I had spent a good part of the last two years taking care of Roger. The months prior to his liver transplant had consumed us with doctors’ appointments, hospital stays, and lots of recordkeeping. And there was much care after the transplant. Then there was a hernia repair, knee replacement, and a total colon removal prior to the brain tumor. I did a LOT of nursing (for which I was NOT qualified) because that’s what a spouse does for the love of her life.
Scott had told me that I could come and live with them; Chad said the same thing. Lisa was willing to move back to Illinois. When I asked Lance, “But who will take care of me?” he was deeply touched, wanting me to know that I was always welcome at his place. I knew all of my kids would take care of me. Really. But I think I meant it on another level. Who would take care of me if I got sick? I was done taking care of my husband, and now what about me?
I was about to find out.
On July 1, 2015 I had a total right hip replacement. Lance and Lisa were there for the entire surgery, hospital stay, discharge and home physical therapy appointments. Scott, Jess, Chad and Steph came, and the girls even redid the piano room, paint and all. Lance and Lisa stayed the entire month of July.
The surgery went well, but it was so strange to be on the other side of the “bed,” so to speak. When the doctor came in to talk about how things went, I was able to share with him a little of what I had gone through with Roger’s liver, colectomy, knee, brain tumor, and death.
He said, “You know, when I told you that you needed a hip replacement, you responded like no other patient I have had. People either are shocked, or say, ‘I can’t believe it,’ or they say, ‘I knew this was coming.’ You, responded, well, flat. It was like there was no emotion. I understand now why you did that. All along you were taking care of your husband, and now you were taking care of yourself, and you didn’t really know how to react.”
The only pain I remember was waking up in the recovery room FREEZING. And when you shiver you have no control over your body. Even with the pain meds, I was not getting relief. I remember doing Lamaze breathing to make my body calm down and get control. Didn’t work.
The drugs made me talk funny. I would speak of strange things that had nothing to do with the conversation, and I knew that they were off the wall. After I said my goofy stuff, I said, “That’s not what we are talking about, is it?” “I’ll just shut up.”
Lance and Lisa took turns spending the night with me. They cleaned, organized, cooked and saw to my every need. Stephanie and Jessica waited on me hand and foot. Chad and Scott completed the “to do” list on the dry erase board.
So, I guess I got the answer to my question. Family. Family will take care of me.
The kids celebrated July 4th while I slept. I look at the pictures now and smile. I’m glad they all enjoy each other’s company. They are good kids.
By 2 ½ weeks I was walking well without a cane.
Chad had suggested that I get a dumpster and start emptying the old garage and basement. It turned out that it was a great idea. It’s amazing what you accumulate through the years. Of course, Lance documented many of the memories that went from “haven’t used it for 30 years” to the landfill.
I sat in a chair in the basement and made a decision on each item. It was either, “Oh, let me tell you the story behind that. It’s a keepsake,” or “Take a picture and see if any of you kids want that,” or “I don’t ever want to see that again.” Over and over I was reminded that people are important; things aren’t.
Speaking of stuff. Lance and I packed up Roger’s suits, shirts and vests and took them to Blessingdales thrift store. The kids had already gone through his things and kept the items they wanted, so it was time to let someone else get use out of his clothes. As we put them into bags, odd feelings surfaced. It was difficult.
Here it was eight months since Roger had died, and as I looked at the familiar clothes he wore, I found it so hard to let them go. I could still smell him on them. But it was something that needed to be done. It was still hard, but it was time.
On July 25th this was the GriefShare email. It was good because I was still struggling to find my purpose in life.
To move on means (1) you have to acknowledge that things will never be the same again, and (2) you have to desire God’s plan for your life now. Letting go of a lost loved one is tough, especially when the love is deep, and he or she has filled a need in you that was never filled until you met that person.
“To really admit to yourself, ‘This person is gone, and life’s got to go on, and I’ve got to buck up and turn the corner and get going,’ is probably one of the toughest transitions in the grief process,” says Dr. Joseph Stowell.
Your plan for life was suddenly changed. But God has a purpose for you, and you were created to fulfill that purpose. That is why you are here on earth right now. Find God’s plan for your life and seek fulfillment from Him.
By the end of July we had cleaned, purged and made several trips to Blessingdales. There is a good feeling about that. And I had started scanning many old photos. My parents’ albums started in 1900, and our Weldy family started in 1971. It felt good, too. I was making some progress in doing “something.”
And yet it made me ponder life. As I scanned the pictures I saw my whole life pass before me. Our wedding. And our churches. And our kids. And life. As I watched this film, this slide show of my life, I wondered what I had done with it. Did I have an impact for Christ? Had I helped people? Had I served? Had I been a good wife? Mother? Friend? Teacher? Pastor’s wife? I thought I had, and I didn’t have many regrets. And I had only gotten to pictures of when I was 35 years old.
There was more to my life–more pictures to scan, and I knew I would see more scenes as I scanned more photos. But my thoughts skipped to who I was now. What was my purpose in life? What should I be doing to be profitable? Specifically? Maybe it was just as simple as staying steady at church, being available, singing, etc. One thing I knew: I just didn’t want to waste my life.
Those “who am I” questions nagged me for quite some time.
Observation: Your health is important. Very important.
Observation: Your kids will come through for you. Even if when they were little you wondered how they could ever become responsible adults.
Observation: Things are not important. People are.
Helpful Hint: You, and you only, will know when it is time to get rid of your loved ones personal items. Don’t rush it. Take your time. That way you won’t have any regrets.
Helpful Hint: Ponder your life. Self-introspection is healthy. You have to live with yourself until you are dead. Might as well be the best you can be at being you!
Helpful Hint: Sometimes you just have to let your kids be in charge. See Observation #2 above.