Dying, As You Do

My friend is dying.

We found out at the end of last year that Georgia has a brain tumor.  In January some friends and I flew out to spend a weekend with her and go out for one last over-the-top meal before the chemo-necessitated diet kicked in.  We accompanied her to doctor appointments, invading the waiting rooms with our Very Much Diva presence.

023I mean, we were polite and all, but there were five of us.  Still, apart from that one incident with the unattended wheelchair and the empty hallway at the hospital, I’d say we behaved ourselves pretty well.

Even so, four middle-aged women, who are used to advocating for themselves and their children – we each have at least one with some level of special needs, so we are all very used to doctors and hospitals and insurance companies – accompanying a fifth woman who is, from sheer height, physically imposing, with a personality to match…

Well.  We made the day interesting for the staff, at any rate.

087cropAnd then we went out for dinner at the second-fanciest restaurant I’ve ever been to (the first was the night I met Georgia) and accidentally spent $132 on a plate of caviar.  Okay, but the “1” was really, REALLY small, and did I mention we’re all middle-aged?

When I finally returned home, I figured that was probably the last time I would spend time with my friend.  As much as I wanted to hop a plane again and hang out for a weekend, I knew my schedule was not going to allow it.

And then, miraculously, she was able to come here this weekend for the 4th of July celebrations.  It was like a bonus round.  She has quit the chemo, so the diet is off, so once again we went out to eat food we know better than to eat, because if you can’t eat foie gras with your friend who is dying, when can you eat it?

My heart is full today, full of love for my dying friend, for my friends who are walking her through this, and for the inevitable day that approaches far too rapidly when we will all come together once more on her behalf, but without her presence.

003For now, though, I will focus on the laughter last night around the table, the delight we took in each new dish that arrived at the table, the moments of bliss we shared with that first bite of that steak sampler, that song that we enjoyed so much as it wafted through the sun-warmed patio, the sea breeze that was just enough but not too chilly.

None of our lives are easy at the moment, and every now and then one or the other of us would bring up something we’d had to deal with during the week, and we would find the funny side and laugh about it, and then move on to another topic as if to say, “Yes, this is hard, but it too shall pass and what matters is this – this moment now, this shared joy, this camaraderie, this love for each other.”

Death puts life into focus. Death lines up our priorities with lightning speed. While I do not want to let my friend go and every ounce of my being screams that it’s too soon, that the world needs her, that we need her, that this isn’t fair, I can’t sit beside her with only that in my heart.  I can’t waste these precious last moments I have with her on this earth on complaints about the manner in which she is exiting.

So in my sorrow, there is joy.  I dig deep and focus tightly on that joy, and the sorrow that wails in the periphery, threatening to rush in at any moment and extinguish it, only serves to make that joy all the more precious.

There are any number of Scriptures I could quote here, but each one that comes to mind seems trite in the face of this reality.  Not that they don’t apply, or that they aren’t true, but I don’t think you can just pull out a verse and slap it on a situation like this.  Reality is hard, life is messy, and death is heart-breaking.

It helps to have the assurance that one day I will see my friend whole again, cancer-free and in full command of the words that now elude her grasp.  But there isn’t one tidy little verse that I can recite to encompass all of that, nor do I think I should try.  It’s in times like these that I can only draw on the full extent of faith, of walking with God, of having tried and rejected pat answers and legalistic forms of religious behavior, and having come to the end of myself and having realized more than once that without Him, I am nothing.

And I can rest in the knowledge that as dear as my friend is to me, as much as I love her laugh and her joie de vivre and the mischief we bring out in each other, God loves her more – really loves her, gets her on a level no one else does, cares for her and is walking with her every step of the way until the day He welcomes her into His arms for eternity.

Until then, there are still moments to savor, smiles to share.

And baked olives to eat.

(Something, incidentally, I would not have known had I never met Georgia.)

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No Filter December – Day 24: Comfort and Joy

The words to Christmas carols are hitting me in a new way this year.  We sing them every year, but certain phrases are jumping out this time around and sticking with me.

