Thursday, November 3, 2011

in honor of Mom

St. Anne's was indeed a temporary home for Mom, and her last home here on this earth. There wasn't much left for her here in this life, and on October 11 she passed on to her eternal life. There is much to say; I will share more thoughts in the days ahead.

A celebration of Mom's life was held a little over a week ago. And it truly was a celebration. Mom was blessed with a full life. I'm so grateful for the special memories that were shared that day by so many who loved Mom. I'll leave this post with the words written for the program:

Irene Elizabeth Weigly July 24, 1923 - October 11, 2011

Irene was born in Highland, Indiana to Julius and Elizabeth Szur; she was the oldest of two sisters. She married Theodore ("Ted") Weigly in 1955 and had 3 children. They lived in the Chicago area before moving to Florida in 1967.

Irene was a full-time wife, homemaker and mom. She loved to host parties for family and close friends, as well as intimate gatherings for 200, and served as the unofficial caterer for the weddings and special events of family and friends (prior to marrying Ted, Irene worked with a caterer in Chicago, which might explain some of the fabulous canapes and hors d'oeuvres she created). Irene was known for her prowess at canasta (rumors of cheating are unfounded); her adeptness at cooking large vats of Hungarian specialties, her love of boating and deep-sea fishing, and her eagerness to participate in "unique" family adventures. A typical vacation planning conversation:

Ted, after arriving home: "How would you feel about taking a trip to Florida?"
Irene: "When?"
Ted: "Tomorrow morning."
Irene: "Okay!"

Irene and Ted were married for 36 years before he passed away in 1991. In her later years, Irene took great pride in her children and grandchildren while continuing to enjoy life and travel. Two of her favorite destinations were Las Vegas and Biloxi, where she could be found at the nickle slot machines. She loved living by herself in Cairo, Georgia, and pampering her Great Dane, Jake. She also continued to cook large vats of her Hungarian specialties, eagerly freezing portions and giving them as care packages to her grateful children.

Late in life, Irene sought to study the Bible and learn about God. She developed a deep faith in Jesus and was baptized at the age of 85. Her love for God carried her through her last years of life, and she often expressed her gratitude for the new family God gave her within the church.

Irene is survived by her three children and their spouses: Mary Weigly (and David Traub), Mark (and Lynn) Weigly, and Ann (and Doug) Deam; her grandchildren: Christopher (and Crystal) Weigly, Michael (and Ginny) Weigly, Elizabeth Deam, and Theodore "TJ" Deam; and her sister and nephews: Eleanor (and Keith) Long, Ronald (and Arlene) Long and family, and Larry (and Helena) Long and family.

Monday, August 1, 2011

my rollercoaster revelation

No, this is not a post about the ups and downs of life. I’ve had quite a bit of time lately to think, and with a bit of perspicacity, I’ve made an observation. Bear with me as I explain.

I love rollercoasters! Many are true engineering marvels. I don’t actually ride these things myself, but I think it is loads of fun to watch others ride while I stand safely on the ground nearby. Rollercoasters tend to have some level of height involved in their design. I am afraid of heights, so I simply avoid them. It doesn’t matter what rational arguments one gives to help allay my anxieties; my fears are completely irrational and refuse to be allayed.

A few weeks ago I was given the “opportunity” to ride some rollercoasters at a theme park in Johannesburg. My son, daughter and daughter’s boyfriend gently encouraged me to face my fears. Okay, goading would be a more accurate description of their efforts. But I don’t like thinking of myself as a wimp, and it had been years since I stepped foot in one, so how bad could this be? The first rollercoaster was really great. Really great is defined by me as “not too high; not too long; and no upside down”. The second rollercoaster was not so great, in that it failed to meet two of the three criteria. Its good point was that it was not too long. I did not ride any additional coasters that day.

I’ve noticed that I have three responses while riding a rollercoaster, usually occurring in this order:

1. Laugh.
Laughing is good. It means I’m okay, and stems from some combination of fun, excitement and a bit of fear. This usually occurs before the engineering marvel begins to move.
2. Scream.
Screaming is good. It means I am still okay. This stems from excitement and manageable fear. Of course, my screams are much too early and much too loud for the rollercoaster aficionado.
3. Silence.
Silence is not good. It means my irrational fears have overcome my ability to laugh or scream. My brain is now fighting to pray (not kidding here) and make myself believe that I will not fall out of the rollercoaster, have a heart attack or otherwise meet some untimely death while trapped in the engineering marvel.

And here is my observation: I generally have one of these three responses to adverse circumstances in my life.

