Saturday, January 28, 2017

Some Things are Evergreen

 photo IMG_0958_zpscvji0sqt.jpg

A couple weeks ago I posted this photo and wrote, 

"On days like today, when the roofline blends in with the sky, and my sister and I cry heaving tears on the phone as we talk about hospice, about my brother saying goodbye to our sweet mom, and the notable, heartbreaking changes in her, I decide we will keep our wreaths in the windows. As long as we can. With a hope that things will stay a little longer, just as they are. Some things are evergreen."

Playing through my mind were the words to one of my Mother's favorite songs:

"Don't be afraid of the dark...

At the end of the storm, there's a golden sky...

Though your dreams be tossed and blown..."

And what followed, at least on the screen of my phone, were the most beautiful comments from you - friends and family, far and near. 

From my sister Bec, "We are evergreen; with our eternal family." 

From my friend Ally, "Those wreaths are like The Everlasting Life who connects our families forever." 

From Allyson, "Your mother and your relationship with her are evergreen." 

 photo IMG_6269_zpsxrrlxslk.jpg

So I have kept our woodland berry wreaths hanging in the windows. Symbols to me of those truths and relationships that never die.

My mother's health took a nose-dive right after Christmas. She became unable to help transfer herself to the wheelchair, was choking and aspirating when she would eat or drink, so she stopped eating. Her speech became slurred, and she became less coherent of what was happening around her. It was heartbreaking to watch.

My brother, Dave, who was in town, would make her crépes, fill her water jug, or help her into bed. After every tiny act of service, he would gently put his hand on her shoulder and say, "I love you Mom." At one point she was so weak, he and my Dad had to literally scoop her body up like a baby and place it in the wheelchair.

Dave built a shower for her in the bathroom, complete with detachable hose, children's pool, curtain held with a hula hoop, and a pump to pump out the water. He would sit and read to her, which I know was comforting to her. And yet, with every new day she seemed to be slipping further away.

One night I sat on the couch and held my Dad's hand while he cried.

 photo IMG_0760_zpsnwdwgdph.jpg

I took these photos on our Keddington family day. Right before she started to decline. She was remarkably alert and spunky that day. 

Note the red bow in her hair. Some mornings it takes us a while to get around to doing her hair. On this morning it was sticking straight up. We had a good laugh as Bec tied a red ribbon round her wild hair. Mom handled it all with a big smile, like the amazing sport she is.

 photo IMG_0762_zpsewmpeebb.jpg

I love her eyes. 

That evening, Doug took most the kids home, but Ali stayed with me to finish cleaning the kitchen. My Mom was lying down on the couch when we bent down to kiss her goodbye, and she just started talking, about how beautiful Ali was, not only on the outside, but on the inside. How she could see what Ali would look like when she was grown up. 

"I could watch my children and grandchildren all day long. It makes me so happy. I look into the eyes of my grand babies and it's as if we've known each other a long time. I look at your girls, Cath, and I can see what they will look like as teenagers. So beautiful. This weekend was like looking into the eternities  for me."

Baby Jack was in Sarah's arms, reaching out to touch my mom's face, smiling at her, as if they really had known each other a long, long time. It was a visionary moment of sorts. I felt she could somehow see us continuing on, linked together as a family, even after she was gone.

When we walked out to the car, Ali said to me, "Mom, I could feel the spirit when Grandma was talking." And my heart immediately swelled. "Me too," I said. And we talked about what we had felt.

 photo IMG_6265_zpswv30ovmy.jpg

Some things do last beyond the now. 

Some things really are ever green.

And God, in all his grace and goodness, for some reason, decided to honor our prayers. He allowed things to stay as they were, a little longer.

We thought my Mother had suffered another brain hemorrhage, which was causing her rapid decline, but in calling the oncologist, he felt it was due to tumor growth and swelling in her brain so he started her on a steroid, which helped immediately.

For the last three weeks, my mother has been eating again, able to remember things, to talk, laugh, and hold a pretty good conversation. She is still weak when it comes to transferring from couch to wheelchair, and she is sleeping more than usual, but we are managing. And hospice nurses and therapists come regularly, on-the-ready for anything we might need.

We know the steroid is a temporary fix. Eventually the swelling will overtake the dexamethasone, but for now, we are grateful for every day with her. 

 photo IMG_6769_zpsqlojgrvo.jpg

My Dad called her siblings and encouraged them to come see my Mom while she was still able to talk and know they are there. They set their busy lives aside, and came. From several states. To spend the weekend with their oldest sister.

 photo IMG_6763_zps83imdfhe.jpg

When Berkley walked in I had all kinds of flashbacks: reunions at the farm, pull-up contests, waterskiing, and so many great times. I thought how lucky we were to grow up with these good people as part of our childhood. They encircled my Mom with love. They laughed, talked, and brought with them, faith. The same trust in heaven their parents taught them to have. 