Like “tidings of comfort and joy.” Wow.  Who doesn’t need some comfort?  Who among us doesn’t feel a little bit beat up by the frenetic pace of life, the difficulties of today’s economics, the greediness of politicians, the abuse of power by those who have it, the unfairness of society, or maybe just by the selfishness of those around us?  Especially this time of year, when you add Christmas shopping and holiday traffic and expectations of The Perfect Holiday Decorations/Food/Gift to the normal grind.  I’m raising my hand.  I could use a little comfort.  The emotional equivalent of fuzzy slippers and hot chocolate in front of a nice warm fire would be good just about now.

Teacup Party Girl TherapyAnd joy, too.  I like to people watch.  It’s what I do at red lights to pass the time when I’m first in line – you get a really good view of the faces of drivers who are turning left onto the street you’re on.  So I can tell you, for the most part, people look miserable.  We need some joy.  Not happiness, which is fleeting, but joy, that deep joy that roots in your heart and can’t be budged by circumstance and situation.

So yes, some tidings of comfort and joy are just the kind of news people want to hear.  Where do we get this comfort?  Where does this joy spring from?  People want to know.  People need it.

I went to a Christmas Eve service tonight.  It was packed – the semi-annual Christmas and Easter crowd was out in full force. I wondered, though, how many of them were searching for comfort and joy in the traditions of religion and church attendance, but were not finding it because their favorite carol wasn’t sung, or the decorations weren’t like they remembered at the church they grew up in.  It’s easy enough to do – to look for the right thing in the wrong place.

The problem is that when spiritual matters are relegated to the realm of personal choice and cultural preference, as opposed to the realm of fact and truth, it is actually hard to find comfort in faith.  In fact, when faith is considered, as it is by so many today, to merely be a form of personal expression, it’s pretty empty faith.

It might feel good for a little while — along the lines of Christmas Spirit and That Holiday Feeling — but if these tidings of comfort and joy, this good news that is sung about in so many of the traditional carols, is not based on truth, then it is actually of less use than the Santa Claus myth.

Faith is not something you experience or feel.  It’s something you believe, and if you are trying to put faith in something while at the same time keeping your options open as to whether or not this thing is actually true, you will not reap the benefits of your faith.  Faith is not the thing that brings the benefits – the truth of the person or concept in which you put your faith is the only meaningful source of benefit.

The writers of these carols meant it when they offered tidings of comfort and joy.  It wasn’t just a Hallmark sentiment, like dreaming of a white Christmas. They were referring to something with which they had first hand experience.

Like this verse from It Came Upon A Midnight Clear:

O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

These words were not written along the lines of Rudolph and Frosty.  These writers sincerely believed in “glad and golden hours.”  They were talking about something they were counting on.   They had experienced relief from “life’s crushing load” and wanted others to know about it.

Did they want to tell others about this because they would earn points by doing so? There are religions that foster some kind of a point-earning system, but in this case, no, these writers weren’t trying to impress anyone.  They wanted people to know because it worked.

If you were to visit a primitive tribe somewhere, and noticed that they were constantly sick because they didn’t wash their hands, would you withhold the information you had about the existence of germs because you didn’t want to influence their culture or offend them? No, you would tell them you knew a better way, because you wouldn’t want them to suffer with sickness any more.

The world today suffers under a great sickness of heart. A quick glance at the headlines of any given day will tell you that. So when someone says they have any answer that will bring peace, joy, comfort and salvation, it might be worth looking into.  Maybe that person is not just participating in a cultural ritual.  Maybe they are telling you the truth.  Perhaps their delivery is not flawless.  People are, well, human.  But even if the messenger is not perfect, maybe the message is true. Maybe it might be worth having a discussion about it with someone whose life reflects the sincerity of their belief, because if it truly works for them, it will work for you too.