1. Laugh.
Now I may not actually be laughing, but at this first stage of facing adversity, I can still find positive things, funny things, and blessings around me. It means I’m okay. Stress is at a minimum; life has a sense of balance.
2. Scream.
This shows itself through any form of communication, from talking to screaming. It means I am still okay. At this stage I’m generally facing things, communicating with others, staying close to people, and getting help. Stress may be increasing, balance may feel elusive, but things seem manageable.
3. Silence.
Silence is not good. Silence can stem from a number of things like discouragement, fatigue, fear, doubt, or combination of them all. These are the very things I should “scream” about, so I can get help and pull out of it. But at this point my irrational self has overcome the ability to face things rationally. I simply shut down.

Silence happened the other day. A dear friend had been out of town and left me a voice message on my phone. Returning her phone call would have provided some much needed encouragement. However, I did not return the phone call, nor talk with anyone else for that matter. Fortunately, my silence didn’t last for too long. But if you notice that I am no longer “laughing” or “screaming”…if you only hearing silence…please know this is not good. I need you to get me.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

one red shoe, one blue shoe

Mom had a birthday this week. She is now 88 years old. It is 10 days post injury.

On Monday I received a call from the hospital that they were looking to transfer early as the next day! As life would have it, this is the one week that my husband has needed to me to work full time in his office. So here I was, trying to work at the office and at the same time figure out how to research facilities, visit them, get referrals...and still visit Mom, help her eat, etc. [of course, my son was also "home alone", but we won't go there] Stress has morphed into its own life form; taken on a whole new dimension! I've had to learn to trust God and rely on people more than ever. God has been nothing but faithful and trustworthy, and I'm ashamed that trusting him is even still an issue. I think it is so much a part of our nature (at least mine!) to try to control things, feel the pressure to work everything out and "fix it" (whatever "it" is). But I've been determined to not give in to that and instead strive to trust God. In fact, my new mantra is:

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him and I will be helped." Psalm 28.7 [the next verse says "my heart leaps for joy"...haven't quite gotten there yet, but I'm confidant that I will!)

So what is the result of this, you ask? My church (actually, it's God's church, but I consider it mine!) is amazing. Each day someone has gone to the hospital to be with Mom! Since Mom isn't recognizing me these days, I'm quite replaceable, in a good way. And each day a friend who does catering has brought the most delicious meals to the office for us so that Doug can take dinner home for him and TJ and I can eat something delicious and nutritious before I run off to see Mom! My sister and brother have manned their phones to get the information for insurance, medicare and facilities. No way could I have handled this by myself! I never made it to rehab/nursing centers to personally check them out, as any diligent, concerned person would have. I've only talked to people on the phone...and prayed. But it dawned on me that as unconventional a method as mine was, I did not actually have to see this place merely had to be great! So yesterday Mom was transferred from the hospital to a rehab/skilled nursing facility - a facility I never actually stepped foot in until I visited Mom last night(how scary is that??). And it turns out the facility is great - really.

The facility is great; mom is not. She's confused, tired, afraid, and not eating much. We've done everything humanly possible to avoid her being in this type of situation, but here we are anyway. There are times I've asked myself did we doo too much? Did we not do enough? I am prepared for her to get better (of course!), and I feel I am prepared for her to pass. I'm not prepared to watch her slowly disintegrate ... which is what this feels like. My heart hurts. And life is just stressful right now. This morning I woke up with a headache...a new experience for me. I bumbled around getting myself together and was ready to head out the door, or so I thought. Good thing I happened to look down at my feet. I have two pairs of shoes of the same style, just different colors. They are really cute, with little buckles on them, which is why I bought a red pair and a blue pair. Today I almost walked out of the house wearing one blue shoe and one red one, definitely diminishing the cuteness factor! While I could easily fix the shoes, I really can't fix much else right now. But the one red shoe, one blue just seems apropros now.

Friday, July 22, 2011

give us today our daily bread

It is very hard to watch Mom and see her in this condition. Here is a woman who has lived a long, wonderful life (she has us for family - need I say more??); who wrestled with God and was baptized at the age of 85; who for the past almost 3 years has felt so much joy knowing she is loved deeply by God, her family, and her brothers and sisters in Christ. She may not have been able to remember your name, but she would sing along to most every song in church!

