I was noticing as I got out the winter clothes a couple of weeks ago, that Clare now fits (although barely!) in the dress I bought for Samantha for Dad’s funeral. It’s funny the way time works, and the things that remind us.
Let’s see how far I get with this – we’ve been too busy living to spend time writing about living lately! So here’s what I’ve got saved up…
According to my camera, this is from last June. But I think the date is wrong, and it was actually October. Either way, it’s been a while since I went through the pics on the camera!
Here is the little altar I put together for the Day of the Dead. Mom’s only in the picture because it was the best/most easily accessible one I had of Dad. The had and cookbook are my grandmothers (Eva Krivanek), gum drops were one of my other grandmother’s favorite treats (Margaret Courtney). The box and frog puzzle my dad made, and the peanuts were one of his favorite snacks. The rosary was also Grandma Krivanek’s, and the little pictures on the right are of me with my grandmothers. That was all I could dig up at the last minute when I did this, but I’ll be a little more prepared this year (if the things aren’t still in storage! More on that in a later post…)
This was in November. One of them was confused about the weather forecast. If I remember right, it was Samantha.
They take good care of each other…
…and Pooh Bear.
The nativity set the girls played with. They’re taking a nap while they wait for baby Jesus.
The meltdowns have begun, so I’ll have to finish this later.
“My great-great-grandmother, great-grandmother, grandmother, mother are all alive for me because they are part of my story. My children and grandchildren and I tell stories about Hugh, my husband. We laugh and we remember–re-member. I tell stories about my friend, the theologian Canon Tallis, who was far more than my spiritual director, with whom I had one of those wonders, a spiritual friendship. I do not believe that these stories are their immortality–that is something quite different. But remembering their stories is the best way I know to have them remain part of my mortal life. And I need them to be part of me, while at the same time I am quite willing for them all to be doing whatever it is that God has in mind for them to do. Can those who are part of that great cloud of witnesses which has gone before us be in two places at once? I believe that they can, just as Jesus could, after the Resurrection.”
-Madeleine L’Engle, Glimpses of Grace
Happy birthday, Dad. We planted some blackberry bushes in the backyard for you today. We miss you and we love you. Pray for us!
Sorry, everyone, for the long silence. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, and I promised myself I wouldn’t write until I could be reasonably sure I wouldn’t be immediately interrupted. We spent most of last week in Texas, because on October 21 my father passed away. Even though we knew he had cancer and this was possible, it was not expected at the time or in the way that it happened, so it has still been a bit of a shock.
The Thursday before he died, Dad was feeling really well. Then he started running a slight fever, which, because of the chemo, meant he had to go to the hospital. They kept him over the weekend, and I last talked to him on Saturday. He sounded good and was watching the Texas-OU game. I didn’t call Monday or Tuesday to see if he was out of the hospital yet, and on Wednesday Mom called me.
When Mom left the hospital Tuesday night, Dad was fine. He had not gone home yet because his white cell count was low, and when it got back up, his platelet count was still low. Wednesday morning the hospital called Mom to tell her that Dad had had a fall during the night, and was now in the ICU. She rushed over, and found that the hospital staff had spent most of the night trying to get Dad back to consciousness and figure out what was wrong. This went on until around 2:30 in the afternoon, when he let go with my Mom, his brother, and his brother’s wife and daughter at his side.
I missed Mom’s call the first time, but something (my angel?) told me to check the cell phone just a few minutes later, so I talked to her before they had even finished taking out all the tubes and IVs and such. I took the girls outside and we waited for Craig. (Actually, I called several people to try and tell him not to go to his Campus Ministry meeting, but it had been canceled anyway.) I must have explained to Lucy twenty times that Grandpa had died while I pushed her on the swing. I think that helped it sink in, having to say it over and over to her.
Well, we packed up and went to Baton Rouge and Craig’s parents’ house for the night, and then drove on to Fort Worth Thursday. We were able to see Dad that evening, then he was cremated and there was a graveside service the following Wednesday. We think there were between seventy and a hundred people at the service. Apparently that is a lot, but I didn’t have anything to compare it to, since I had never even been to a graveside service before. For some reason, my parents thought they could sneak their funerals by without anyone noticing. My dad taught almost everyone in our town, and two and even three generations of some families. Sneaking by was really not possible. The ladies at St. Peter’s put on a nice lunch for the family and a few of our friends, and the next day we drove back to Baton Rouge. The girls and I stayed there, while Craig went back to N.O. for school on Friday, then joined us in B.R. for a baby shower, birthday party, and Trick-or-Treating. And finally we are home again, the house is back in some semblance of order, and life is returning to “normal”.