But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.” Luke 2:10-13

A nice story to read at Christmas time or a history-altering event wherein God Himself came down to earth in order to set people free from the things that so easily entangle them? People are spiritual beings, so just as it’s worth reading up on foods that will help your body function better and exercise that will keep your body healthy, it’s worth spending time looking into the things that heal and nurture your spirit. It’s worth your time to explore tidings of comfort and joy.

Baja Mission 12-2014 275crop

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No Filter December – Day 20: Why Worry?

One day a lady went to a meeting at her church to hear a missionary talk about the work he does in Mexico.  She wasn’t able to join the next trip that went to his area, but she remembered what he had said about the church he and his wife are starting in February of 2015.

A few weeks later she went to her storage unit, and struck up a conversation with a man from Liberia whose unit was across the hall from hers. He mentioned that he had just moved to the area, but after a couple of months of paying for the storage space, he had decided that it was too expensive to keep all this furniture in storage. He and his wife were looking for a church or ministry to donate it to. So she told him she knew just the place.

037She put him in contact with the head of the missionary’s home team, and a week later he and some other members of the team showed up to the storage unit to pick up the furniture.

It turned out to be around $6000 worth of furniture.  It filled a 20-ft truck.  The couple who donated it only wanted to know that it was going to a good cause. After hearing about the new church and the work that has already begun down in Baja, they got so excited they agreed to join the team on the next trip down there, for the grand opening of the church.

068Soon the furniture bought in Indiana by a couple from Liberia, which was shipped to California, will be headed for Playas de Tijuana, Mexico, to be used by the members of a brand new church, Capilla Calvario/Calvary Chapel Playas.  It will join the 150 chairs that were donated a week before by a Norwegian cruise ship.

When God decides to start a new work in a certain area, this is how things come together.  It makes you wonder why, when we feel a nudge from God to do something or go somewhere, we ever worry about the details.



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No Filter December – Day Nine: Back To Mexico

I didn’t actually go back to Mexico today, but since the 14 year old and I brought home a souvenir of our trip last weekend in the form of a stomach bug, we won’t be going anywhere soon.  This cuts down significantly on my No Filter December photo ops for the day, and I have 308 photos from the weekend just begging to be posted somewhere, so I will spend the next few days doing a TBT of sorts.  Despite the fact that it isn’t Thursday.  And that I’m only throwing back a couple of days.

Friday, Dec. 5, 2014

Mexico 2013 Best of (2)We arrived in Rosarito at lunch time and met up with our missionary friends, the Wilsons, at Mariscos Tito’s.  Just as I had predicted.  There are certain elements of these missions trips that are predictable, and this is one of them.

The rest of the trip, also predictably, generally falls under the category of The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men.

In fact, David Wilson’s favorite thing to say when working with mission groups is, “Blessed are the flexible, for they will not be broken.”  It’s just an unavoidable aspect of taking 27 people from one country and coordinating efforts with a handful of people and a couple of organizations in another country, crossing both language and cultural barriers.  A veritable plethora of cracks through which details may fall abounds in situations like this.

So one can either get bent out of shape that the Schedule Was Not Followed, or one can see these cracks as New Opportunities instead.  We know this going in, so while we have an Itinerary, it’s considered, like the Pirate Code, to be “more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.”

Baja Mission 12-2014 035cropThe rest of Friday actually did follow more or less according to the Itinerary, with the ten under-15-year-olds in the team joining with a local group of missionary kids to make Christmas cards to be given out through local ministries.

It must have been a little surreal for the kids, however, considering that they got up early in the morning, drove a long way on the freeway, then reached a scary place with high fences and guards with guns who might at any minute pull over one of the cars in the group and search it, and then found themselves in a place that looked completely different from the only world they had known so far in their lives, where everyone was driving crazy and nothing was in English except the signs for Office Depot, McDonalds and Burger King.

As if this wasn’t enough for one day, after an hour or so of acclimating to the foreignness of it all, these kids were piled into cars, bumped down some pot-hole-ridden roads and before they knew it, they were sitting around at a house on the beach with a bunch of American kids, eating sugar cookies and making Christmas cards.