I am tired. I am tired from not getting enough sleep. I am tired from making decisions - far too many decisions, in too short of a time, of a far too serious nature. I'm having to decide which tests to authorize for Mom - having to ask what is specifically involved, what treatment would the test lead to, and try to figure out what is best for her. I've had to decide what treatment to authorize - and which to decline, feeling the weight of each decision and its possible consequences. And while I am not alone in this, at times I've started to feel overwhelmed - and very tired. My sweet husband made the mistake last night of asking me where I'd like to have dinner - normally a very welcomed question because it implies that dinner would be cooked and eaten somewhere other than in my own kitchen. But not this time, as it became just one more decision I felt I had to make, but couldn't. Sweet husband quickly realized this (tears have a way of communicating things mere words don't) and picked a great restaurant. The fact that it was one of the only restaurants still open near the hospital was irrelevant - really!

So in my ongoing efforts to keep learning from this, I found myself reading Matthew 6 this morning, and thinking about Jesus' prayer...the part where he tells us to pray "Give us today our daily bread..." I've seen (and felt) God's help on a day by day (sometimes moment by moment). When I can stay focused on the immediate need - not letting my mind think too far ahead over possibilities that may not even come to pass - I'm good...or at least better. I see more clearly that God's commands really aren't burdensome, but are actually freeing to me. There is enough going on now; I don't need add more myself. If you see my doing this, please stop me! So I'm fighting hard to not let my mind, and my imagination, run amok. At least that is how it can feel.

I am writing this post from Atlanta...far from the ICU waiting room of yesterday's post. I flew up here because I needed to retrieve my car that I so graciously left in the driveway of friends (doesn't everyone want to take a 2003 Camry for a joyride?!) so that I can then pick up "the juvies" (see previous post) from camp tomorrow. I sit here amazed at all that's transpired in one week's time. When I walked off the plane into the Atlanta airport this morning, I actually had one of those "where I am?" moments. Maybe the fact that I had to get up at 4 am to make this flight had something to do with it. Maybe this being the fifth airport I've been in within the past month is a factor. Maybe its the culmination of the week's events. Who knows. But this day in Atlanta has been a welcome reprieve. Time spent with dear friends has refreshed my soul. My brother had kindly offered to drive to Atlanta, get my car and drive the juvies to Miami for me. It was a great plan, until we learned the airline ticket for him to fly back to Tallahassee would be over $600! (Extortion I tell you!) I've seen ticket prices for flights to Paris for that amount!. So we saved the money, and this day in Atlanta has been a refreshing respite for me. And the next time I find an extra $600 dollars for travel purposes, I have some ideas about what to do with it...if I can just make one more decision. "Let's see...I could fly to Tallahassee, Florida...or I could fly to Paris, France....Tallahassee....or Paris...Tallahassee...or Paris...." Hmmmm.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

cue music: "When the night has come and the land is dark...

...No I won't be afraid, Just as long as you Stand By Me"

I haven't posted in quite awhile and was even thinking "The Accidental Caregiver" had run its course. Mom has been doing well in her new home (at least as well as can be expected); life has developed a sense of normalcy for me (assuming you consider life with a teenage son as normal). But I am now reminded of why I gave my blog this title: my role as caretaker has been unplanned and unexpected. And so it continues...

Mom fell during the night earlier this week and fractured her neck. How do you anticipate something like this? Fractured hip - yes. Stroke or heart attack - all in the realm of my considered possibilities. Fractured neck? I must admit I've been caught off guard. In fact, I was caught in Atlanta. I had just driven my son and his friend (who may affectionately be referred to in this post as "the juvies")to camp, and suddenly found myself on a plan heading back to Miami.

In the course of 3 days, I've agonized along with my brother and sister as we try to determine what medical treatment (if any) to authorize for Mom; watched her endure being in traction; make it through surgery (which went great); and begin the "recovery" process. Now there have been complications. Serious ones. And I find myself writing this in the Medical ICU waiting room.

But while all of this may be "accidental" to me, it is not to God, and I am amazed at how God continues to show the wonders of his love (Psalm 17), if we will only have eyes and hearts that are willing to see. What have I seen:

God is with me. I have felt God's presence, comfort and strength through all of this. God is amazing.

God's people are with me. Friends have prayed, called, sent messages and visited. Friends from all over the world; from all stages of my life. How could you not feel encouraged and loved when you know people stand by you...whether they are here in Miami, throughout the US, or in South Africa?? Yesterday afternoon Mom took a turn while I was by her bedside holding her hand. The Rapid Response Team quickly filled the room and I found myself out in the hallway. My daughter texted me (from South Africa) and asked if anyone was with me. I looked around and thought, technically no, my family and friends were not there at that moment, but no, I'm not alone. I have never once felt alone. Amazing.

