Flower Petals

My journal entry from April 2017:

As a family we have been on a journey with my Dad that brought us to the Mayo clinic for further testing and confirmation. My dear Dad is just 64 years old and has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I cannot tell you in mere words how difficult it is for me to even type that sentence. That particular set of words strung together in the same sentence. Unfathomable. It is devastating. It is heartbreaking. It is unthinkable. But, yet it is. Most difficult to bear is there is nothing we can do. We can’t stop it. We can’t make it go away. We can only try to fight it with herbs and foods and vitamins and prayers.

He can’t remember his own birthday. This from the man who could rattle off the make and model of old hot rod vehicles as they drove down the road in a matter of seconds. He knew exactly what year we traveled to Washington D.C or Phoenix or California. He was great with numbers, dates, names, places, people. Now, conversations are difficult. He struggles to find words. He is losing those dear people he knew to exist in his outer perimeter. When we are out in public, they come up to talk with him. After he does his best to engage in polite conversation, they walk away and he doesn’t know who they are. It makes my heart hurt to see him struggle so. He loves people and loves to talk.

It is as if my Dad is made of flower petals, and there is a quiet breeze blowing each petal off of him, one by one.  Until he will be stripped of all of his colorful, soft, beautiful petals. Each petal represents a connection, a memory, a word. Sometimes, it is as if we can see the stripping of each velvet petal right before our eyes. Others may drift off in the night. Inside our own heads, we cry out and scream! NO! We want to tape, to sew, to glue each one back on. But it is not possible. Impossible. No cure. No treatment. No next steps.

We just pray that what petals are left will hold tightly. That he will stay just like this for as long as he can. For the most excruciating pain lies ahead for each of us, lies in the petal that represents us. Me. I am a petal. And someday he will lose me too. The memory of me, of who I am to him, will vanish.

Advertisements

Bravery

Bravery

Bravery. This is a word that has been on my mind and in my heart for a long while now. It is something I think about every morning as I drop my kids off at their school. My heart feels a little like it is being pulled out of my chest, like it did that first day of kindergarten. Although, my son is now in fifth grade and my daughter is in third so I’ve had years of practice with school drop offs. But it’s not ever completely emotionless for me. I feel their sense of bravery as they exit the warm cocoon of our vehicle and enter their school. These tiny humans that have been gifted to me to care for and love and to make into the best adults they can possibly be. They will face academic challenges and the influence of their peers. They will have the opportunity to be good and kind friends to others, and also to potentially be bullied or treated poorly by a classmate. In light of recent events, they could even face the danger and ridiculous horror of a shooting at their school. This. This makes me want to puke. This breaks my heart just to think of them not feeling safe and secure and protected. The thought of them being hurt, emotionally or physically completely turns me inside out and into a crazy, over-protective mama bear. It makes me want to put them in a bubble. Which is so completely silly, but also so true.

There is the balance of letting them go though too. Of growing up. Of fighting their own battles. Of building their own strength of character. They may be the one to defend another friend from a bully. They may be the one to be a positive influence on a friend. This is necessary and I know it. So, each morning, the drop off is bittersweet. I say prayers. Deep, unrelenting prayers for safety and security and protection from any kind of harm. There is much work to be done to fix the issues we have in this country. Because killing people is never okay. I do not want to gloss over that part but I also don’t have the brain space to tackle it here. I just know that in the darkness, there is light. Beautiful light.

Bravery found me last year when I learned of my impending need for open heart surgery to replace my pulmonary valve. There was a period of a few weeks where I really, honestly focused way too much on the very tiny chance there was that I could die during this surgery. It suffocated me, and stayed with me at all times like a storm cloud hanging over my head. Invisible but dark and filled with dread. Impending doom. It woke me up in the middle of the night and it wouldn’t allow me fall back to sleep. Fear. Panic. I was not ready to leave this Earth or my children. I tried to focus on the other 98%. The chances of making it through surgery, which let’s face it, are pretty amazing odds in my favor. But for a short window of time, I could only focus on the two percent.

I finally had a huge, soul-baring prayer where I just gave The Whole Thing to God. My life. The surgery. My helplessness. My fears. My whole self. I gave it to Him and let Him take care of it. It was the most freeing moment of my life. The weeks that followed were so, so good. I felt confident, calm, and completely at peace with the procedure and with everything.

I dusted off my Bravery again last week when I resigned from my position after over 18 years. It is the most empowering feeling when you decide to be brave. We are made to be brave. We are made to be courageous. I truly believe that and I’m living proof. I took a leap of faith. I didn’t have another job lined up. I just knew that God blessed me with specific talents and skills and I needed to start using them in my profession on a daily basis. Once you know what you love to do, you have to follow that passion and say Yes to yourself. To happiness. To following your dreams. To being your best self.

Today, I just want to encourage you to be brave. Take the leap. Find the strength. Ask for it. Be courageous. Follow your dreams. If I have learned anything over this past year, it is that we only get one life. Say yes to yourself. Be your best self. Be the light. This is it, friends!

P.S. I actually feel a lot like Merida from the Disney Movie Brave. I even quoted her last Friday to my dear family and said “I’m going to change my fate” in a terrible Scottish accent. It was funny. But I was also serious!