Kids are resilient, so they handled it well.  The cards were made, the kids filled up on cookies.  At this point, however, due to some last-minute shuffling of team members, a couple of the mothers who had probably not intended to drive in Mexico found themselves faced with piling more kids into their cars than they had seatbelts for and following a caravan of cars through the streets of Rosarito at dusk during rush-hour.  And let’s just say that traffic laws in Rosarito are another thing that tends to be treated like the Pirate Code.  These women deserve an Award of Bravery.

Baja Mission 12-2014 046In the meantime, the rest of the team was setting up for an appreciation dinner for volunteers at Capilla Calvario/Calvary Chapel Rosarito.  The name of the church is such a mouthful because everything they do there, from the sermon to the worship songs to the announcements and signage, is bilingual.  It takes a little longer, but it results in a wonderful melding not just of two languages but of two cultures into one, unified body of believers numbering above 1500 members.  It takes a lot of staff and volunteer members to keep a church of that size going, and our team was privileged to be the ones serving them at the dinner.

The waiters waiting to wait.

The waiters waiting to wait.


Baja Mission 12-2014 089It was just as well there were 27 of us, because it took all members of the team, from the 6 year old to the 66 year old, to get that much spaghetti and salad delivered to the tables of guests.

Baja Mission 12-2014 100By the time the dinner was served, and the team was fed, we were all exhausted.

Except for the kids, who were playing in the church playground.

It was at this point that our leader, Andy, told us he was coming down with the flu, so we pulled the kids off the swings and headed back to the guest house where we were staying.


Baja Mission 12-2014 028The adults sat and rested then for a while… while the kids played basketball.

I’m pretty sure the kids would have kept going all night if the parents hadn’t insisted on bed, knowing that we had to be up at 5:30 the next morning.

Youth is indeed wasted on the young.


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No Filter December – Day Five: Mission To Baja

Today I am driving to Mexico. Our long-time friends and camping buddies, the Wilsons, have been missionaries in Ensenada and Rosarito, Baja, Mexico for ten years now, and since I was finally able to afford a British passport renewal last year, I’ve been going down there as often as I can.

On this trip, we are taking a team of 27 people to cook some meals for volunteers at Calvary Chapel Rosarito,  as well as for the Rosarito Police Department and the members of their DARE program for at-risk kids. After that some of us will deliver personal gifts to the girls living at Casa Estrella Orphanage and spend the afternoon with them doing crafts and being an attentive audience for their singing and skits (and how they LOVE to perform!)  In the meantime, the rest of us will paint and clean up a property that will be housing a new church that is starting in Playas de Tijuana in February.

And somewhere in there, more than once, in fact, we will be eating world-famous Rosarito fish tacos.   It’s one of the perks of this particular short-term missions trip.  It makes us feel a little bit guilty, knowing that people equate “missions” with “suffering,” but not guilty enough to forgo the tacos.

Needless to say, since I will probably have neither the time nor the WiFi to post anything live, I am typing this up ahead of time.   So here is a picture from a trip to Baja this time last year, when we gave gifts to the DARE program kids.  Cheating a little, but we will be seeing a lot of these kids and officers again this year, so it’s just going to have to be close enough.

Mexico 2013 Best of (31a)

We were joined in our DARE kids event by Payaso Cristiano Evangelion, a local clown troupe.


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Diagnosis: Diabetes. The Home Team

Home Delivery

Home Delivery (Photo credit: Mr. Ducke)

On my way out the door to the Urgent Care that fateful Tuesday when Ryan was diagnosed, I posted a quick status on Facebook: “Taking the 11 year old to Urgent Care with chest pains. Probably dehydration – poor thing can’t keep anything down. Please pray.”  At the ER I updated with another status, and kept posting as things developed.

And this is when I found out just how awesome my friends are.  I knew I had awesome friends.  I did.  But I just didn’t realize HOW awesome they were until this crisis blind-sided us.  My phone was buzzing with texts as word got around. Daughter Emily notified certain key people and it went from there.  A prayer request went out on the church email loop.  People started offering help on Facebook and via text and email.