Those are the basics of what happened, but there was so much more. The outpouring of love, plants, prayers, and food was nearly overwhelming. (And thank you for all those things!) Knowing how much my Dad was loved and respected is wonderful, but in some ways I think it makes it even harder to miss him now, and to wonder if I appreciated him while he was here. Believe me, it’s hard to write, or even think, anything of substance without tears. There are a thousand little things to miss. I know I haven’t even discovered so many of them yet.
I wrote down thoughts as all this was going on, on a note card which I’ve pinned to the bulletin board above the computer screen. They are some of the things I’ll be thinking about and working out over the coming weeks. But the most glaring thing I’ve noticed is, how can anyone grieve with little children around? When they aren’t keeping you busy with diapers and other basic demands, they are snuggling, laughing, and doing outrageous things that keep your mind from wandering. There is little room for moping, or sitting and thinking. I’m having to devise a new way of grieving, both for a new kind of loss and a new situation. It’s different. I feel almost guilty for the hours I spend without a thought of my Dad, and the joy that wells up so often in spite of what I think I “should” feel, but the moments of realization are strong and effecatious. I’m sure that is the wrong word, but I can’t think of anything closer. And I remind myself that maybe now Dad’s enjoying watching Samantha walk (which she started doing in earnest in Texas), and Lucy run and laugh and learn more than he ever could here on earth.
And I question why I ever wanted to be so far away from my family, what pride made me think I was too good for my hometown and needed a bigger, better place.
Meanwhile, Samantha is walking. She’s a different baby (toddler!) from when Dad last saw her. Craig got a part-time youth ministry job in B.R. at his parish from high school, St. Jean Vianney. Which means our ends really do meet again, and our schedules will be getting tighter. The JustFaith group I was possibly going to lead fell through, which in light of Craig’s new job may actually be a blessing. Life goes on. This might be the hardest part to deal with so far. The world doesn’t stop when someone dies, even someone very special and very important, at least to me. My girls keep growing, the boys Craig teaches keep being boys, bills are still due, Fall keeps marching towards Winter. The Saints keep winning. We still need groceries and diapers and soap. And tomorrow is Samantha’s first birthday. It is difficult to keep it all in perspective, or even to hold it in (or near) my mind all at once.
So for now, we press on. It seems anti-climatic, and maybe it is. Where is the climax to this story? Where was the climax to Dad’s story? I’m not sure he thought he had even reached it yet. Do our stories even fit the narrative structure we learn in literature classes? Maybe it’s not the building to a climatic moment, but rather the small, quiet nows that make up a life. The story might not play well on screen, but it wasn’t designed to. It was designed to play in a human body, in a family, among friends and a community. There is an online guestbook attached to the obituary in the newspaper, and there are so many people who commented that Dad touched them as a teacher or principal. They were just small moments for him. But clearly each of those small moments, each of those few words, each of the smiles he gave so generously made a difference.
If it is the small moments that matter, I have a lot of work to do. If our magnum opus is not so much a single tower as a meandering pathway made of small, carefully laid bricks, I must be much more careful how I make breakfast in the morning, how I speak to my girls, how I welcome my husband home, how I treat the lady working the check-out. Merton, among others, speaks of focusing on living in the “now”, being present to the people and situations around us at a given moment. That seems especially hard right now, but also especially important. I can’t change anything I said to my Dad, no matter how much I dwell on it. But I can still decide how I treat people today and tomorrow and the next day. I can make them feel special and important like Dad did for so many of his students.
It’s good to write, even if it gets to be rambling. I don’t realize what I’m thinking sometimes until I see it on the screen, and there it all works itself out. It’s a strange way to think. But anyway, thank you for your patience, and especially for your prayers. Please keep praying for me and my family. We are missing a large part of our selves right now. But I don’t doubt that the prayers help. I know that they are that little push I get when I need it most these days. So thank you. Believe it or not, I don’t have anything else to say!
Here’s the email my mom sent out, it tells the story better than I would trying to explain it. The chemo is getting harder, but otherwise things seem to be looking up.
“Just wanted you to know that Eldon had a PET scan last Friday and an Echo cardiogram Tuesday. They both came out good. The doctor was pleased. The cancer has shrunk in most spots. There are still two spots on the lungs. Eldon will have two more treatments and another PET scan after that. He may need only the two treatments instead of the original four more.
