see Jesus, my grandparents, my aunt and my mother.   He's not really sure when he is smiling or not, so if he catches us smiling at him, he will smile big and sometimes asks, "is my smile okay?"

He is done with this life on earth and he's tired.  "But my heart just won't stop."  Greg and I observed some changes today that confirmed that it won't be too much longer but you can't put a timeline on living or death.  That's between Daddy and God.  I'm confident in the next few days or weeks they'll figure it out.

He is actually pretty peaceful but was annoyed they were crushing his medicine and putting it in applesauce.  On hospice, if you don't want to eat, you shouldn't have to eat - even for medicine.  So I texted my contacts and they are going to begin looking at alternative methods for keeping him comfortable - without needles.  We talked to the nurse about food - we know they have to offer it, but he doesn't have to eat it and we asked them to quit pushing it.  "But even on hospice they need to eat."  Actually - no, they don't, not if they don't want it.  It is making him sick and he told me today he is having trouble swallowing it.

The care he is getting is pretty good - he says they are good people and take good care of him.  I think his nurse just doesn't understand the hospice process so we will have a care meeting soon and make sure we all understand the goal here is comfort.

So - we wait on God and Daddy's body to be in agreement.  We are all ready for him to be whole again.

Monday, February 6, 2017

My life is...

... over.  That's what my father said trying to communicate with a relative that he is done trying to be alive.  Really what he is trying to say is he is too tired and his body is too worn out to continue living as he has been.  He is ready for everlasting life. As jolting as those were to my heart, I know it is true.  He has told me, "I like this current arrangement," meaning he likes just sleeping when he wants to and no one bothering with him to do therapy or make him eat.  The people at the nursing home thinks he should eat - he just doesn't want it.

So - in comes hospice who says he doesn't have to do anything he doesn't want to - and that has been a relief.  Medication has been drastically reduced.  He drinks Coke if he wants it or nothing at all.

Since he moved he has been noticeably more relaxed and more comfortable talking about memories and what comes next - Heaven.  We haven't directly addressed Heaven yet, but I know it is coming, and he is ready to go.  There was a significant decline between Saturday and Sunday.

It has made me think about what my life is right now.

.... busy.  I've been doing a job and a half and trying to manage my dad's care.  The half job at school is blessedly finished (although it was great fun) and I no longer have to manage his care.  I am trying to get all the business stuff handled so we don't have to do it later.

.... peaceful. Since we made the hospice decision, I no longer feel I must push him to try to be better and he is no longer fighting me or trying to make me happy.

.... melancholy.  I am naturally a ponderer and tend towards the melancholy - liking rainy days and all.  But I realize at almost 50 years old, I no longer have a sibling and will soon be without both my parents. We were never really close but it sounds like a lonely place to be.  I'm okay with being alone - lonely is something entirely different.

.... grateful.  I have a wonderful husband who is helping me in all sorts of quiet and loving ways and makes sure I eat before I get "hangry." I have friends who check in with me regularly.  I have the hope of salvation and eternity with Jesus Christ.

.... exhausted.  See the busy statement.  Plus I'm not sleeping very well these days, and when I do sleep, I do not feel rested.  I dream about my phone ringing a lot - very irritating.

So that's the state of things - in a nutshell.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The way my mind works...

... is no surprise to my family.

I'm a problem solver.  Let's look at the big picture, eliminate what doesn't matter and start narrowing down your options.  Very algebraic, very mathematical - but when it isn't a problem involving something quantitative, I can't use my tried and true methods of problem solving.

Problems with people have too many variables.  They are too unpredictable and full of surprises.  You can try to anticipate and plan, but realize your expectations may not be met, and some new variable (change) can be thrown into the mix.  The strategy takes a turn with a possible new problem to address.

As you can tell, I'm dealing with a problem right now of how best to care for my dad.  We are in our second stint in rehabilitation following his August 22nd stroke, this time with an infection.  He is weak and frustrated (and frustrating).  There are many options at the moment and it is my job, and my job alone, to make some potentially tough decisions.  My husband is definitely there to support me, give me advice, and ask some questions of things I may not have thought of.  So while I am not literally alone, I am alone.

One thing is constant however:  God is Creator of the universe and loves all of us.  Jesus is the Way, THE Truth, and the Life.  I feel His presence every step of the way, especially when there are no words to my prayers.  His presence under-girds me when I am especially exhausted and provides clarity when I am confused.

I am grateful my mind works the way it does.  It helps me to detach sometimes from the emotional side of things and works on those things I can actually accomplish - checking things off the exceptionally long to-do list.  And then the Lord says, "Look how I made you.  It's all okay.  Get some rest.  I've got you."