We have been in crisis before, with my own mystery illness a couple of years ago, and the four times I was in the hospital for childbirth, and when my father passed away in 1998.  So we had been on the receiving end of the dinner-deliveries that someone at church or our homeschooling academy would set up for us.  But each time in the past, when people would say, “If there’s anything I can do, let me know,” I would intend to answer them but then just never figured out what the perfect job would be for them to fulfill, and then the crisis would pass, and then I would look back and go, “Huh.  A lot of people offered a lot of help that I didn’t accept, which made that whole thing a heck of a lot harder than it needed to be.”  So this time, I found myself accepting on the spot.  I didn’t get back to them later.  I simply said the first thing that popped into my head when they offered and didn’t allow myself to over-analyze.

“Can I make you dinner?” … “Yes, please.  Someone has tonight covered.  Can you do tomorrow?”


Laundry (Photo credit: KellyK)

“I’ll come over and do laundry, dishes, whatever you need.”… “Okay, I’ll get Alan to hide a key somewhere for you.  Friday okay?  The hamper at the foot of my bed needs washing.”

This took some sucking up of pride.  Especially knowing that a friend was going to be washing and folding my underwear and seeing what a disaster the house was. Considering that I left for the hospital at the end of a long day of sick-boy-in-the-house, I didn’t get much cleaning done that day.  And accepting all the food… well, that was easier, but it still took an admittance that I really couldn’t do it all myself.

I think I learned my lesson the last time I needed help.  I was sick for so long, I had to receive help.  I couldn’t function without it.  And I learned then what I discovered anew now… the sting of swallowing pride is nothing compared to the joy of letting people help you.  By the time we got home from the hospital, I felt completely loved and supported by those around me.  So maybe I couldn’t bring the awesome nurses home with me.  But I had some awesome friends and family, who I could count on to pray, to cook, to clean, to help my other kids, and to just call or send me a line saying, “I’m thinking about you.  You’re going to be okay.”

The thing is, I would have done any of those things for any one of my friends.  No problem.  Pick your kid up and take them to the park? Sure, I’ll do it.  Come over and do your dishes? Where’s the key?  Cook you dinner?  I’m on it.

Show up at the hospital with things like Starbucks and interesting sick-bed-appropriate games and Lego kits, and spend an hour walking the hospital ground with you, telling you it’s okay that you are unraveling and snapping at your family members over silly things?  Well, maybe I couldn’t do that before, but I can now.  But more importantly, I know to do it because no fewer than five different friends, who have each walked down similar roads themselves, did that for me.   It’s the camaraderie of those who have slept in those hospital-chair-bed-torture-device-things.

So why do I tell you this?  To brag on my friends?  Well, they are pretty awesome, I admit.  I can’t take credit for that.  But no, it’s not just to brag.  It’s to point out two things that I learned through being on the receiving end of help.

1) When someone you know is in crisis, don’t be afraid to come forward and offer to help.

  • Be a little pushy, even, so that they understand that you are not just saying platitudes, but that you really mean this.  (Now please understand that when I say to be a little pushy, I mean a LITTLE pushy.  It didn’t happen this time, but in the distant past, I can remember coming up against people who wanted to come in and take over our lives on their schedule.  So be sensitive and save the Savior complex for another time.)
  • Give specifics. “I can give your kids rides to classes and meetings – what’s your schedule?”; “I have 3 hours on Thursday – I’ll come clean your bathrooms.”
  • And then (and this is really, really important), SHOW UP and do the thing you said you would do.  Again, no one let us down this time, but I have seen it happen, and it makes it harder for the person in crisis to accept help when they are afraid it won’t come through.

2) If you are on the receiving end, for goodness sake, accept the help you are being offered.

