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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Surgery's Coming

The surgery postponed from September 24th is now scheduled for Wednesday, October 29th.

Snapshots of the last week:

Jaran told me he felt his baby girl move. He's counting the days. (Delivery date by c-section: December 11th.)

Mom no longer needs oxygen. Her kidneys have been declared "healed." Praise the Lord! They still check her blood sugar on a regular basis. She just needs to exercise and regain strength. We are both dreading the weeks we will be separated because we'll be in different facilities.

I finished line edits for my next book, mystery #2, A String of Murders. (Pub date: March 2009, from Heartsong Presents Mysteries). So I have no writing projects looming while I am in rehab.

I am half a pound away from 45 pounds total weight loss. Another praise!

I am writing blogs to "post" while I am away. One a week for the next three weeks. By then I hope to be home. Don't let my blogs fool you. I'm not really here.

Talk to you again soon.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Warming Trend

I write those words even as temperatures dip. (My own Colorado truism: You can count on cold/sleet/snow for Halloween. It doesn't matter if it's 70 degrees on the 30th.)

Last night my cat Talia's "foster mother" returned her home. It's amazing what having another live body who talks back does for my spirits.

I have missed Jolene fiercely this month. It's no coincidence that Mom has also been gone since October 2nd. I haven't even had Talia's company, and the days have been long and lonely.

Now Talia is back and that helps.

Guess who went out early this morning to buy cat litter? Talia didn't take advantage of the cornstarch I provided for her last night.

Please pray about the situation with Talia, though. She attacked her foster Mom's cat. I still have surgery next Wednesday and no one will be here for 3 weeks (our best guess). I need to find another home for Talia, fast.

I have been walking a tightrope to get things down before my surgery. Wanted to finish my next book. (Won't happen. I figure I'll get 5/7 of the way through.) Have to finish preparing and present a workshop on research for writers on Tuesday night (scheduled long before my surgery.) Have to pack. Have to finish the paperwork for medical leave from work. Want to get the house in a semblence of order. (For those of you who've seen my apartment, go ahead and laugh.) A dozen items on my "to do" list. VOTE if I get my absenteen ballot in time. (Are you getting as tired as I am of all the emails telling you how you should vote? Thus speaks a rare Democrat in a sea of Republican Christians.)

Now two major wrenches have been thrown into the works: Add to the problem with Talia this announcement from the rehab center yesterday: "someone from the family needs to wash her clothes." Obviously that's not going to happen. (I think we've worked that one out.)

Please pray with me that I will have wisdom to discern what has to be done and what can slide. And the strength and will to work when I can. Some days I hit it hard; other days, I struggle.

This blog is as scattered as my thoughts are right now.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Yesterday was a difficult day. I kept crying all day.

Perhaps it started with the pastor's sermon on "Why Jesus Had to Die." The first reason he gave? To teach us about suffering. "God wanted us to know that no suffering is senseless." That is a ray of sunshine in the morass of grief that overwhelms me at times. I don't know what use God will make of this year, but I clung to that reassurance even as tears bunched behind my eyelids and leaked out.

The last reason he mentioned was to give us eternal life. Oh, Jolene, that promise holds me up even as it taunts me. You are there, but I am still here.

Then a friend drove me to the hospital to visit Mom by a different route. We drove past a coffee stand where a particularly memorable moment occurred. (It does not reflect well on my mother, so I won't repeat it.) A few minutes later, we passed a miniature golf course where the three of us had played. I had such a hard time walking around the course; Jolene got a little impatient. She was young, and enjoyed physical activities during our visits. I couldn't do nearly as much as she wanted. I didn't know, of course I didn't, that we would never play another game of miniature golf together.

The loss ... the permanence ... I don't want to accept it. But I must.

About Mom: She's moved into a rehab hospital, not the one we first expected, but one where they can continue to monitor her ongoing problems with diabetes and kidney failure. She is discouraged about the unexpected problems. Her heart appears to be healing well. Her surgeon said perhaps the diabetes/kidney problems were lurking.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Healing Hands

Monday, Mom was more depressed than I have ever seen her, and in a fragile mental state. She even talked about a DNR (Do Not Resucitate) order. She seemed to be giving up.

Tuesday, her eyes had brightened, and she worked with the nurses and therapists in her recovery--overnight transformation.

The difference?

"Several times I felt gentle hands touching me. I opened my eyes to see who was there--no one." She paused, and a beautiful smile broke out on her face. "I decided it was Jesus."

No instantaneous healing: Mom still has a mild infecton, and her body still holds on to too much fluid, and her kidneys still aren't working the way they should. (She
is off dialysis, praise the Lord!)

But with the healing hands of Jesus, Mom gained much-needed confidence that she will recover.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Dancing with Grief Plus Seven Months

Jolene took her own life seven months ago today. I'm feeling some anger at Jolene for the manner of her death. How could she? Why did she?

I can't say that last month I had healed from Jolene's death. I have learned that I may never "heal." That the seemingly callous statement of a stranger shortly after Jolene's death is nothing but the stark truth: I will never "get over" it. It will never be okay. A scar will form, and life goes on, but I will always miss her. I flit in and out of denial, a sense of impossibility that I will never see my girl again.

