Jul 23, 2014

The End of the Road.............

I am writing this, whether I ever publish it or not, because it's 2 in the morning and I can't sleep.
This has been a very strange year for me.  The highs and lows have been higher and lower than usual and both came at the same time this year in my life.

I knew this year would bring my first grandchild, my own little Charli-girl, and I awaited this birth with what seems to be more excitement than the births of my own children.  I know this can't be true, but when you have your own you are dreading the last step, eager as you may be to get it over with.  With grandchildren there is no dread at all, just eager anticipation for it to happen.  This child has never been far from my mind, since I found out she was coming.  I have, in fact, been waiting for this child for several years before she was a fact in all our lives.

Tonight her mother labors, and her father stands watch, and tomorrow I do believe she will arrive.
The reason I can't sleep has nothing to do with this happy news, though.  The reason I cannot sleep is because in my heart I am sitting vigil for one of my best friends, Lori.  Lori has been fighting cancer for 2 years, and her battle is just about over.  I suppose you could say she lost that battle, but no one who knew Lori will say that.  Lori lost very few battles on this earth and even in this, she decided when she would go.  A more valiant effort I cannot imagine.  No amount of morphine could erase her urge to get up and visit every time I was there.  I would beg her to stay down and just let me rub her feet, but no.  She would insist on getting up, even when she could no longer manage that on her own, and once in the kitchen she would offer me something to drink.  She would ask if I had eaten.  She would then ask about the kids.  No amount of drugs could make her forget her manners.   Lori was a lady, right down to her toes, right to the end.
Many times she has saved me, though she never knew it.  She was the kind of person who did everything "right", whether anyone would ever know or not.  For her pure soul, all that mattered was that God knew.  Like her mother and her grandmother before her, she lived her faith every minute of every day of her life.

It often showed itself in the smallest ways.  I have seen her get fighting mad over a suggestion that she salvage lettuce  that was a little over the hill.  This was absolutely out of the question and the person who suggested that Lori do such a thing was actually glad to drive to town for fresh lettuce rather than face her wrath.  I still laugh and think it served them right.

Whenever I found myself unsure of what to do, say, or wear, I would just pretend I was Lori, and do it the way she would.  She was the kind of girl who did not consider animals less than humans, and treated all souls the exact same way.

 I remember one time going to see her, when she excused herself to feed the dog.  I thought it would only take as long as scooping out a cup of food into a bowl, like I do, but it took longer than that.  When I went to check on her, she was mixing up the food with some scraps, stirring in a raw egg (for the dog's coat) and adding cheese (for extra flavor).  Then she served that dog a meal just the same way she would have served me or anyone else, hoping and watching for signs that it was good.  It was, and I hope you will not doubt my word that even the dog knew Lori was a fine lady, because nobody, even the kindest person on earth (which Lori may actually have been) had ever served that dog a meal like that before.  Sure we feed our dogs, but do we feed them with a flourish?  Every time?  I think not.

Her attention to detail was part of her, and her work ethic was golden.  I don't care if your house, your car, or your self fell apart, Lori would be there.  She would know exactly what to do, how to do it, and how long it would take.  She was beautiful, but never seemed to know it.  She had a spirit that was much bigger than her body, and would crawl under a house to fix a broken pipe or under a car to fix (whatever you fix under there--don't ask me, I am no Lori) without a second's hesitation, and would be happy just to help you.  If she hosted a dinner, the table would be set with special little touches that only Lori would think of.  If someone treated you badly, all you had to do was tell her the story and she would immediately feel outrage and injustice, do and say all the things I wished that I had thought of to say at the time.  She guided me and she comforted me.  We laughed, cried, ran wild, grew up, worried and railed against injustice together for 31 years and I am just devastated that I will be without her physical presence here from now on.  The only time I remember ever guiding her was when her dear sweet mother had Alzheimers.

So even though I sit here crying at 2 in the morning in my son's house, waiting for a baby, I am also sitting by her, in her mother's house, and I am loving her and wishing her a peaceful passing without fear.  I know that her mother waits for her baby to return to her just like I wait for Charli.  I know that Lori will be joyful to see her mom again, and I know that she will always be with me in my heart.  I will miss her terribly but I will see her again. There is very little we haven't weathered together and it is a bitter pill that she will not see my grandchildren the same way she saw my babies.  It was Lori that sat with my mother during The Rock Star's birth, and was there to help after we got home.  Though I feel lost and lonely without those two ladies, I know exactly what to do and they will be ever present in me while I tend to my precious duties.  I will never say goodbye.  There is no need when they are in my heart all the time.