  • Don’t worry about the details.  Just say “Yes thank you” and let your awesome friends figure out the details.
  • Be honest about your needs. “No, I don’t need dinner, but can you do some grocery shopping?” Don’t be afraid to ask.  They want to help – they just offered it.
  • Remember that people might not deliver their help perfectly.  We are still finding dishes and laundry “put away” in strange places.  It’s actually kind of fun.  Relax your personal rules a little and choose to be blessed instead of upset.
  • Keep them updated – Facebook and Twitter and email are perfect for quick but easy updates.  You don’t have to share everything, but let them know their prayers are working. No, really, you really do NOT have to share everything.  Details about medications and bowel movements are not necessary.  But an update once or twice a day is nice.

They say it is better to give than to receive, and sure, that’s true and all.  But when you open up your life and let people in, your heart begins to grow.

So let people in.  Let people know you are struggling.  Let people pray for you and send good thoughts your way and light candles and whatever else they offer, however they want to express their solidarity, whether or not it lines up with your particular theology.

Receiving help has changed me.  I received so much more than the help, which would have been enough in and of itself.  I received love, which has swelled up in my heart to overflowing, and is causing me to look for ways I can pass it along.  It’s more than a “pay it forward” kind of a thing — it’s a living, breathing, organic thing that thrives on connectedness, gratitude and self-sacrifice.  It is, I believe, what God intended when He made us – pure love, expressed in a thousand little details, each one reflecting His image. He created us for relationship; when we erect walls to protect hearts that have been wounded in the past, we shut out the healing He means to bring through others.

Because while people can be pretty awful, and it is wise to remove one’s self from toxic situations, people can also be pretty awesome, if you let them.

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Diagnosis: Diabetes. The First Week

ambulance transport

Somewhere underneath all that equipment is an 11 year old boy being loaded into
The Cadillac Of All Ambulances

Our family has been taken down a new path recently. It started with our 11 year old, Ryan, feeling unwell for a week or two, which culminated in a day of throwing up.  We just figured it was the flu, but by the end of the day, he was still throwing up and looked terrible, and had started having muscle cramps in his chest.  It was the muscle across his rib cage, so I wasn’t concerned about his heart, but it was so obviously painful I thought perhaps it was a sign of severe dehydration and took him to Urgent Care.  The receptionist and nurses there took one look at him and advised we just take him straight to ER and save ourselves the co-pay, since they were pretty sure the doctor would be sending him there anyway.

On the way to ER he was petulant about the sun in his eyes, the length of the trip, his need for a drink, over and over.  My 11 year old had degenerated into a 4 year old.  I knew something was up.  So I prayed all the way there and kept a patient tone in my voice.  At one point I felt reassured that he would be fine, but also felt that this was not a quick fix.  We were headed for a journey, but one in which the Lord was going to use Ryan to bless others.  And while it wasn’t going to be the road we would have chosen to walk down, it was going to be okay.

So when we got into the ER, said the magic words “chest pain” and got whisked immediately behind the doors, I should not have been surprised when the doctor came back within minutes of his initial introduction and blurted out, “Bad news.  He has Type 1 Diabetes.”  But I was.  Diabetes?  That doesn’t run in either side of the family.  I just blinked at the doctor while he hovered above me, bouncing slightly on his toes.  What then ran through my head was the thought that maybe this doctor was mildly Aspergers. He was not the best with his bedside manner.  He seemed to be lacking social cues and had strange body language.  But then, we’re all closer than most to the Aspie end of the spectrum in my family, so this didn’t bother me. To the contrary, it reassured me.  It told me this guy was completely focused on his medicine and knew what he was talking about.  Maybe that was a jump to a stereotyped conclusion, but it worked for me.  I blinked again.  Diabetes.  Okay.  So that’s what we’re doing now. I had a vague idea that this would involve shots.  We’re not medical in our family.  We don’t do shots.

Well, okay, I thought, I guess we do now.

And the next thought was “But we’re not giving in to it. We’re not taking on the cloud of dire, life-threatening illness and wearing it like a shroud.  We will walk down this path, but God is still God, which means He is the Great Physician, and His power is greater than any disease.  And He can call this game any time He chooses.”