But the past four weeks have shaken me to the core once again. My own scare with the angiogram and possible heart blockage was bad enough. But Mom's surgery, and the subsequent complications, reminded me that someday I will lose her as well. Take her away as well as Jolene, especially now, and I will collapse like a proverbial house of cards. That is a blackness I cannot contemplate.

God is good. As of this morning, Mom is doing much better. The doctor is even talking about releasing her from the hospital tomorrow; that may be delayed since she now has a bladder infection. Her kidneys still aren't functioning properly, but otherwise she is making progressing. Yesterday she took a few steps and sat up for five hours.

I told one of the nurses at the hospital about Jolene last night. I also told her about the granddaughter on the way. She told me she had her daughter shortly after her grandmother died, and we both agreed that God sometimes works that way.

When Jolene shared her testimony, she always mentioned how a church member went home to be with the Lord at the same time she received Christ. She always felt like she came in to take his place. I wonder if up in heaven Jolene is awaiting the birth of Baby Franklin (as I call her) with the same anticipation.

Oh, Jolene, Jaran's baby can never take your place.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Doing Better

Thank you, one and all, who read, prayed and/or commented after my last blog.

The good news? Today Mom had the most energy since her surgery. She sat up without assistance and fed herself. She even cracked a joke or two. It was so good to have "mom" back.

Her primary problems haven't improved. She's had two dialysis treatments but her kidney level remains too high (meaning she will probably need further dialysis). And each dialysis drives down her blood pressure, meaning she has to continue medication to keep it up. Pneumonia remains a spectre (although not yet a reality, PTL!)

The original expectation was that Mom would spend a week in the hospital and a week in rehab and then home. Well, tomorrow marks a week and she's still in ICU. The surgeon said she may need 3-4 weeks in rehab.

So ... a slower, longer recovery than either of us hoped for.

Yet, although the facts haven't changed, I am in an entirely different place emotionally.

On a purely selfish level, I got a boost from the arrival of my box of books for my contributions to 365 Daily Whispers of Wisdom for Single Moms and for Busy Women. Nothing like holding my babies in my hands!

Another selfish--but very important--goal: I have kept my focus on losing weight. I will admit it publicly here for the first time. I joined Weight Watchers at the beginning of August and so far have lost 35.6 pounds. Monday was the first time I said "forget it" and ate what I wanted. But you know what? Food isn't going to solve the problem. I thank God that I realized that and figured out other options for the nights I'm too stressed out to plan and measure and count. A change in my attitude toward food comes from God and Him alone.

On an invisible level but no less real, the prayer surrounding and supporting us has made all the difference. Thanks to every one of you who is praying for both of us.

Thanks. And keep on praying. We're not through it yet.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mom's had a downturn

What an awful week.

Mom had her heart valve replaced and had one bypass last Thursday. The surgeon reported that she did well coming out of surgery and 24 hours later her recovery looked pretty normal.

Since Saturday, though, things have gone poorly. Her blood pressure remained too low (although today it looks pretty stable.) Her oxygen was too low (okay today). Her blood sugar keeps jumping around. Sometimes it's fine, sometimes she needs insulin.

And after monitoring her urine output and her kidney function, they decided to put Mom on dialysis today. Also of concern: she hasn't had a bowel movement since her surgery and they're worried about obstruction. Her lungs also need help.

My friend and critique partner Susan Davis wrote "I'm praying for you. I remember how awful it feels when you realize the loved one may not get better." Her father died almost two years ago, so she knows. She knows.

I know she's not at death's door. I know there is a good chance she'll make a full recovery. I don't dare say "excellent" any more.

But ... yesterday was the first time it hit me. Mom could die.

I knew there was a slight risk of death from the procedure. But failure to do the procedure meant almost certain death, and Mom's quality of life was decreasing on a daily basis. I absolutely felt surgery was the right thing to do.

But as her systems shut down and they take appropriate steps to bring them back to full functioning, I face the possibility: This could be it.

I'll never want to lose my mother. Many people my age (mid-fifties) have already lost a parent, and I know I'm blessed to have her with me. But barring the Lord's return, that day will come.

But, oh, not this year. Not now. It's too soon. I can't bear to lose my daughter and my mother in the same year.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Missing Jaran/surgery update

After two rescheduled dates, Mom is having her heart valve replacement surgery this morning. Yay! She is fairly at peace, and prepared. A feat I doubted would happen only four hours ago.

My own angiogram revealed surprising and terrific news. My arteries are clear! Hallelujah! My hand and wrist (the site of the incision) are bruised, painful--and infected. I am taking antibiotics. My surgery has been rescheduled for October 29th. This has the advantage of allowing me to focus on Mom for 4 weeks after her surgery, and also allows me to fulfill a couple of speaking engagements. Phew. I only pray that the first snow fall waits until after I've undergone surgery.

Jaran and Jolene are never far from my thoughts. I miss Jaran terribly. I suspect I would, even if Jolene were still alive. He is a steady, dependable rock. And he is exactly where he needs to be, taking care of his wife and family in Oklahoma.

I told Mom that as hard as his decision to move to Oklahoma was for me, I couldn't help but admire him. At the time, he still expected Jolene to mature into a "normal" adult and be able to help me as I got older; he wanted to be in Oklahoma to do the same thing for his father. I respect his desire to honor his father.

But oh, I miss him, now more than ever.