My family is amazing. My sweet husband with his medical background interprets all the information and asks pertinent questions. He makes me look smart (so long as I don't actually say anything, the drs think I know what's going on). My brother and sister have been supportive and helpful throughout Mom's illness, and especially now. My brother even offered to pick up "the juvies" from camp and bring them home - or keep them. (Maybe I'll have him keep them...for the rest of the summer).

Life is good. The doctors, nurses and support staff here have not only been extremely competent, but have shown us nothing but kindness and compassion. Mom's doctor even put us on the "most favored patient list". Why? Who knows! But it means I get to go to the special room for the special people - where there is a free computer, free coffee, and free snacks! And did I mention the snacks? They had fruit, granola bars, and guava pastries. So far I've tried the guava pastries. Yum. Tomorrow I will ask about a gym...I will need it if they keep serving guava pastries

Sunday, April 24, 2011

and I'm grateful for...

Today is Easter... a time for reflection and gratitude. So I want to take some time today to share thoughts of gratitude at how I've seen God work in our lives the past few months. Just seeing God work in his amazing way has put me, personally and emotionally, in a much better place. (to which my husband says a hearty "amen"!)

First of all, God has always called us to be faithful and trust him. That is certainly not a new teaching (I've known this for decades!); but why then do I act as if it is? I agonized, literally, over the decision to move Mom into an assisted living facility. And God, in his great power, could certainly have made the whole thing a lot easier for me if he would've simply sent a lightening bolt (or any other such obvious means) telling me what to do. I would've gladly listened, and I gave God many opportunities to do this, too, but he never did. So we were stuck having to make the best decision we could. Can you believe it??? Well, I may not have been given the lightening bolt, but God provided in other ways: faithful counsel from friends who love us, knowledge and insight from professionals, wisdom shared by those who have walked this path before, and most importantly prayer, scriptures and God's spirit living within me. The result: Mom is in a great place (better, to be honest) and my faith has leapfrogged!

Second, God is much more creative than I! Way too often, I have limited God by my own thinking. My biggest concern in Mom not living with us was her vulnerability. Simply put, I was afraid for her, that someone would hurt her or take advantage of her. But I also knew that her needs were increasing and my abilities were not. I felt so torn! But God, in his amazing way, provided a house where mom can live...(get this!) about a mile from our home, with people who are gentle and caring and can focus on her needs 24 hours a day, owned by a patient of Doug's that we've known for years. What has this produced? For Mom, she's really better off now! I can still be with her, take her to appointments, church and take her out. For me, I am eagerly striving to listen to my creative God more - which is much more fun and exciting than my old thinking!

Third, I realize that God's love is REALLY big! He doesn't meet the needs of one only to then neglect the needs of someone else. The God who created us all, who knows the very number of hairs on our head, can actually meet the needs of each of us - each of our loved ones - simultaneously! Wow!

I stand amazed.

Friday, February 25, 2011

a real update

Oh my. I haven't written in my blog since October? Even I hadn't realized so much time has gone by! So what do start with? My regrets for not writing "in the moment"? A rambling explanation of how a plethora of emotions have made my already convoluted thinking even more so? Nah! Those who know me are already aware of those things, so I'll just jump right in:

We did it. We moved Mom into an assisted living facility.'s dark black letters (no soft hued pastels to lesson the impact).

You know, I was raised in a 4 generation household growing up. I treasured the times and memories with my grandparents and my great grandma ("Nagymama" - she came from the "Old Country", only spoke Hungarian, and had the longest braided hair I'd ever seen that she always worn up in a bun on the back of her head). It was a given in my heart and mind that this tradition would continue, and Mom would live out whatever years God would give her here under our roof and care.

And now I'm not even sure what to say at this point. Do I write about the changes and increased needs in Mom over the past several months? Do I explain all of the factors that went into our decision hoping everyone would understand (and agree, of course!). No, I don't think so. Suffice it to say that it was obviously a very difficult, heart-wrenching decision to make. I do regret not posting this update sooner, as we moved Mom into her new home in December. And I wish that I had taken the time to write more "in the moment" because it's so cathartic. But being me, I waited. First, because it was a busy time of year. (Elizabeth was home for a few weeks before leaving for South African for a year (!) and the holidays were upon us.) But more importantly, there have been so many components to this that it has felt overwhelming to attempt to write something that would address everything while still making some sense.

So for now, I will simply write short little posts. No more pressure for me!

As in all things, there are so many lessons to learn along the way. I promise to start sharing them - soon - as I continue to process them.