Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Gift of Time

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. 
Ecclesiastes 3:1
  
I loved my friend, fellow worship team vocalist and previous doula client, Jenna. Our lives connected in so many areas, we'd become accustomed to spending lots of time together. Yet for months, it had been hard to get together, mostly due to scheduling conflicts on my part. She'd invited me to come over since the kids were in school, and it just hadn't worked. We hadn't even been scheduled to sing together since her youngest daughter was born. Texting, Facebook messages and quick hugs on Sunday morning had been our only interaction until Thursday, December 5, 2013, when we met at practice. We were scheduled to sing together on Sunday at last! When I arrived that evening, I knew I wouldn't have to tell her I wanted to share a music stand. Our piles of music were all set, with "Amy and Jenna-Pie" (my nickname for her) written on our practice notes. 

I had planned to steal her away for a quick coffee date after practice, but she left before I could ask her.  

Thursday was the last time I saw her awake.

Jenna and I had been in hospital rooms together more than once, but Saturday was unlike any other time we'd spent together. Her beautiful hair was disheveled from paramedics restarting her heart. Her skin was cold, because they had to cool her body down in an attempt to decrease brain swelling. Tubes contorted her lifeless face, breathing for her. I clutched my friend's hand, trying to feel if she was still with us. I couldn't tell.  An avid dancer, her toes were pointed, even in a coma. When her mother-in-law arrived on a red-eye flight and cracked a loving joke, her heart rate went up slightly. Those moments, however involuntary or inconsequential, felt like precious gifts.

As a small group of loved ones surrounded her, we prayed for a miracle. We begged for her to open her eyes. We sang to her. We spoke to her. This continued for days. We changed clothes, slept a little and returned, keeping vigil for Jenna. Any blip on her heart monitor or twitch of her body was reason enough to hope, to plead with God to keep her with us, if it that was His will. I knew we should seek His will, knowing God knew so much better than short-sighted mortals, but it was SO hard. We waited on the doctor's final word on whether or not any brain activity was present.

At last, the report came in: there was no hope. We came to see her one last time- this time to say goodbye.

Our final visit was very ritualistic. It was Lisa, Alyssa and I-- three friends preparing Jenna for her final resting place. We took handprints and locks of hair for her daughters. We painted her fingernails and toenails, because, for some reason, we couldn't bear the thought of her being laid to rest with chipped polish. It felt so unnatural to leave her there, knowing they would be harvesting her organs to donate soon. I wanted to protect her. I didn't want her to be alone. I knew she was gone, but I wasn't ready to say goodbye. When we knew it was time to say our final farewell, our sobbing was so heavy, we practically carried each other out of the hospital. Snowflakes softly fell as we drove home, heavy hearted and exhausted. Her memorial would be on Saturday, one week after this awful nightmare had begun.

Saturday came, and we celebrated her life together. Family, friends, church members, dance colleagues and more laughed, cried and sang in her memory. It was painful and healing at the same time. I missed her then; I miss her still.

That week was, without a doubt, the most gut-wrenching 7 days I have ever endured, but I am thankful for them.  While it was void of the joy birth brings, being Jenna's "death doula" was every bit as much of a privilege. That time was a gift. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Selah

Wow, it's been a long time since I've written! So much has changed in the last year (ish), but most of my absence can be summed up in my Jan 2015 diagnosis of stage 3 (chronic) Lyme Disease. It's hard to think clearly or move well much of the time, so writing beyond Facebook statuses and tweets hasn't happened. Today, however, I had a hard day, which is often where the urge to write comes out in me. It might not be profound or Pulitzer- worthy, but I feel compelled to share with you, just the same.

Since my diagnosis, I've had a lot of prescriptions, supplements and topical doodads on, in, or  around my short and sassy self. It's been a physical, emotional and spiritual roller coaster ride (complete with screaming and throwing up), so I should be pretty savvy to change eight months in, right? Not entirely ...

I hit a bump in my treatment this week, which at first looked like a reaction to Bicillin, the antibiotic injection we're using to (God willing) put the Lyme in remission by 2017 (ish). It wasn't. just an inflamatory response to treatment, which my specialist is very experienced in treating. I'm growing resistant to my current preventative meds, but we have other options. That's good, right? Yes, that's good. One more pill isn't that big of a deal, but then we come to a super-touchy subject: CHANGING MY DIET. Noooooo!  Come on, you're going to pick on allergy-girl and make her drink unsweetened alternative milks and no syrups in her lattes? You're denying me the amazing allergen-free baguettes I just found? I can't have my "natural" sweetners, like raw honey or Grade B maple syrup? I'm going to feel like puking all day and I can't have carbs to calm my grumpy belly?  Toddleresque, uber-diva tantrum brewing in 3,2,1 ...

KABOOM. Into the ear of my BFF went some rather impressive ranting, complaining and creative wording, preventing the swear jar from robbing me of coffee funds. I was done sacrificing. I was tired of suffering. And NOBODY messes with my food. I wanted my mommy, a monstrous order of bottomless fries and permission to spend copious amounts of money on kitchen gadgets and Pentatonix merchandise. None of this, of course, was in the control of my precious companion, but she got to hear all of it. After venting turned to verbal vomiting, I knew it was time to let poor Jillian rest her ringing ears and take a time out.

I knew I needed time with God, but prayer wasn't going to be the avenue I'd use. No, speaking was clearly just getting me more worked up. I needed to rest in God and simply be ministered to, as the groans of my soul were understood by my Father. This is when music is usually my comfort. I didn't even know what song I needed, so I just asked Siri to play music from a group named for my current need: Selah.

This is a word you see frequently in the book of Psalms, and while we are not certain the exact meaning, many believe it means "pause." That's what I needed-- to stop, be still and just rest in Him. As the familiar hymns washed over me, I was reminded of the same source of comfort I've felt since I was a little girl: I am loved, I am safe, I am forgiven. I am not promised an easy road, but I am assured of a constant companion, rest when I am weary, insight when I'm confused and mercy when I fail. I'm not strong enough to do this, and I don't have to be.

I'm still fighting panic, and heaven help you if you decide to call me today, because when I open my mouth, all my feelings come flying out, but I know where to turn when that happens. My sabbath comes early this week.  Also, if anyone in the house asks, Selah is expanded to dinner. I will rest in the truth that God loves me the same when I feed my family hot dogs. 

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About Me

I'm not your average housewife; but then, neither is any other housewife I've met! My life is a constant blur of kids, animals, hunting down and testing allergy-friendly recipes, shopping, LOTS of coffee, yarn crafting, nannying, singing and writing. I married my highschool sweetheart (the introvert who is a type-A, shy, organized, loves hunting, hiking and mountain climbing. He lives for pizza, burgers and cookies and doesn't like coffee). We are polar opposites, but Love, grace and a whole lotta Jesus can overcome anything! :) We have two boys who fill this house with lots of excitement, love, laughter and lunacy! Alan (9) is a happy-go-lucky, inventive, dramatic, eager-to-please kid who loves being dad's shadow and mom's shopping companion. He's the snuggliest kid I've ever met! Wyatt is extremely bright, inquisitive, entertaining and endearing. He lives for routine, Wii games, pixar films and writing stories. Alan is typically-developing, Wyatt has high-functioning autism. We live on an acre in the Pacific Northwest with our two aussies and 5 chickens. It's not the Waltons, but it works! :)