I know this for a fact, not just as a matter of faith.  Four years ago, He healed me of an autoimmune disease I had had for 25 years.  Almost two years ago, He healed me of a mysterious ailment that the doctors never did figure out. But those are stories for another post.

Within hours we were in an ambulance, being transferred to Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach.  I had a nice conversation all the way there with the ambulance driver, about kids, game-changing moments, what kinds of messed-up things you see when you work in the medical field and how well you can get inured to it over time, Haiti, voodoo, the spirit realm and how we don’t need to be afraid of demons as long as the Spirit of God dwells within us.  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t his normal chit-chat with a mother who has just been handed a diagnosis for her son.  Then again, everyone deals in different ways, so perhaps it was.

Ryan was sitting fairly happily on the gurney in the back, being fed IV fluids, which helped a lot, although it didn’t do anything for that diabetic dry-mouth that comes with a blood sugar of over 400 and ketones off the chart.  The nurses in the back kept him happy by showing him Madagascar on the DVD player.  This was my first clue that Miller Children’s excels in meeting the needs of children.  I was so grateful.  Except for the part where the song, “I Like To Move It, Move It” got stuck in my head.  It was nearing midnight at this point and I had been up since 3:30 a.m., so I was exceptionally open to ear-worms.

Into the PICU at Miller we went, met more incredibly awesome nurses and a couple of doctors, and I was introduced to the chairs-that-fold-out-into-beds-for-Mom-to-sleep-on.  My friend Cynde, whose daughter Yverline has multiple medical issues and has logged a lot of time in children’s hospitals, has many colorful adjectives to describe these beds.  The most repeatable one is “medieval torture device.”  At any rate, I was exhausted and once the nurse had pulled the confangled thing out into its proper bedishness, I fell asleep right away, dreaming of lemurs.  My husband Alan had to hold it together a little longer than I did and navigate the freeways home.  Turns out I actually got a better night’s sleep than he did.

And so began our crash course in Diabetes. After four days in the hospital and a number of intensive training sessions by nutritionists, diabetes experts, nurses and physical therapists, we knew all about carb-counting, insulin shots, blood sugar levels, ketones and which of the puddings in the cafeteria fridge to avoid at all costs (the banana.  Step away from the banana pudding with its luscious-looking whipped cream, cute little rolled cookie and promising cherry on top. It lies).  Alan became an expert in syringe sizes, and when we were sent home with bigger syringes than the ones we had used in the PICU, he spent a good two days on a crusade, making calls and demanding smaller needles.  Apparently 2mm can make a huge difference to the pain level of a subcutaneous shot, and he didn’t rest until he had a box of 6mm needles in his hand.

diabetes memeThus the new normal came to the Schmidt household. A normal that involves planning ahead everything that goes into Ryan’s mouth, perfecting the Elevator Pitch explanation of Type 1 Diabetes, packing syringes and blood glucose meters and insulin bottles and alcohol wipes and snacks in case the levels fall too low every time we leave the house. A new appreciation has arisen in my heart for the fact that we homeschool — as scary as the first few weeks have been, I am thankful that is hasn’t also included having to deal emotionally with handing the daily care of my Diabetic Newbie over to a school nurse that may not even be on campus full-time as he or she tries to cover multiple campuses.  Ryan is coping well, bouncing back with the resiliency of youth.  And while I am aware that his emotional reaction may be delayed until he is older and fully understands what this means, we will continue to treat this as what it is: the new NORMAL. Okay, we give shots now. Life goes on. You are still an awesome 11 year old.  You still have a role in the Christmas musical at church. And you still have math to do.

Speaking of which, the day that I reminded him to do the dishes and he threw himself backwards on the couch, moaning, “Oh! Diabetes!  Oh, my pancreas!”, I knew we were going to be okay.

Categories: Diabetes, Faith, Family, Homeschooling | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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