The doctor would not let him have his scheduled chemo treatment today because his white blood cell count was too low. It looks like he will have these next two treatment four weeks apart instead of three weeks apart. It is getting harder for him to recover from the treatments as the cancer is fighting harder to stay alive. He is having trouble walking and has sores developing on his legs. He’s not eating as much again and has lost more weight. The farther away from the treatment date the better he eats. Hopefully, this week he will start eating again. His spirits are good when nothing hurts and is enjoying our cooler weather. He is still planning on going hunting in November, which is something he is looking forward to.
Thanks for all your prayers. You can see they are working. Please keep the prayers going. Thank you.”
Dad sounded good when I talked to him this evening. If it’s only two treatments, the end is in sight, and just knowing that helps. Please do keep praying!
Here’s the latest on my Dad. He had his stint taken out yesterday (and replaced? I haven’t called to find out if they had to put one in again) and today he has his fourth round of chemo. Here is the novena, which I will be starting again. The good news is, this is the halfway point for the treatments they have planned.
Sorry the posts have been few and far between lately, the girls aren’t sleeping as much as they had been. Or maybe I’m sleeping more… : ) There are pictures coming, but I have to do them from Craig’s computer, which means in the evening, which is really hard. But soon…
Ah, it’s been a while. Things have been slightly crazy. Dad had his third chemo treatment, and that is still going as well as can be expected. He’s tired and sick, but still in good spirits.
Craig’s mom needs prayers now, too. She had a biopsy done Tuesday and will find out September 9 if is it something they will have to treat. In the meantime, she’s recovering from the biopsy and the anesthesia, and trying not to worry too much about what the test results will be. When it rains around here, it pours!
Part of the reason I’ve been so slow to post is that our computer was stolen two weekends ago when our house was broken into. Fortunately, the only took that and the change jars I was collecting for the girls. Unfortunately (?) that means they took less than our home owner’s insurance deductible, so we were on our own for replacing the computer. (Which, I don’t think I mentioned, we had only had for about three weeks.) But Deus providebit, and one of the priests from Craig’s school, who knows lots and lots and lots about computers, heard what had happened and built us a new desktop from pieces he had laying around. Which is how I am now able to write this for you to read. God sure has strange ways of going about things.
I’ll be updating the homeschooling things soon, but I seem short on time lately, so that is what has been neglected. Some of the time has been going to rearranging the house, including trying to get our front bedroom in the sort of condition to be used as the homeschooling room.
But you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with “pirate prayer”. On a rare (these days) occasion, I drop by other Catholic homeschooling mommy blogs (if you know of other good ones, I’d love to hear about them), and I found a jewel today. Here it is. Enjoy.
A couple of people have asked me how my Dad is doing. Well, I things seem to be going about as well as they can at this point. His hair is gone, but he hasn’t really suffered the nausea that tends to come with chemo, and says he feels pretty good. (He actually sounds better than before he began treatment.)
He had his second treatment yesterday, so (a little belated), I’m starting up the novena again. It’s here if anyone cares to join in.
Thank you for all the prayers and concern, it really does mean a lot to me and my family.
The news so far for my Dad is good. He is in the hospital and they did one dose of chemo (apparently there are four doses in each round, and they expect to do six rounds total) and that went very well, so they expect him to handle the treatment pretty well. Mom says he looks and sounds better than he has, so that’s good news, too. He should be home Thursday or Friday, and then he gets a couple of weeks off before the next round of treatment. Thank you so much for all the prayers, I know they are helping!
Since my dad starts his chemo tomorrow, I thought it would be a good time to start a novena for him. I picked St. Joseph, since Dad used to teach industrial arts and enjoyed carpentry until he got sick. Maybe in a few months he will be able to get back to his shop!
Here is the novena I’m doing, but I found several others, so if you want to pray any of them along with me I would love the company!
To you, blessed Joseph, we come with confidence in this our hour of need, trusting in your powerful protection. Your loving service to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God and your fatherly affection for the Child Jesus inspire us with faith in the power of your intercession before the throne of God. We pray, first of all, for the Church: that it may be free from error and corruption, and be a shining light of universal love and justice. We ask your intercession for our loved ones in their trials and adversities, that they may be inspired by the love, obedience, and affection of the Holy Family, and be to each other a mutual source of consolation and Christian fidelity. We ask your intercession, also, for our special need(s)... (Mention your intention here...), and to keep us all under your protection so that strengthened by your example and assistance, we may lead a holy life, die a happy death, and come to the possession of everlasting happiness in heaven. Amen.