It made my Mom so happy. She said, "After all these years we still care about each other and make time for each other." I thought my Grandparents, Marv and Lorraine Wray, would be mighty proud.

 photo IMG_0576_zpsiayxfffy.jpg

As for Christmas at our house, we finally got our tree lit the week before Christmas.

 photo IMG_6247 1_zps0wpwt9gl.jpg

The kids built a snow fort in the backyard. Little did we know there were piles and piles of more snow coming our way.

 photo IMG_0950_zps28jvuqts.jpg

Eliza was asked to make 25 of these red paper stars to hang in the gym for our church Christmas party. Bless her heart. She did them all by herself and was happy about it. I thought they were the perfect touch.

 photo IMG_0625_zpso7kc3z8g.jpg

We saw the candy windows downtown.

 photo IMG_0629_zps713d4345.jpg

This one made me laugh. "Selfie Stick."

 photo IMG_0687_zps1qjlckev.jpg

On Christmas Eve we went skiing with the Arvy clan, per Arvy tradition. First time in 12 years for me and let me tell you, I was nervous, nervous Nellie about trying out my new skis. But the snow was amazing, and after a few runs I started to get the hang of it again. We skied until the lifts closed and to my relief, I finished the day with both ACLs still intact. 

 photo IMG_0702_zps33egff48.jpg

Nativity reenactment at my parents' house.

 photo IMG_6505_zpsszpccoq0.jpg

New pajamas for these yahoos.

 photo IMG_0725_zpsjoivke3a.jpg

And on Christmas Eve, baby Jesus was placed in the crèche. (I love this original art piece by Samantha Lehnardt. Hand delivered one afternoon with lots of love. Check out her stationary and prints @lionheartpaper.)

 photo IMG_6550_zpskx0r1l74.jpg

Christmas morning was full of anticipation and an unusual amount of mid-morning waking. A different child was up every hour from 2AM on and I about lost my mind by 5AM, after putting kids back to bed again and again. By 11AM I had to lie down for a nap.

 photo IMG_6559_zps9upq7em5.jpg

For the first time ever, they sang "Here we sit like birds in the wilderness... waiting to go DOWNstairs." Rather than UPstairs.

 photo IMG_6568_zpsd5j7cerq.jpg

A penny skateboard for Gordy.

 photo IMG_6563_zpssfaiunar.jpg

Stuffed penguin for Spence. He LOVES his stuffed animals.

 photo IMG_6564_zpseynkaxln.jpg

A camera for Sami. And a little black kitty.

 photo IMG_6572_zpsliejahsm.jpg

Polaroid camera for Ali.

 photo IMG_6575_zpsbxijm40g.jpg

And a desk for Eliza. 

Santa, however, could only leave her the chair. The desk was coming via Pottery Barn, because it was the one she liked best, and he said their shipping department wasn't nearly as good as his elves.

 photo IMG_6589_zpssxxlmz14.jpg

The chaos.

 photo IMG_6603_zpss7k1jmkq.jpg

Kitty craft for Sami, from Gordon.

 photo IMG_6606_zpscvlljn6r.jpg

Pokémon cards for Gordy from Mom and Dad. Seriously, the rage with Pokémon is lost on me. The boys and all their friends are WAY into trading and collecting these cards. Usually I try to get excited about my kids toys but the Pokémon craze, even after reading the cards and trying to understand, remains a mystery to me.

 photo IMG_6617_zpscdpynvhh.jpg

Ali and Sami got pinboards for the rooms from Mom and Dad.

 photo IMG_6631_zpspwhrshsq.jpg

I finally printed all our Chatbooks. A starting place at least, when it comes to printing our family history and organizing photos. Everyone LOVES sitting down and looking through them. And this commercial that went viral? Funniest thing I've seen in a long time! Oh, how I could relate. You too?

 photo IMG_6621_zps9xthxwdj.jpg

Ali was the best Secret Pal to Spencer. She went above and beyond in her daily service for him. Someday I hope he understands how lucky he is to have a sister like her.

 photo IMG_6626_zpsdx43csrr.jpg

Sami made me this pillow in her sewing class. I love everything about it and I keep it on our bed.

 photo IMG_6622_zpszto0oqld.jpg

I gave Doug this keychain with Steven's signature engraved on it. How we missed Steve over the holidays.

 photo IMG_6669_zps3gcebjg2.jpg

Santa left a vegetarian thank you note.
       photo IMG_6638_zpsvnipswme.jpg

And Doug got me brand new, shining metal cookware from Williams-Sonoma! Our old non-stick pans were flaking off into our food. (Let's just say my mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving looked like they had extra pepper in them. We had to throw that batch out.)