When we met were just teenagers.  We made big plans, as teenagers will.  Some of those plans came true, and some of those plans fell through, and now at the end of this road we have traveled together all I am is grateful.  I sat in the living room watching her in a hospital bed positioned where her mother always kept her quilt rack, and reflected on how I never imagined this, of all the things I did imagine in that room.  You never know what life holds in store, and even though I am happy about that, still I was grateful to be able to be there and lend what comfort I could.

Yes, grateful.  Tonight when I went to sleep, even though I was crying, I thanked God for her life, for letting me be part of it, and for her wonderful family that has been a blessing to me, whether they have known it or not.  The love and devotion, the square jawed, fearless facing of the music, the rock solid faith, the good sense and the bravery of that family, I am so grateful to have known and been a part of.

In the last few months, Lori, the baby of the family, could not have been more cherished.  One day she complained about a tree in her view of the lake behind the house.  One of her brothers promptly cut it down, stacked it for firewood and cleaned up any stray splinters left to mar the grass.  Anything they could cook or buy for her, it was done without a thought.  I am grateful also for those "kids" getting to spend time in the house they grew up in, looking after their baby sister, as a family again.  I cannot even put into words how it makes you feel to see your best friend's brother dissolve his sister's pills in water and tenderly give them to her with a baby dropper, because it hurts her too much to swallow.   Such unconditional love, and done as if it's the most natural thing in the world.  It is, actually, the most natural thing in the world, and I don't know how we forget that.  I hope I never do again.

It is so easy to lose touch when you have your own families and obligations.  Only when death threatens us do we ever get to go back and be just who we are within our own family.  It's a comfort that there is no substitute for, and I know her parents are so very proud.  I know because if you ever mention it,  to any one of 6 children, they will all say the credit goes to their parent and the way they were raised.  And this will just multiply and go on and on, and so shall those of us left here.  For nothing can ever keep someone you love from you, certainly not death.  In fact, Lori has been in my head and my heart for 3 decades, and that will never change, not in this world and not in the next, where I know we will meet again, along with our mothers.
I have felt our mother's both close lately, and it cannot be denied that the portal is open.  I have known for months that this was going to happen.  I tried to spend as much time with Lori as I could, but now that it is imminent and she may need me most, I cannot be there with her physically.  I tell myself it doesn't matter, and I know in reality it does not.  She is well taken care of, and surrounded by her loved ones, and I am there in spirit.  I feel split in two, but I know both our mother's are surrounding us, and our mother's have been together in heaven for a while now, so it feels like we are all together spiritually, even if our physical locations on earth may be far apart at the moment.  Physical locations on earth mean very little in the spiritual world, and God's law reigns supreme.  I know this in my head and in my heart, and I am comforted no matter what happens next because I know God is in control.

When my mother was in Lori's situation, she told me that she asked God to live, but God said no.  She smiled a sad smile and said, "He does that, you know, and all we can do is say Okay, God, I will do what you ask."  I knew it was true, and I accepted it, hard as it was.  I didn't like it, but it was an important step in my life.  I watched her set an example of serenity that I thought I could never follow, but what do you know, here I am, stressed, yes, sad, yes, but also joyful and grateful.  Grateful for getting these two fine ladies for as long as I did.  Losing them could never hurt so bad that I would not be grateful to have had them for as long as I got to.

My advice is this:  Never make the mistake of praying for things you want.  God knows what you want and he is not Santa Claus.  When you pray you should be praying for Him to use you as He sees fit.  Sometimes you have to swallow a bitter pill and just have faith that God knows what he is doing,  If you can't do that then I guess it's easy to see where you should begin.

Tomorrow, those of us left shall take up our crosses and follow Him, and life will go on and we will be better for what we have been through.  We will set our own examples for our children and those around us, in this way we teach what we have learned, and it will multiply.  It will come back to them when it is time, and they will do as their parents taught them, when it is most needed.

There are times in life when you will have something terrible and scary coming right for you.  Plant your feet, set your jaw, and face it head on.  You are not alone, and if it wasn't God's plan, you would not be going through it.  Believe it.  You are not alone, in fact, you are so far from alone as to make that downright laughable.  When you open the door and all you see is black, do not be afraid to take that step anyway, knowing God is there.  He's known black since before there was even light, and He has already taken care of that a long time ago anyway.  There is nothing you can think of that He cannot handle.  Let that be a comfort to you, it has always worked for me.

In a few days I will make that drive again, with nothing but joy in my heart.  Nothing lasts forever, but one thing I know for certain is that you can't make old friends, and they will always be a part of you.

Lori graduated this earth on July 20, at 8 am on Sunday morning.  My uncle John followed her the very next day, and I know our families in heaven are together there just as those left of us here will be together paying them tribute.