 photo IMG_0726_zpsmv5kqsvn.jpg

And one of the best Christmas gifts of all? This amazing snow storm. We woke to a foot of new snow on the ground. Eliza, of course, was the first one to venture out.

 photo IMG_6645_zpsjqsztm3h.jpg

Doug has done a whole lot of shoveling this winter.

 photo IMG_6666_zpspej9r7um.jpg

 photo IMG_0798_zpsijivxksd.jpg

When Dave was in town, we had a Keddington family ski day. This Texan only skis once a year but he can still hustle down the slopes like a pro. I could barely keep up. Here we are at the summit of Solitude.

 photo IMG_0800_zps9stso2up.jpg

We put these rookies in ski school.

 photo IMG_0788_zps7jwgju1v.jpg

And the girls skied with us. By the end of the day, all of them had made big gains in their ski confidence. Liza (above) is kamikaze on the hills. Sometimes I watch her go down ahead of me and she doesn't even turn! Just rockets straight to the bottom. That girl is crazy and she loves speed. Lesson I learned with her? The trees really do have trolls. Do NOT follow Eliza into the trees. Tree trails are for kids. Not unsuspecting adults with long skis.

 photo IMG_0781_zpsgcumezej.jpg

It was a good ski day.

 photo IMG_0951_zps4mqokgr8.jpg

Found Spencer like this one morning. Sound asleep, in a penguin hug.

 photo IMG_0821_zpsq5ih1lfp.jpg

On New Year's Eve, which was Steve's Birthday, we met at the cemetery for a balloon release. His daughter Abi's idea. We brought red and white balloons because Steve was an avid Ute fan. We sang happy birthday, then let them fly. 

 photo IMG_1179_zpsk7p3jlub.jpg

I hope he saw and felt the love.

 photo IMG_0878_zpsvxdqdf3i.jpg

I was so touched when these darling granddaughters saw their Grandma crying and pulled her into a hug. Held on to her. Cried with her.

 photo IMG_0858_zpsolwx7hii.jpg

For Christmas we gave Renae this necklace. The "Mom, I love you" is in Steven's handwriting. With his 6 year old signature on back.

 photo IMG_0614_zpsr8ezgmej.jpg

My most caring friend, Gaylyn, who has known more loss than a mother and grandmother should, brought this card over one afternoon. I keep it on the hutch in our dining room. I see it and I believe it. And I know she believes it. I trust one day it will be true.

 photo IMG_0650_zpsrwjgjekd.jpg

One evening I had Spencer in the car and we decided to drive past this tree I had heard about in our local cemetery. Wow, was it worth the stop! It has been called the "Tree of Life" and it was absolutely stunning. A beacon of light against the dark landscape. 

 photo IMG_7645_zps5twobq86.jpg

And just as that tree of life stands as a symbol that light always masters the dark, our wreaths quietly speak to me of things eternal. Of relationships, of family continuing on, round and round, with no end. And I am leaving them in our windows. 

 photo IMG_7655_zps53ua35yj.jpg

They make me happy. They remind me that God hears our pleadings. That some things really are evergreen. And that his plan is full of grace. 

I can trust in it. In his precise knowing of what my mother needs. And in the timing of it all. 

I can take those days when I walk around with a pit in my stomach wondering how it will play out, wondering how I will let her go, and give it over to Him. 

There is nothing else for me but trust. That his light will fill all the dark corners.

As my friend Emily wrote, "May there be light shining from every window of your home."

And on this snowy evening, there is. 


  1. So beautiful, Cath. Isn't it amazing how the heartbreaking moments and the joy-filled ones are so intertwined in life? You know how to live them all wholeheartedly, and I love your example of that. Hugs to you, friend!

  2. So many parts of this took my breath away, and brought tears to my eyes. I love all the symbolism! Especially the tree of life in the middle of the cemetery--a remember that our loved ones live on else where. You are such an example to me of Christ's love as I watch you take tender care of your mother. Hugs to your whole family as you walk through this sacred time so close to the veil.

  3. I had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes reading this absolutely beautiful piece. You are such a soulful writer. I could feel your sweet spirit in your words. May God bless you as you accompany your beautiful through her precious moments saying goodbye. Please give her a hug for me. I feel blessed to have known and loved your family.

  4. Oh my friend...How I LOVE reading your blog. I LOVE your family. I LOVE the insight you give me to life. xoxoxo

  5. Even during sad times, wishing you the sweetness of life.

  6. Thankful for you! Sending my love. The promises really are sure. You will feel your Mother's presence all your living days; I know this. At the most unexpected times. Thank you Catherine for your faithfulness and sharing. Bless your heart.

  7. This is beautiful, Catherine! I love and admire your mom and am sorry she is not doing well. She is in my prayers! xo Margaret Sargent


Related Posts with Thumbnails